Posted by on May 17, 2010 | 1 comment

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The last couple of months I’ve complete emerged my self into film photography. After wanting to do it for years but always dismissing it as being to cumbersome. What I actually ment was too daunting. Deep inside I knew I had to do it as it is an important step in the learning processes.

No wonder I waited so long with giving it a try, I made it sound like a school assignment! Not one of those fun ones but one of those really boring icky ones!

If you’re making excuses or telling your self that film is dead. Or the always funny, “I can do that with Photoshop”. With Photoshop you can emulate film, not replicate. Let it be said once again; there is a BIG difference between noise and film grain. But lets not get into that discussion. Digital is great and so is film :-). Anyway stop making excuses you’ re depriving your self of a whole lot of fun and creative growth.

I’m actually writing this post to tell you that film is fun! The process of development is great! The smells and the experiments! Even if you completely fumble up the process you can still get creative results, how ever unexpected they may be. Also, it’s really not that hard. And no you really don’t need a special room completely blacked out. I really needed to put that last sentence in to bold as loads of people think this and a lot of articles written out there make it sound like it’s the only way (including the one I’m linking to below). A simple changing bag and you don’t need the blacked out room. Note that I refer to it as a “blacked out room” as a darkroom is where you develop your prints and has the red safety light. Although that room has to be really dark as wel it’s not as sensitive as photographic paper is not as light sensitive as film. Anyway we’re only talking about film here.

So this morning as I was going trough the latests post on feelingnegative they linked to an excellent film development tuturial on PhotoTuts+. The tutorial talks about Kodak TMax film but the process is pretty much the same for any black and white film. I have a couple of short notes/tips on the tutorial, but go read it first.

  1. You don’t need a completely blacked out room, get your self a Changing Bag. Paterson makes these and it’s the one I use.
  2. Buy a Paterson Universal development tank and buy a new one. Second hand tanks can leak or can be incomplete without you knowing until you have developer all over your hands and ruined negatives.
  3. Start out with plastique reels they’re easier for beginners. The Paterson Universal is a plastique reel system and can handle 135 and 120 film without a problem.
  4. The Massive Dev Chart is your friend! It’s a database with film and developer combination and tells you the times and temperature need to develop (and a lot more)
  5. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch install the Massive Dev Chart app! Aside from telling you how to develop your film with a specific developer it also provides you with a timmer that guides you through the process of developing, stop and fix. It even tells you when to agitate. It’s a breeze with this little helper. They also provide the app for other mobile platforms but the iPhone version is by far the best.
  6. Your stop chemicals can be replaced with water with a little vinegar!
  7. You can skip the HypoClear I never user it. But wash properly!
  8. Never buy photo flow, it’s really bad for the environment!! You can replace it by using a little dish washer fluid. Also just using a squeegee also solves the issue. There you go saved you 3 bottles of chemicals with the last 3 points.
  9. To close some general info on shooting black and white film. The wonderful thing about most black and white film is that it’s really hard to screw up! Black and white film has a very high dynamic range. Just meeter light in the shadows and you’ll be fine.

This is pretty much it! At first glance it might look like a lot but it’s really not such an unforgiving process as it migh seem. I’ve made loads of mistakes including developing in an incomplete, liquid and light leaking tank and guess what, I still got good exposures out of it. I even once forgot the stop bath all together and still the negatives were fine.

Don’t be afraid of screw-ups! And just have fun! And I can guarantee that you end up making better photographs also when using your digital camera. I would love to hear about questions, suggestions and experience in the comments below.