Processing of the film is a very important and crucial step when it comes to actually wanting to achieve anything from your negatives. It’s also a very fiddly and frustrating step however once one gets used to what they’re doing, it gets easier. One of the trickiest things about processing your film that you’re planning on developing prints from, is the fact that you have to do it in complete darkness and the red safety light cannot be turned on, this is very important, because if you were to leave the red safety light on, your film will be exposed and you won’t be able to save any of your shots as the film will get ”clouded”.
When you’re ready to brave the darkness, make sure you have everything you will be using around you so when you’re unable to see anything, you know where everything is roughly placed and it won’t take a long time to find equipment. What you will need is a can opener to pry open the film canister, a pair of scissors, a tank where you place the canister, a light seal that screws inside the canister and most importantly the spool that you wind your film onto.
Before you go onto prying open the canister, make sure the spool is lined up with each side, because you will have to slide the negatives into it. The key is to pinch the film slightly after you’ve cut the tail off of the film, as this will help you to push the film through. Once you’re confident that you’ve pushed the film through you are ready to gently wind the film up onto the reel. Once you’re confident that the whole of the film is wound up onto the spool, make sure to put it into the canister and place the light seal inside, you will know you’ve closed it correctly because it will make a slight clicking noise, where it clicks into place. At this point you’re safe to turn the red safety light back on and start processing your negatives.
When it comes to setting up the chemicals, you have to be careful to make sure as to a) how many films you have in each canister and how hot/cold the developer is. The developer has to stay at around 20 degrees. If it’s any lower or higher, the time tends to change. My film was processed at 8 and a half minutes because the developer was under 20 degrees. You must make sure to shake the canister for at least 10 seconds each time a minute passes to get rid of air bubbles and to move the chemicals around inside. Once the time passes for the developer, you pour back out into the developer container and you move onto the stop, which only is inside of the canister for 60 seconds with constant shaking. Once the time passes, you pour the stop back out, and pour the fix inside of the canister. The stop is supposed to be left inside for a good 5 minutes. The stop and fix time never changes.
Once you’ve completed the three steps above, you are ready to clean off your film and add the wetting agent to the canister just to make sure you clean the negatives off any smears. This bath lasts for good 5 minutes to thoroughly rinse off the chemicals. Once you’ve completed this step, you’re all set for your film to dry off in the drier. As soon as your film is dried, you can cut up the negatives into 6 sections so it’s easier to fit under the enlarger and you’re ready to continue to the next step.
These images that are presented to you, are all of the same negative that has been processed and developed in the darkroom earlier on today. The film that was processed is the Ilford HP 5 Plus and Kodak Tri-X 400 in black & white and the shot was captured on a manual 35mm camera called Yashica FX-3 SUPER 2000.
The images that you see; is a test that you create onto light sensitive paper along side a final print, using the enlarger and your negative. The reason behind creating test prints, is so that you know how long you need to expose your photos for under the white light, in hopes of achieving and getting the perfect photo. There is a specific rule used to test for just the right exposure. You set the timer to different times ( seconds ); 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds. You are usually taught to use 2,4,6,8 however that is not as effective as the rule that i use as I don’t think there is enough time in-between the different sections to see a difference in exposure. By using this rule you are much likely going to receive better photos, with a crisper look where the blacks are supposed to be black and the whites are supposed to be white. However sometimes, you are required to use a filter to bring out the shades and contrasts much further, as you are likely to receive a rather grey and flat processed image, where the blacks aren’t as black as they should be and the whites are usually grey. You can see this happening in the final prints. I used a Grade 4 HP brand filter when developing these images which meant whatever chosen time i decided on, it had to be doubled and exposed for twice as long.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to create a test print with different exposure times on it. This allows you to see perfectly what time suits each negative the best to achieve the best outcome.
When you have your exposed image on your light sensitive paper, you are officially ready to place into the different chemical baths that are laid out in front of you labelled ”Developer”, ”Stop” and ”Fix”. Developer, obvious enough, develops your print, this is usually left in there for around 2 minutes for best results. The stop bath, obviously enough stops the process of the developer and this is left in there for around 60 seconds. The last but not least is the fix which fixes your print after its been developed and stopped and this is usually left in the bath for another 5 minutes. It’s important to leave your prints in the fix for 5 minutes as if the print hasn’t been fixed for long enough, when the image is exposed to the white light could ruin your print. After you’ve ran your print through all three baths, place it in the sink/tray where you have clean, running water ready to wash off your prints. After you’ve completed this, you’re pretty much done, apart from running your print through the drier.