View Full Version : To Develop With Stock or Diluted

Jay Staton
15-Jul-2005, 09:56
I am a true neophyte to LF. Thank everyone for their thoughts.

My concern is with developing in stock solution vs. diluting 1 + 1 or 1 + 3. I have read countless notes stating the longer the development time, the more grain is visible. So why would anyone develop with anything but stock if they are using ASA 100 film or less, trying to get fine grain? Is it just to save on developer(a cost issue), or to make development times more manageable, or trying to make the developer the same strength, or because some films work better at slower development???

I have been using FP+4 and Delta Pro 100 film, developing in ID11, 1 + 1, in a Besseler drum for 10 minutes. I get 40" X 50" enlargements from my 4X5 negs with fair grain. Is this the best I can expect? I use 1 + 1 so I get consistant development. Would I do better with stock?


Richard Littlewood
15-Jul-2005, 10:54
Chances are at 1+1 your grain is pretty invisible, although 10 mins is on the long side for FP-4 so grain might be more than it could be - I give FP-4 8 mins doing near enough what you do. I've just started diluting 1+2 and grain is sharper without a doubt. I would have thought if you want fine grain use ID-11 neat, or if you want to crispen up the image with the very slight increase of grain (to me that wouldnt be too important) dilute a bit. For FP-4 5x4, ID-11, 68f, 1+2, Jobo my time (condenser enlarger) is 10 mins. I've done some 40" prints from 5x4 negs and I can't say grain has ever been an issue.

Joseph O'Neil
15-Jul-2005, 12:38
Grain may increase at longer developing times, but personally, I find my ability to control overall tonality, which to me is more important than grain, and maintian that standard form one negative to the next, is easier for me with a more ditued develoerp and longer developing time.

Put it this way - say you are using a develop - any developer, and the stock solution suggested time is 5 minutes. If you var that time by even 15 second, then you are chaning the developing time by 5%

Converstly, say you are using a suggested time of 10 minute, then 15 second is only a 2.5% variation in development time. This helps in two ways. First, I sometimes find that a shot doesn't need that much extra or that much less developto get the look I want. Sometimes less is more, s the saying goes, and it easier to very development when you have a greater range to do so.

Secondly, a lot can happen in 15 second. i remember once I had a bad cold (yeah, I know, what was I doing in the darkroom with a bad cold, but hey, priorities, right? :) Well I got into a bit of a coughing fit, and before I knew it, 30 seconds had passed, and at that time, I forget the film, but it was a B&W 35mm, and suggested developing time was 4 minutes, so that extra 30 seconds overcooked my negatives a wee bit.

One last thought. Don't sweat about grain. Even dust spots for that matter. To me, the biggest issue with digital imaging is everything is too perfect - like the "Stepford Wives". To me, grain adds a bit of character to an image, and sets it apart from digital.

Or look at it this way - blue jeans. Notice hwo hardly anybody wears nice, crips, clean, dark blue, blue jeans? The more worn out they are, the higher the price they seem to fetch. There may come a day when the more graniy your B&W print it, the more desirable it is. We'll have guys on this forum asking "how do I increase my grain to make my photo more artistically attractive?"


Bruce Watson
15-Jul-2005, 13:05
I can't speak for others, but for me one of the reasons to go LF is to leave worries about grain behind. I get nearly grainless prints at 10x enlargement from 5x4 Tri-X. I don't need to go bigger, and if I do in the future, there's always 10x8. I suspect as you gain experience in LF, you'll come to the same conclusion - grain just isn't worth worrying about.

But, until then... The biggest factor in grain size is the ISO rating of the film. Faster films have bigger grain.

Choice of developer has the next biggest effect on grain size. Solvent developers give you smaller, softer, grain at the expense of some acutance. Acutance developers of course give you better acutance at the expense of somewhat bigger, but sharper, grain.

Grain size is also linked to density. The higher the density, the larger the grain clumps. Density, in turn, is related to exposure, time in the developer, temperature of the developer, and developer dilution. Sadly, these parameters are mostly interlinked for a given density. That is, you can use a lower temperature, but then you have to develop longer. Or you can develop less, but you end up exposing more. That sort of thing. IOW, if you really want smaller grain, you need to have very good control of your exposure and processing such that you get negatives with the least density you can use.

What diluting a given developer does to grain size depends at least in part on the developer. With solvent developers, part of what you are doing when you dilute is to dilute the solvent. This in turn reduces the effectiveness of the solvent, resulting in a bit larger grain, and a bit sharper grain. So you gain a bit of accutance and you gain a bit of grain size.

In experiements I've done on Tri-X and XTOL (stock to 1:3), the grain size increase is, for me, negligible. The gain in sharpness is barely noticible, and then only at 10x enlargement or higher. I found similar results with HC-110 (dilution B out to H).

As for me, I dilute XTOL to 1:3 because it gives me better control of my process, and an EI of 320 to boot. So I'm a happy camper, at least with that.

To learn more, you might consider picking up a copy of The Film Developing Cookbook by Anchell and Troop. You local pro lab probably has them for sale. If you want to understand what's going on in the soup, this book is an excellent place to start learning.

15-Jul-2005, 13:25
When you start fine tuning the way you want your negs to print, you'll find that changing dilution will influence the shape of the tonal scale in ways that changing developing time does not. More dilute developers tend to give a more compensating scale, which is photo-nerd speak for expanding the shadow and mid values (for more open looking shadows) and compressing the highlight values (for less chance of your highlights being too dense to print easily).

Different amounts of dilution give a different overall look .. and it's a difference that you're not going to duplicate just by changing grades of paper or changing dev. time. Not sure how much printing experience you have. If this makes no sense yet, dont worry ... it will click if you start wishing that your midtones were a little lighter or darker, or that your highlights were softer or more brilliant.

16-Jul-2005, 15:53
Would you say that pre-soaking is mandatory with stock solution ?

Brian C. Miller
16-Jul-2005, 18:44
Well, Jack, Ilford claims that presoaking is not necessary with their films. However, I presoak everything that I develop using a daylight tank. (word of warning: don't bother with Yankee daylight tanks for 4x5.) So for Jobo or Patterson, it gets a presoak. When I am not using a one-shot developer, I give the film a presoak because some films have a truly nasty antihalation layer that comes off then. If the developer is a one-shot, like dilute Xtol or PMK Pyro, then I don't presoak.

17-Jul-2005, 09:32
I always presoak, but that's because I've had some issues with evenness (edge density buildup) and presoaking seems to help.

I think it's a good precaution. It also helps clear anti-halation dyes. It's especially helpful if you use a slightly alkaline presoak (add a bit of sodium metaborate to the water).

But it's not mandatory. Plenty of people do fine without it. It's going to depend on your film/developer/technique/karma, etc..

Jay Staton
18-Jul-2005, 06:39
Thanks guys for all the helpful info. I originally thought there was only one "correct" way to develop B & W negs, but listening to you, things aren't just "Black & White". There are a lot of subtleties. And Bruce, I have picked up a copy of "The Film Developing Cookbook". Great book. There is stuff in there that will keep you up at night. Thanks...... I think.