Potential Film Developing Problems
Negatives too "thin" or transparent -
two possible reason for this are: a) negatives received insufficient
exposure in camera, and/or b) negatives didn't receive enough development
(developing time too short, developer temperature too cool, developer excessively
diluted with water). These negatives will be difficult or impossible to print
Negatives too "dense" or dark - two
possible reasons for this are: a) negatives received too much exposure in
camera, and/or b) negatives received too much development (developing time
too long, developer temperature too warm, developer not sufficiently diluted
with water). However
you may be able to get a good print from dense negatives.
- Clear Film, no frame numbers - caused by non-development
of the film, most often caused by
fixer before developer. Label your chemicals to reduce confusion.
- Clear Film, frame numbers visible - no exposure in camera. Look for mistakes in loading
film in camera or camera mechanical problems. Check to see if your rewind knob
turns (if you have one) when advancing film.
- Black Film Overall -
film was exposed to light outside of the camera.
- Black Streaks on Film
- light leak in camera, film canister, or during developing steps.
- Excess edge density in sprocket hole pattern - dunk and pump agitation or other
non-turbulent developer agitation. With 4-reel steel tanks, load only the bottom 3 reels
with film, leaving the top reel empty for
larger airspace to achieve better agitation. (See George Post, "Shake it Up",
p 20, Darkroom Photography magazine, March/April 1986 for an
in-depth comparison of different film agitation techniques in both plastic
and metal tanks.)
- Excess edge density - rotation of tank instead
of inversion during developing, stainless reels especially
- Goose-bump appearance (in miniature) on film surface, print has an odd
"grainy" appearance - reticulation caused by a sudden, large temperature change
- "Lightning bolts" exposed onto film - static electricity discharge due to rapid film
handling (film advanced too quickly, bulk loader rolling speed, etc). Most prevalent in
dry winter conditions.
- Mottling - caused by bromide drag
resulting from insufficient agitation.
- Lengthwise streaking - caused by rotational agitation, not inversion.
- Scratches - if long and straight, particle of dirt on felt or in camera. Bulk loaders
especially prone when cassettes are old. If scratches are short and not
perfectly straight, probably caused
by rough squeegeeing (dirt or carelessness) or sponging of wet film, or dragging film on
rough surface. Scratches through the emulsion will print dark, while
scratches on the non-emulsion (shiny) side will print light.
Pinholes (small clear spots) in negative,
produces round dark spots in print - Air bubbles or "air bells" clinging to
film in developer,
caused by dissolved air in water supply. More prevalent in winter. Try a water pre-soak
before developer and add a couple of drops of Photo Flo in developer.
- Density variations in negative, shaped like drips - fill marks from developer pouring
into the canister too slowly. Tip canister for rapid fill, and/or use a water presoak.
Opaque blotches on film, often an ugly brown
or bluish color - adjacent wraps of film touching on reel. Fairly common
occurrence with beginning
- Crescent creases on negative print as white "moons" in picture - rough film
handling before developing bends film base and creates dense crescent-shaped artifacts.
- Fairly abrupt division between dense and
thin halves of a roll of film along its length - insufficient quantity of
developer to keep the film submerged at all times. Don't confuse the film
developing issue with flash synchronization speed errors which could give a
Potential Printing Problems
- Mottled appearance, weak blacks in print - insufficient time and/or agitation in
- Yellow or brown stains on print - fixer not completely washed out
- Tinted (purple or pink) stains on print - fixer bad or not fixed long enough.
- Dark center in print, but negative OK - condensers
in enlarger not placed correctly for even illumination.
- Print not sharp - if grain of negative
is visible, problem is with the negative. If grain
is not visible, enlarger needs focused. Use a grain magnifier.
- Print (and grain) sharp on one edge, not on another - enlarger needs aligned, or negative
not seated properly in holder. Try stopping down the enlarger lens as a
- Black areas in print "smeared" out into lighter areas - dirty enlarger lens
and/or intrinsic enlarger lens flare.
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