How to get the best contrast and most detail when developing your own black & white film

Jan 24, 2017

Vincent Moschetti

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

How to get the best contrast and most detail when developing your own black & white film

Jan 24, 2017

Vincent Moschetti

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

The World of analog photography keeps surprising me every day a bit more! I recently read about a technique called Stand Development so I have decided to try it myself. For those of who never heard of it before, let me explain you the differences between a normal development process.

When developing, as recommended by manufacturers, we are supposed to make regular agitations to ensure that the exposed film is always in contact with fresh developer. This is because the developer exhausts itself after a while and is no longer able to transform the particles of silver on the emulsion. Agitations also ensure that all the tonalities are evenly revealed.

On the contrary, stand development consists in letting the developer sit inside the tank with only one minute of agitation at the very beginning. Without movement, the areas that require more development quickly exhaust all the developing agent whilst it keeps acting on the less exposed areas that don’t weaken the developer so much. This has for effect to preserve highlights and reveals more details in the shadows.

On top of that, I see two other advantages that are directly linked with this lack of movement in the developing tank:

1. High Contrast

This is a question of tastes but I tend to prefer my pictures to be more contrasty, especially for black and white. I believe that it gives more character and help to drag attention on the subject. This is, of course, a personal opinion and it may not work with all styles of photography. The pictures that you are going to see next, barely received any adjustments and came out naturally contrasty. Fomapan is not known for having contrasty films, it’s more the opposite, they tend to be more of a flat look.

2. Fine details

Because the developer is not moving, the acutance is very high. If acutance is a new word for you too, check out the definition here on Wikipedia. It makes edges very sharp between dark and bright areas, hence the increased sharpness. I was already very satisfied with the quality of the glass on my Hasselblad Xpan but, as you will see below, the amount of details that came out from my last roll is insane…I feel like I have a new lens!

Another advantage is that it’s a low dilution process. With normal development, the dilutions are usually between 1+1 and 1+4. Here we are using a very low dilution so you can save a lot of developer. Depending on the developer, you can dilute up to 1+50. This means that for 1 litre of pure developer, you can do 50 litres of developing solution!! Considering that one roll of 35mm needs more or less 300ml of solution, you could develop up to 150 rolls… Knowing that one litre of developer cost in average 18 $ so it would less than 0.12 $ of chemical to develop per roll !!

Before we end with the math lesson, let me give you more information about the dilution I used.

The most common developer for this technique is usually Rodinal which is diluted at 1+50. Here I only had Ilfotec DD-X and found that it should be mixed at 1+9. As I was using a Paterson tank with only 1 roll of film, I needed 300ml of solution. So I mixed 30ml of developer with 270ml of water at 20 degrees Celcius. Then I agitated for the first minute, tapped the tank on the 3 or 4 times to remove air bubbles from film and let it sit for 45 minutes. After that, one minute of stop bath and three minutes of fixer. And that’s all folks !!

Enough talk and math for today, let me show you a few images to thank you for reading until here!

As soon as I saw the negatives, I knew that these images would turn good (for my taste at least). I have developed a few rolls already but never saw a negative so dense and contrasty. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate the shapes but here everything was clearly distinct and sharp. The comparison with a normal negative of Fomapan 400 is unbelievable, it looks like I shot a completely different film.

The only downside I have found so far it is the time it takes. Some stand development can take one hour and more so you have to be patient. But it’s the perfect opportunity to scan some negatives for example. You can also read that some people experienced uneven development or the apparition of streaks due to a chemical reaction that falls at the bottom of the tank. This can be avoided by making one or two inversions mid-development, in this case we talk about semi-stand development. Personally, I didn’t notice anything strange, but it might have something to do with the low dilution I used, comparing to what it should be with Rodinal for instance.

Another important point to mention: With this process, you can mix in the same tank two films that are rated at different speeds. This also lets me think that it doesn’t matter too much if you pushed your film, but I am not sure about this and will have to make some tests to determine if you need to extend the time when pushing film. I feel like I have just opened another door that will lead me towards more adventures into the film photography experience! It’s like I am playing with Russian Dolls ;-)

I hope you have found this article useful, if so, please share it with someone that might be interested in this process.

About the Author

Vincent Moschetti is a photographer from France. He has been into photography since 2013 and worked exclusively with digital equipement until recently. While looking for new ways to challenge him, he got hooked by the beauty of shooting with film cameras. From this discovery, he has decided sell all his digital cameras and commit to analog photography for at least an entire year.

You can follow Vincent’s adventures on his website and Instagram or reach out to him through Facebook. This article was also published here and used with permission.

Editor’s Note : The image at the top is illustrative, and not one of the rolls Vincent developed.

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

DIPY Icon

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

8 responses to “How to get the best contrast and most detail when developing your own black & white film”

  1. Joe Bryan Avatar
    Joe Bryan

    Those are color negatives

  2. Fredhu Avatar
    Fredhu

    Salut Vincent,
    As far I know (lot of reading on the web), the additional advantage of stand or semi-stand dev is that you CAN mix films at different iso, or push part of your roll as necessary. This kind of development will “naturally compensate” for these over or under exposed pictures.
    Well, I know that some “purists” will howl to the moon, but the stand development had too often been considered as heresy by the one used to the precise timing, number of tank agitation and temperature to the 0,1 °C …
    Fine, we “standers” do not affirm that their method is wrong, so let us play with our toy :-) It gives us a result, an interesting one (as your pictures shows !), it pleases us, it’s easy and cheap, forgiving, so what ?…
    Now, for the ones interested on details, internet is the gold mine, but I won’t argue further on this aspect of mixing different films and iso, no experience as I shoot only 4×5 and stick to my dear 100 iso :-)

    1. Vincent Moschetti Avatar
      Vincent Moschetti

      Salut Fred!

      Thanks for your comment. Indeed I’ve read a few times that different films can be developed together but haven’t tried it myself yet. I’ve done another test with Tri-X using the same recipe and it turned out very well too. Review will follow soon on my website ;)

    2. Kristian Saks Avatar
      Kristian Saks

      My stand experience shows that it will even out one, one and a half stops, anything more than that is lost. Well it is salvagable in scanning but it will be extremely difficult to print.

  3. John J. Gettis Avatar
    John J. Gettis

    of course that does look like a roll of color film

  4. Thiago Pereira Avatar
    Thiago Pereira

    Black and white film with a color film photo in the main image… fine for me! You could do something about developing color films with BW chermicals, I did it before (kodak 200 with parodinal, vinegar and salt water) and it worked perfectly. But some tips would be good! =D

    1. Vincent Moschetti Avatar
      Vincent Moschetti

      That’s on my to do list as well ! I’ll have to look for a recipe in my cookbook ;)

  5. Miroslav Kusovský Avatar
    Miroslav Kusovský

    very nice images ;)