Black & White Film Processing Week 3

Well week 3 of processing our black & white film images is here and what can I say – everyone had a successful evening in the darkroom and only one of us managed to get into trouble!
Yes we were very pleased to see Sarah this week after her somewhat unscheduled absence last week – she was VERY hungry, it would seem. Anyway after this evenings session she is unlikely to forget what the word strip really means…………………………..but more of that later ūüôā
After a swift demonstration of how to go about producing a contact or proof sheet and the subsequent (artistic – signed copies will be available on E Bay very soon) print by Marc, thanks very much, we were let loose on our own in the darkroom, so what did we do I hear you ask, listen very carefully and I will begin.

A major advantage of developing your own film is that it allows you to examine your images and decide on which negatives are worth printing.
In order to help you select which negs you want to print we can first make a contact print.¬† A contact print gives you a “positive” image which¬†whilst they are quite¬†small (the same size as the negative), they are the¬†‘right way round’ – that is, the shades of light to dark are those of the original scene and not the reverse image¬†that the¬†negative gave. It helps to use a Linen Tester or indeed¬†a simple household magnifier in order to view the contact images in detail.

The contact prints can also serve as a record or filing system of your work. It allows you to fit an entire 36 exposure roll of 35mm film on a single sheet of 8″ x 10″ enlarging paper. Which is why we cut our 35mm negatives into strips of 6 frames each last week.

There are six steps to the process of making a contact print: exposure, development, stop bath, fixing, washing and drying.

Once we began the process the dark room had to be lit only by a safelights and the normal lights can only be turned back on again once your print has been processed through the fixer step .

But before mixing our chemicals and having to switch to safelights we carefully placed our negatives into a Contact Frame, in order to produce a contact print you need something to hold the negatives flat against the printing paper this is what the contact printer does, along with guides which hold the negative strips in position. This part can be carried out with the room light on.  
We secured our negatives into the Contact printing frame ensuring the glossy side was against the glass so that when the frame is closed the emulsion side of the negative would be in contact with the face of the print paper.

At this point we were ready to mix our chemicals.

First off, as always, we checked the manufacturers instructions regarding mixing ratios, temperature and health & safety advice for the chemicals we were about to use.
Ilford Bromophen  
mix ratio 4:1 (in our case 24fl oz water/6fl oz developer) @ 20deg C
Stop Bath:
Ilford Ilfostop
mix ratio 19:1 (in our case 19fl oz water/1fl oz developer) @ 20deg C
Ilford Hypam
mix ratio 4:1 (in our case 24fl oz water/6fl oz developer) @ 20deg C

We then layed out 3 developing trays, and 3 pairs of tongs whilst Susan filled a large graduated jug with 24fl oz of mixed hot & cold water to the required 20 degree C. and added 6fl oz of developer mixed it well and decanted this into the first tray. She carried out the same procedure with both the stop bath and fixer so that we then had 30fl oz of developer on the left, 20fl oz of stop bath in the middle and 30fl oz of fixer on the right, nearest the sink.

The Exposure Process
Having adjusted the height of the enlarger head so that the illumination covers the entire paper area of the contact printing frame I adjusted the aperture two stops down from wide open so around f/4-f/5.6.
At this point it was off with the white lights and on with the safelights, I got a sheet of printing paper from the storage box and placed this into the Contact Frame and then closed the frame securing the negatives against the paper. 

Placing a sheet of opaque card over approx 80% of the Contact Frame I exposed the paper in 3 second increments, sliding the card off the frame by approx 35mm each time. Thereby creating a test image with the following range of exposures 3/6/9/12/15secs.

I then removed the exposed paper from the Contact Frame and slide this into the developer tray, ensuring a smooth wave of developer swept over the entire surface as quickly as possible and gently agitated the tray whilst the image developed for 1 minute.
After developing I removed it from the developer using the first set of tongs, allowed it to drain before placing face down in the stop bath for 30 secs, then using the next set of tongs I remove the paper from the stop bath then straight into the fixer tray.

Note: we use seperate tongs to prevent cross contamination of chemicals, thus preserving their longevity, with care it may be possible to process up to 36 10 x 8 prints before the developer expires.

After fixing for approx 15 minutes, or longer, I rinsed the print quickly and took it out of the darkroom to inspect the images, from this test image I selected 9 seconds as giving the most suitable exposure with the best tonal range and contrast.

So back into the darkroom and, with safelighting on, I placed a new sheet of paper in the Contact Frame and re-closed it. Set the enlarger timer to 9 seconds and pressed go. After exposing the paper I once again developed it for 1 minute, rinsed in stop bath, fixed, washed and put through the print dryer. I now carefully checked over the proof images using my linen tester and selected one or two images that showed a good contrast & tonal range one of which was chosen as my “proper” print I made a note of the image number on the side of the film carrier.

Having selected the correct negative I placed this into the enlargers negative carrier tray, ensuring it was glossy side up.  Opening up the aperture fully I switched on the enlarger`s lamp and adjusted the size and focus of the image on the easel mask.

This was all carried out with safelighting on, after double checking the focus I stepped down the shutter by two stops and switched off the enlarger lamp.
I then took a 1″ strip of photographic paper from the paper stock and positioned this across the masking easel. I then carried out the same test exposure process I had used on the Contact sheet, masking the test strip and exposing it in 3 sec increments just as before.
Then following the same 1 minute developing time, stop bath and quick fix & rinse and switching on white lights I checked the test strip exposures in order to select the best exposure time which in this case appeared to be under 12 secs but a little more than 9 secs based on this I switched off the white lights and once back on safelighting only I placed a full sheet of paper onto the masking easel and exposed this for 10.5 secs.

This was then developed for 1 minute, run through the stop bath and leaving under safelight conditions for 15 minutes before placing in the print washer for about 15 minutes also. Then a quick run through the print dryer and my print was done.

Unfortunately due to the fact that I do not currently have a flatbed scanner I have no way of uploading this image to the computer at this time.

Until next week guys and gals

I have`nt forgotten about Sarahs strip issue but for the sake of modesty and in fear of moderation I better leave her to post the details on her own blog.¬† ūüôā ūüôā ūüôā


About Steve

Originally trained in graphic art at a time when the only apples you could buy were locally grown and sold in pounds and ounces!, or were made from black vinyl and usually featured Paul Mcartney on vocals. Back then we too had cutting edge technology such as Lettraset and Cow Gum, anyone here remember those? And amazing tools like Rotring pens and French curves. I originally worked in the printing industry for several years and we would doodle away in our state of the art Litho studio producing all manner of four colour separation artwork whilst listening to the still operating Letterpress machines thumping away two floors down and wondering if and when the management would eventually see the light and revert totally to Litho printing, alas I never did see that day as, against everyones wishes, I gave up my position in the studio for a dusty, smelly 8 foot square shed in a boatbuilding yard and thus began a 25 year sojourn, designing, building and generally mucking about with offshore raceboats and production sportsboats. I kept my interest in graphics throughout those years and taught myself to drive adobe creative suites and so on but, unfortunately on PC not Macs. I have now got the boating thing out of my system and am aiming to get back into the graphics business once again, just not sure how yet!
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One Response to Black & White Film Processing Week 3

  1. Nice. Here’s a tip if you’re in a pinch. If you shoot with Ilford XP2 400, Fujifilm Neopan 400CN or Kodak 400CN film you can get it processed for¬£2 at Asda [as long as you state that you only want it processed and that you don’t want prints or a CD]. Reason I mention this is because those three films go through a colour process but produce Black and White negatives which you can print yourself. And they’re generally cheaper in stores than Black and White film. It’s what I used when I was in college and didn’t have enough to buy loads of Black and White films but at the same time had a surplus of paper.

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