Drugstore versus home development

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by harmon, Nov 15, 2011.

  1. I have purchased the material for developing black and white film. I see repeated comments that better results are obtained by developing your own film. Could someone tell me why this is so? I mean, I am going to do it, but as I look at the process, I am just wondering what I will gain. I am just following a recipe it seems and I would think the drugstore machine is programmed to do the same thing.
  2. You have full control when you do it yourself. You can tweak the process if needed you can chose the right developer/film combo. A send out service most likely just uses an average time with whatever developer they find the cheapest to use.
  3. At least in the USA, you really are very unlikely to have any "drugstore" alternative for B&W unless you use the C41 films that are developed in the same chemicals as color negative. If your local situation still has such processing available, then you are very fortunate.
    There are mail order outfits that do B&W, I guess, but the only affordable and convenient alternative is to do it yourself. Even in the day when local B&W developing was available, the quality of the work was awful.
    Here is a frame from a test roll of film in my then brand new Pentax H2 in early summer, 1960 as developed by a local camera store. Un-retouched.
  4. Here's a 100% view of a portion of the above
  5. Bottom line is that you care. Whereas someone running the drug store may not. You have better control over thumbprints, dust, scratches, and other defects. Actually for B&W, the drug store would send it out for development, as I don't think I have seen a drug store doing B&W development these days. You are also not just following a recipe (maybe you are at first), you are developing a technique that suits your shooting style and preferences. Once you get a hang of contrast control, agitation, push/pull processing, film/developer combos... things like that, you will begin to see how you can improve your processing in order to get the aesthetics you want.
  6. Drugstores haven't developed b&w film for close to 40 years. There are pro labs that do b&w, a number of them use Xtol.
    You bought some black and white C41 process film, that is for drugstore/mini-lab colour processing systems, not regular black and white.
  7. I am old I just assumed that the term Drug Store processing was generic for any send off processing. Yes please check the film you have as if it is C-41 well then that is a whole other can of worms to open.
  8. Sorry, I see it was JDM that posted that photo for comparison, not Larry.
  9. LOL No problem T-MAX is standard process so yes do it yourself.
  10. I've had very good results having PRO LABS develop my (true) B&W over the years... once I know that partiular pro lab cares and does a consistently good job. I still sent B&W out, but I have to mail order the processing rather than a quick courier to a local pro lab.
    I've had much more variable results with B&W printing. At one time I could mark up a proof and have a local lab print to my specifications and give me what I wanted. That is long gone and probably never going to happen again.
  11. Apart from the benefits other people have already listed, I would like to point out that the only labs I have had good results from is from Ilford Labs; from the other labs that I have used I have received negatives with scratches, fingerprints or other blemishes; and worst of all, it takes about a week to get the B&W negatives back.
  12. SCL


    If you were knowledgable about B&W processing. by doing it yourself, you could customize the development processing to your own specifications , something very few professional services do these days. Why, you might ask...for instance you might have shot a whole roll at a significantly different ISO than that suggested by the film manufacturer, and want to achieve a particular "look", or compensate for the difference, or perhaps you want to increase the contrast in a roll of negatives, rather than in the final print...and on and on. Or perhaps you prefer the results from a particular developer and want the option of choosing. I learned way back in high school in the newspaper's photo lab, and it was such a rush that I've continued to do most of my own B&W developing over the years. There's such a range of variables one can experiment with that I find it a lot of fun...others don't. Anyway, if you eventually become interested in doing your own, there are lots of books, guides, and people to give you advice.
  13. don't feel bad. what labs promise and what actually happens is not the same.
    be aware that running REAL B&W film thru a c-41 ( "drugstore ') process will result in blank film..
    c-41 color negative and c-41 'chromogenic' B&W film of any speed it brand, is designed be machine processed.
    B&W (real B&W) film differs in many ways from brand to brand ans different ISO ( speeds) have differing charateristice..
    there are some devlopers that work better with some films and combinations that should be avoided.
    exampe Rodinal with high speed films.
    there are developers such as D-76 and HC-110 that are more or less universal..
    sometimes a certain developer or dilution will cause the suggested ISO rating to be raised or lowered.
    with iso 100 t-max film you have an excellent film capable of very good results.
    Really the only thing you have to worry about is getting the film
    properly on the reel.
  14. And not under fixing. Even long time developers of film have had this problem.
  15. Another benefit of developing your B&W yourself is that you can start scanning or printing your negatives a couple of hours after developing them.
    Of course, how fast negatives are dry enough to handle depends on the temperature and humidity.
  16. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I am sure that an experienced photographer, knowledgeable about the various ways in which different developers and timings work, and thinking ahead to the technical requirements of the final print, can make a better (or at least more appropriate ) set of negs than a Lab working from a more restrictive range of materials.
    However is that really where you are? For me, when I started b&w I backed the years of experience in b&w processing and printing available to me in a Lab, and I never once regretted that across the processing of many hundreds of rolls and the making of several hundred prints. I was able to concentrate my learning into what I wanted not the physical dimensions of doing it.
    I doubt very much that you will, starting from scratch and presumably without huge knowledge of the alternative materials and methods, be able quickly to produce negs that are better than those that you'll get from processing in a good lab, especially if you can talk to the people doing the work and you can communicate the style that you want to see in a print. Its not right that every photographer can produce better negs than every lab. It is right that if your only alternative is a drugstore then you may quickly learn to surpass their output. If OTOH you do have access to a Lab skilled in b&w processing then you're going to need to work before you surpass or even equal the output from someone who might have been doing this full time for twenty years or so.
  17. I look at it this way. I have creative control from the moment I load the film I chose and decide what developer dilution, time,agitation I want to leave it in the soup to the the moment I present the image. First time or 40 years later I still enjoy it.
  18. I get what you are saying David. I am hoping for some beginner's luck. Otherwise I guess I am just going to read the instructions on the labels.
  19. I think David is throwing you off here... Start with whatever developer you have and get better.. I had to start with Dektol a paper developer to do my first film but learned to dilute it and add borax from the drug store... then I got real film developer. I now can make film developer from many compounds and even slack of ....
  20. So easy even a caveman can do it. And do it better than drugstore labs that try so hard to wreck those negatives.
  21. LOL I must say... That is almost funny... I used a rectal thermometer to start out with...
  22. Ok so it's one thing to pee in your developer but I do hope you washed that thermometer. LOL
  23. Well life is what you make of it and I use what I have to make it my life not making life meake me... LOL Use what you have to do what you have... I have proved many things wrong that others take for g-d and a few others I can not prove just yet. And there are the total fails... You have to go past what others say.. if not then we are still throwing spears....
  24. One nice thing about working in the darkroom, I don't answer the phone.
    It is peaceful!
    But, for me at least, the garbage can is one of my best friends in the darkroom!
    Start developing, you'll get to know the how-tos pretty quick
    Have fun!
  25. I learned to develop film when I was 12 years old and had a part-time job as a darkroom technician for a local newspaper by the time I was 16. If a 12-year-old can do it and a 16-year-old can do it professionally, anybody can do it.
  26. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I'm sticking to what I said, Larry. I'm sure you could make better negs for yourself than the average lab guy, but I don't imagine your first efforts were as good as you could buy in, assuming a sensible choice of lab. I think one reason to start processing yourself is that some people don't have convenient access to a decent lab nowadays, and if its just a question of mailing films off and having your negs made by a faceless organisation where you have no dialogue and no knowledge of whether your istructions are being followed- -well lets just say thats not where I've been. I don't think I'm throwing anybody off- I think I'm telling the truth.
  27. I agree to respectfully disagree with you and we have both given our opinions to the OP.
  28. Perhaps it would be beneficial to track down a used copy of this: http://www.amazon.com/Film-Developing-Cookbook-Darkroom-Vol/dp/0240802772/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321474224&sr=8-1
    I love this book. Maybe you have to be a bit anal to enjoy reading about dilutions, agitation, and developers but it really is the bible.
  29. Along those lines, I think I am going to put this one on my list for Christmas - link

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