View Full Version : Tray development - problems

Tim Shawcross
26-Jan-2007, 17:35
I've been shooting LF for about a year now, and all though I started with colour, I've been shooting BW for the last 6 months as well. I have no darkroom experience, so I thought the simplest route into developing my own BW would be using the tray method.

Over the last 6 months most negs have come out quite well (though I'm still working on trying not to scratch negs during the process - sometimes I do better than others.)

The last batch I did though, I had some unusal streaks, which I think is caused by over/underdevelopment in certain areas. This is most noticable in sky regions. I have seen this before occasionally, but never this bad.

I'm using D76, 1:1 (one shot) for 11 minutes. Water bath first for 30 seconds, develop, followed by 30 seconds stop bath in water, followed by 5 minutes in Ilford fixer (i think 1:5 dillution - whatever it recommends on the bottle). Both the fixer and the developer have been on the shelf for a couple of months, in bottles. The last batch I did of negs before this one was only a day or so before and I noticed no problems.

I'm using 8x10 trays (which are probably a little big, 5x7 would be better), and I used 600ml of developer (300 dev + 300 water). This is the amount I usually use. I was developing 9 sheets - this may have been too many? I've done this many before with this setup without noticing problems, however I usually do between 4-6.

I've attached 3 examples. The bottom left has the worst streaking of the bunch, and is I think totally unusable. The top left has it present in the sky (noticably), and with a little photoshop work I think should be ok. The right image has a big patch on the right hand side, I think I might be able to manage something to rescue this in photoshop as well (I hope so, cause I like that image). Not all images in the batch of 9 came out like this. I was only noticable in about 4-5 of the images. Another thing is that I wouldn't have noticed it just looking at the negs, it was only after I scanned them I could see the problem (though now if I look at the negs carefully I can see the problem).

Any thoughts?


26-Jan-2007, 18:12
Not an expert, but if you're doing everything as usual except using 9 sheets instead of 4 then that's probably your problem right there, logically speaking. Have you tried a slosher to tray develop? or my as-yet unpatented "bent film holder that lays flat in the tray bottom" technique?

David Louis
26-Jan-2007, 18:34
You need to use more developer, or to develop fewer sheets at a time. The Kodak tech sheet for d76 says that you can develop 80 square inches (4 sheets of 4x5...I assume you're using 4x5...you're post doesn't say) with 473ml of solution at 1:1. Thats about 120ml per sheet. For 9 sheets you would need 1080ml. Also, your sheets are probably sticking together, preventing full absorption and circulation of the developer. You may also need to use more fixer. Don't skimp on solution quantites (developer, fixer, hypoclear and wash) when developing film...better safe than sorry...unlike printing, if you mess up a negative, you've lost the shot for ever.

Louie Powell
26-Jan-2007, 18:42
Tim -

Cyrus has suggested an important consideration - when a problem appears, the first question to ask is 'what has changed?', and in your case, it is the number of sheets you are developing at a time.

I used to do shuffle-processing in trays, and handing 4-6 sheets was not a big problem. But more than that almost always resulted in an undesirable outcome. Some people can do 9-12 sheets - I can't.

I found that it was possible to avoid major scratches by being very careful - always use a presoak, allow each sheet to soak before adding another sheet to the stack, place the sheets in the tray emulsion side down, being careful to gently float each sheet on the surface of the solution, and then allowing it to drop down to form a stack on top of the sheets already in the tray, etc. But, while that avoided the most serious gouges, occasionally I still got a small scratch on the back of sheets that was caused when the edge of a sheet nicked the sheet below it in the stack.

Several years ago I was exposed to a slosher, and after making one I have not scratched a single sheet of film. I can easily do six sheets of film in an 11x14 tray with 800ml of solution. The secret of using a slosher is to place the sheets in the slosher compartments emulsion side up. Since it is not necessary to remove a sheet from the slosher until the time comes to remove them for drying, the only thing that ever touches the emulsion is the developing solution. The back of the sheets do touch the slosher, but there are no rough edges to scratch anything.




26-Jan-2007, 19:00
I found that a tray with a vertical wall at 90 degrees helped. I could hold all the film together push it against the vertical wall and pull the bottom one out. I would do a 90 degree rotation of the stack after I went through the stack once.

The key was to think about it in advance and concentrate on what I am doing.

I switched to a JOBO 3000 drum processor because it took less consentration.

Good Luck,


steve simmons
26-Jan-2007, 19:36
My tray processing procedure is described in an article in the Free Articoes section of the View Camera web site


the keys for me are a presoak and emulsion side down and slow but continuous rotation of the stack. I go thrugh my stack 6 times a minute, regardless of the number of sheets. That keeps the agitation constant.

steve simmons

John Berry
26-Jan-2007, 21:30
Do NOT go to 5x7 trays.

Peter Lewin
26-Jan-2007, 21:32
My hunch is that the comments about too little developer have highlighted the problem, both in terms of insufficient developer for the square inches of film you're developing, and also in simply not having sufficient depth of liquid in the trays to prevent negs from sticking together. I just came up from tray developing 6 sheets of 4x5, and I use 2 liters simply because that gives me a nice liquid "depth" to avoid scratches, etc. (I use PMK pyro which is so dilute that the extra volume really doesn't cost anything, and I re-use the film fixer; the other trays are just water pre-soak and water stop bath.) Ken Lee's site gave me an idea which I recommend: instead of using photo trays, find cheap plastic food containers - about 6"x8" would be ideal -at the supermarket, they will be deeper and have less surface area (less oxidation, again a particular concern with pyro).

Tim Shawcross
29-Jan-2007, 16:16
Thanks for the replys - I did another batch last night with just 5 sheets and a bit more developer. The results were fine, so I'll stick with 4-5 at a time in the future.


Brad Rippe
29-Jan-2007, 16:27
Tim, I develop 4 by 5 with emulsion side up in trays, and have had two tiny scratches from fingernails over the last 20 years. I think the sliding action of the emulsion on the bottom of the tray can scratch the film easier than the non-emulsion side. Just my 2 cents.