View Full Version : The very beginning - how to ?

Matus Kalisky
11-Aug-2006, 05:36

I started to shoot 4x5 very recently and enjoy it very much. Uo to now I only did come color chromes as this is up to now my final output (no scanner yet).

Well - I have at home 25 impatient sheets of Ilford fp4+ and would like to give them a try. But I would prefere to make the developing by my self - not only to save some $$ but especially to take full advantage of the B&W. After all I like to play.

SO - the questions are:

1) Film developing:

- What kind of equippement do I need ?
- What kind of chemistry ?
- Which books (links) would be helpful ?

Up to now the method of developing film I find most attractive is with the film hagers (kodak) with some taks. (I like the idea having the possibility do develope each film for different time) What do you think?

2) Contact printing:

AND - if possible I would give the contact printing a try once I managet to develop some film.
- What one needs for that (paper, chemicals, light source...)?
- What to start with?

The state of art of my knowledge:

- I went through the book View Camera from the Steve Simmons (more than once already).

- I nealry allways get confused when getting through some of the threads in this forum about particuar developer or developing technique - I do not know the "developrs slang" yet - so please make your answers clear - you talk to greenhorn:) .

Looking forward for you advices.


Ralph Barker
11-Aug-2006, 08:12
You might read a few of the articles on the home page here ( the "LF HOme Page link above (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/), and/or any book that covers basic darkroom procedures. The "basics" apply to any type of film processing, it's just that the equipment can vary with different formats.

Equipment - For simplicity, I'd suggest using trays for developing - assuming you're OK with working in the dark for the time necessary, and can handle the manual dexterity issues of working by feel in the dark. I use 8x10 trays for 4x5 film, and mark them "Developer", "Stop" and "Fixer" to avoid potential contamination. I use an old Graylab timer (the 12" or so metal box style) with a buzzer to time development, and just place a lab towel over the buzzer switch on the top (remember, your hands will be wet when you switch off the buzzer).

The big issue with tray processing is to be careful when shuffling the film in the tray, so as not to scratch the film. Keeping the film organized into one corner of the tray helps, as does "watching" (in your mind's eye) the corners of the film when placing a sheet in the tray.

Chemistry - pick virtually any developer, such as Ilford DD-X (liquid concentrate) or ID-11 (powder), or D-76, Rodinal, etc., and work with it for a while. You can use (again) virtually any stop bath and fixer, as well. Initially, use whatever is convenient to purchase in your area, and you'll be fine.

Contact printing - any smooth-surface enlarging paper will work just fine, along with any standard print developer (e.g. Kodak Dektol, Ilford Multi-grade, etc.). As to the light source, I use my enlarger, but a 15-25 watt bulb suspended above the work surface will work, too. Obviously, you need a convenient way of turning the light on and off. Contact printing frames are nice, but I use a sheet of glass that I "hinged" onto a Masonite base with gaffers tape. The objective is to get a tight, even physical contact between the (emulsion side) of the neg and the printing paper. The same trays in which you processed the film can be used for developing the contact prints.

Don't be confused by the detailed discussions here. Much of that relates to maximizing the nuances from particular film/developer combinations, or individual preferences for specific techniques or processes. In many cases, however, those nuances are pretty subtle to the "un-initiated" (i.e. regular folks and beginners).

11-Aug-2006, 08:23
As for developers, find one you like and is convenient, and just stick with it. Later on, you may want to experiment with others. But there are lots of very professional photographers who don't get terribly involved in chemistry. Ralph Gibson, for example.

bruce terry
11-Aug-2006, 09:05
Matus - Definitely develop in oversize 8x10 trays for proper agitation. And I would suggest developing ONE SHEET at a time at first. It's good to get the FEEL of things, SEE a successful negative before processing several at once.

Matus Kalisky
11-Aug-2006, 09:32
Thanks for your advices. Developing one sheet at once for the first time sounds like a good idea.

Some more questions:

1) When putting the film in the developer (in the tray) - emulsion down or emulsion up?

2) For prints developing - is the procedure the same as with the film (developing, stopping, fixing and washing) ?

3) water in our region is extremely hard - how not to get water "traces" on the negatives after drying? Should I use some distilled water or some softener ?


steve simmons
11-Aug-2006, 09:56
There is a step by step how to article on tray processing on the View Camera web site


go to the Free Articles link on the home page

There may be some other articles there as well that will be helpful to someone just getting started.

Try rinsing your film in distilled or processed water to avoid stains and strreaks

streve simmons

11-Aug-2006, 10:25
Thanks for your advices. Developing one sheet at once for the first time sounds like a good idea.

3) water in our region is extremely hard - how not to get water "traces" on the negatives after drying? Should I use some distilled water or some softener ?


A final washing of the films in some steam-distilled water (not "natural water" or "spring water") is good to prevent hard water spots. This should be combined with positioning the film to dry in such a manner that allows it to drip-dry easily. If you let the film dry horizontally or semi-horizontally, you're more likely to get spots since the water will only dry through evaporation. If you hang it vertically, most of the water will run off to the sides and drip off - and you'll have less spots.

I don't know about using softener - it may not be good for the film.

Ron Marshall
11-Aug-2006, 10:55
Good books: The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum.

To eliminate spots when drying do the final rinse in distilled water, with a small amount of Kodak Photoflow.

bruce terry
11-Aug-2006, 12:28
Matus - FACE UP tray-developing equals 1) No scratches ever 2) Maximum developer action and even development.

If you use a DEEP tray like a Cesco-Lite, just a liter of working developer can be sloshed FIRMLY AND BRISKLY across the tray bottom/neg emulsion with a single, firm, brisk, lift of each tray-side, in rotation > Lift/slosh continuously first minute, every 10-15 seconds thereafter).

Just my deal. You're going to have lots of fun discovering what works for YOU!

Mike Boden
11-Aug-2006, 12:38
- Which books (links) would be helpful ?

The books I started with were the Ansel Adams series...

The Camera (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0821221841/sr=8-1/qid=1155324909/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-2539133-5384721?ie=UTF8)
The Negative (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0821221868/sr=8-1/qid=1155324964/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-2539133-5384721?ie=UTF8)
The Print (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0821221876/sr=8-3/qid=1155324964/ref=pd_bbs_3/104-2539133-5384721?ie=UTF8)

These three books helped me tremendously when I was getting started.