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IanBarber
11-May-2018, 04:45
Just interested in your thoughts on pre-soaking sheet film prior to development.

Does pre-soaking help to reduce/prevent uneven development

Willie
11-May-2018, 05:06
I learned from a few old line guys who had been doing tray processing for decades and the pre-soak was part of their method. So, I use it. It works and the negatives look good. As good as if I don't use it? I don't know as I have stuck with what works.

The biggest jump in quality was when my Uncle gave me some lessons in Brush Development of the LF negatives. Pre-soak and then into developer. Use a Hake and stroke up and down, then side to side. Then down and up, and side to side the other way. All with emulsion side up. Since changing to this type of development I have had no uneven areas of density in skies and large single tones in a negative. No scratches or dings. Even and clean development.

New chemistry for each negative and use Sandy King's Pyrocat HD which I learned from my Uncle. I go along with what he and others taught me. If it works and gives the results you like, why change? I can concentrate on the creative side of things when I photograph rather than experiment and live with another uncertainty in the chain from visualization to finished print.

For me, it works.

Neal Chaves
11-May-2018, 05:15
The only time I pre-soak is before shuffling multiple sheets in tray processing. I put sheets slowly one at a time into the plain water and then bring the whole stack over to the developer tray and start shuffling. This pre-soak prevents any sticking of sheets in the stack. I add thirty seconds to the development time.

gypsydog
11-May-2018, 05:42
It depends on the film and your developing method, what worked with emulsions that are now long gone may not be best practice with todays films. Check with the maker, some recommend not presoaking and the length of the soak may matter as well. Do some real research, test to find what works for you. Be consistent in your process.

Randy
11-May-2018, 05:58
I have always pre-soaked regardless of film format or brand - just because that is what I was taught. I have a suspicion that if I did a comparison test of pre-soaked - vs - not pre-soaked, I would not be able to tell the difference.

Willie, I tried the hake brush method on 8X10 X-ray film and got very faint scratches from the brush coming in contact with the very fragile emulsion of the X-ray film. I have not tried it for my 5X7 or 4X5 Ilford films yet. I am very curious how it would work on Jason Lanes dry glass plates. I am thinking it would be best to make sure that the bristles do not come in contact with soft / fragile emulsions.

uphereinmytree
11-May-2018, 06:09
The presoak water always has a deep blue color with the film I use. I thought that it may be more important with short development times as the film can instantly and maybe more evenly start developing.

IanBarber
11-May-2018, 06:19
Doesn't pre-soaking pen up the pores so to speak allowing the developer to get to work for quickly

mdarnton
11-May-2018, 06:22
It might be good for tray processing, to help keep film from sticking together. I never knew about it until this forum--that's about 50 years of successfully not doing it--so I certainly am not going to start now. One would have thought that if it were really all that common, I would have stumbled on it before, in all of the photo mags I read previously to stopping reading photo mags around 1985, and in the labs I've worked in, so I'm forced to believe it's a local article of faith, not the common on that it's been presented as here.

Alan9940
11-May-2018, 06:28
Doesn't pre-soaking pen up the pores so to speak allowing the developer to get to work for quickly

Just the opposite really. Allowing the emulsion to "swell" from a pre-soak, theoretically, allows the developer to sink more evenly into the emulsion. Slower vs faster when you don't pre-soak. Ilford doesn't recommend pre-soaking their films. I've been doing it for nearly 40 years and it has worked fine for me. All that said, it probably doesn't matter.

RJ-
11-May-2018, 07:00
Being British, the tendency to pre-soak has become standard, more as a quality control aspect of development technique for me.

I'm not sure I follow the same rationale (as above pre-soaking developing photographers). Here, our temperatures vary during season. The darkroom temperature I work in fluctuates between 8 - 32 degrees Celsius. For this reason, pre-soaking equilibrates the film and developer to the correct temperature for black and white. Maybe years of doing manual reversal development, this tends to be a more standardised practice.

Secondly, the removal of air bubbles in low agitation techniques, is superior for quality control when presoaking vs non-presoaking. This is particularly important for very short development cycles (of less than 5 minutes) where agitation is undesirable.

The adsorption of water onto the dry film surface, remarked by Ian, is indeed important for consistent film development (manual techniques). It is not necessary, just like stop bath which some photographers fore-go, however it is beneficial - practically and psychologically :)

Where pre-soaking has not been advantageous, is stipulated clearly in the Ilford literature: the use of continuous rotary developers where faster agitation cycles, cancel out any benefit from presoaking and risk overdevelopment. Pre-soaking is also disadvantageous for soft emulsions with long standing development times, running into an hour, risking emulsion lift.

It's coming back to me - this is all in the Ilford Monochrome Darkroom Practice manual. The other references were cited recently in other posts questioning the problems of development in film. Generally, presoaking offers more advantages for consistent quality control, than not presoaking although perhaps Ian may need a specific example of a work flow method, to clarify if presoaking is indeed helpful, advantageous for quality control or redundant.

Kind regards,
RJ

RJ-
11-May-2018, 07:10
Presoaking advantages in manual tray development technique - Kodak literature:

178163
http://imaging.kodakalaris.com/sites...9_Feb_2018.pdf


Ilford limitations of presoaking when using fast agitation cycles (rotary):
178164

Doremus Scudder
11-May-2018, 08:27
I develop multiple sheets of film at one time in trays. A presoak is necessary to keep them from sticking together. I've found that the one minute presoak that Kodak recommends is too short for some films. One needs to be sure that the emulsion has absorbed as much water as it is going to and is at equilibrium before beginning development or you can get unevenness. I presoak for a minimum of three minutes.

Some say that Ilford films have a surfactant incorporated into the emulsion. I'm not sure if this is true or not, since I've never heard it from a really reliable source. If true, then a presoak would have to be long enough to allow the surfactant to reach some kind of equilibrium too or uneven development would result. Longer might be needed here.

With roll film and tanks where you can pour the developer in quickly, a presoak is unnecessary. If using a tall tank with multiple rolls and long pour times where it would take a significant fraction of the development time to pour in all the developer, I imagine a presoak would be helpful, since it slows down the uptake of the developer somewhat and would compensate for the long pour time.

Best,

Doremus

Peter Collins
11-May-2018, 08:43
Chiming in: I use a SP-445 tank and HP5+ (currently, but sometimes Tmax400) and I always pre-soak. Yes, I know Ilford doesn't recommend.

Vaughn
11-May-2018, 11:51
I've always pre-soaked...habit and good results is why I continue. I have some 8x10s spinning in a Jobo 3005 as I type. It take 4 seconds for the drum to make one revolution (15rpm), while pouring developer onto dry film seems odd to me, that 4 seconds is not very long.

But no one seems particularily worried that when adding stop bath or fixer, the film is pretty well 'pre-soaked'.

Mark Sampson
11-May-2018, 12:31
When I processed 4x5 in trays, I used a presoak so the sheets would not stick together. I added a pinch of Kodalk to the presoak tray- the slight alkalinity eliminated any sticking. That was my practice (for personal work) for many years. When I ran sheet film in the various labs, a presoak was not part of the procedure. Now I use a Nikor tank, and presoak with plain water; since it takes 30sec. to fill the tank, this (I hope) reduces any chance of unevenness.

Merg Ross
11-May-2018, 14:09
When I processed 4x5 in trays, I used a presoak so the sheets would not stick together. I added a pinch of Kodalk to the presoak tray- the slight alkalinity eliminated any sticking.

I also use Kodalk (Balanced Alkali) in the presoak tray. Perhaps already mentioned, a presoak is known to prevent air bells.

Jac@stafford.net
11-May-2018, 15:32
In my modest experience, pre-soaking film is not necessary unless the manufacturer recommends it - do any recommend it? It would be inadvisable because they cannot know the composition of your water. Preventing air bubbles? Ridiculous.

Peter De Smidt
11-May-2018, 15:37
I've never used a pre-soak with black and white film in my Jobo. Ilford, btw., recommended against using a pre-soak, as they had wetting agents in the their film to help with even development. These could be washed out with a pre-soak. That said, decades of photographers have done one or the other with great success, and so it's unlikely to be a big deal.

hoffy
11-May-2018, 15:51
Interesting to read that those who pre-soak do it because, "that is how I was taught" and "I've always pre-soaked and never had a problem".

As the first film I ever processed was Ilford and the literature said not to pre-soak, I tend to just follow the instructions (for example, I do pre-soak Foma films, because, well, they recommend it).

Just remember that "because that is the way I have always done it" does not necessarily make it right, but I do suspect that in this example, it doesn't really make much difference.

Graham Patterson
11-May-2018, 16:13
Bergger do recommend a 3 minute pre-soak for Panchro 400. They also state that some anti-hallation dye will come out. I am not sure it is _necessary_ for tank development, but it is a blanket recommendation.

Luis-F-S
11-May-2018, 16:29
I do 2 one minute presoaks when I develop 810 in tubes or tanks

Michael Wellman
11-May-2018, 16:31
I've been pre-soaking my film for over 20 years largely because it was recommended for pyro development. I've done everything from trays to JOBO and currently using the Stearman day tanks but I always pre-soak. I thought I had read an article many years ago where John Sexton recommended pre soaking for Tmax films, especially Tmax 100. I don't see a drawback to pre soaking so why not do it?

Peter De Smidt
11-May-2018, 20:20
Because it’s an unnecessary xtra step.

Merg Ross
11-May-2018, 21:32
I develop multiple sheets of film at one time in trays. A presoak is necessary to keep them from sticking together. I've found that the one minute presoak that Kodak recommends is too short for some films. One needs to be sure that the emulsion has absorbed as much water as it is going to and is at equilibrium before beginning development or you can get unevenness. I presoak for a minimum of three minutes.

Some say that Ilford films have a surfactant incorporated into the emulsion. I'm not sure if this is true or not, since I've never heard it from a really reliable source. If true, then a presoak would have to be long enough to allow the surfactant to reach some kind of equilibrium too or uneven development would result. Longer might be needed here.

With roll film and tanks where you can pour the developer in quickly, a presoak is unnecessary. If using a tall tank with multiple rolls and long pour times where it would take a significant fraction of the development time to pour in all the developer, I imagine a presoak would be helpful, since it slows down the uptake of the developer somewhat and would compensate for the long pour time.

Best,

Doremus

Doremus, as I look through the various responses, yours is from experience, with results similar to mine. The Kodak recommendation is far too short for the films with which I am familiar. I use a four minute presoak. Manufacturers data sheets are offered as a starting point for individual experimentation. The bottom line is simply, what works for you. A presoak for tray development has worked for me since 1953.

I have heard rumors of a new darkroom for you. True?

Best,

Merg

Doremus Scudder
12-May-2018, 02:43
Doremus, as I look through the various responses, yours is from experience, with results similar to mine. The Kodak recommendation is far too short for the films with which I am familiar. I use a four minute presoak. Manufacturers data sheets are offered as a starting point for individual experimentation. The bottom line is simply, what works for you. A presoak for tray development has worked for me since 1953.

I have heard rumors of a new darkroom for you. True?

Best,

Merg

Hello Merg,

Yes, the rumors are true, I now have a new darkroom! I was without one for several years. Five years ago, my wife and I bought a house in Eugene, Oregon with the plans of moving there someday. We've been renting it in the meantime and working on it during the summer breaks from our teaching activities here in Vienna, Austria (we're both trained opera singers and I've been teaching voice and directing choirs at the Performing Center Austria, where my wife is Artistic Director, for the last 10 years). I finally finished up the darkroom last summer, but have yet to make a print in it. I've got a five-year backlog of negatives to proof and then get going on!

At the moment, we're in the process of packing for the (hopefully) final move for us from Vienna, where we've lived for the last 30 years, to our place in Eugene. It's a new chapter for me and time to focus much more intensively on my photography. I've been shooting regularly, but haven't done nearly enough making gallery contacts and finding exhibition opportunities. I'm very much looking forward to it.

I finally got some of my more recent things up on my website (still 5+ years old...) as well.

And, just so this isn't totally off-topic. If I recall correctly, there was a thread here or over on Photrio about presoak times and uneven development. I'm not sure of the film(s) tested, but the upshot was that a longer presoak (I believe it was five minutes) was necessary for the most even development. I try for a five minute presoak, but often get impatient... three-four minutes is what I usually end up with.

FWIW, I learned developing from Ansel Adams' The Negative, and he recommended a presoak (although only for one minute). Here's a quote: "The pre-soaking allows the emulsion to swell and stabilize before it is immersed in the developer; this assures more uniform development" (p. 206). I've developed roll films without a presoak with good results, but for sheet film, a thorough soak is really necessary, and a long enough one to ensure that the emulsion really has stabilized before adding developer.

Best,

Doremus

Peter De Smidt
12-May-2018, 09:02
One thing to be careful about is Jobo-USAs recommendation of a 5-minute pre-soak. They did that only because it lead to the times/temp for rotary times to be fairly close to published inversion times. They explicitly said that it wasn't for any quality reasons. Of course, this only applies to using a Jobo. A prewash can be useful when doing hot processes, such as color, where a pre-wash can get the emulsion up to temp before developing. This isn't important for near-room-temp BW processing.

Steve Sherman
12-May-2018, 15:56
Hasn’t this topic been debated to death. Whatever you choose be consistent, but consider this, absorbing water with a dry sponge doesn’t happen very consistently

Jim Jones
12-May-2018, 19:14
I routinely use a prewash. It perhaps avoids problems when developing 8 rolls of 35mm at a time. It eliminates air bells. It is absolutely necessary when development time is very short, as when developing Tech pan in Solarol or Dektol.