How different from B&W is it to process and develop pictures with color?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by kelsey_lunn, Oct 17, 2014.

  1. I am new to film photography and am starting to really get into it. I have only purchased B&W film so far for my class but I was wondering if I got a different kind of film for color if I can process it the same way? I love both B&W and color pictures and would love to try color. If I got the film, can I develop and process my pictures the same way as I do B&W now?
  2. The film and processing are quite different. Whereas black & white involves forming images with silver halides, color involves multiple layers each with different dyes. The process includes bleaching (often combined with fixing) before the final rinse. Temperature control is more critical and the chemical don't keep well so they need to be used more quickly than black & white. Not trying to make it sound like a hassle to do, but it is more involved. Good news is that most black & white darkrooms will work fine as long as you have precise temperature control. Printing color is another story. No safelight can be used since color paper is sensitive to all colors. Instead of a tray you will need a processing drum and a set of color filters. Generally you make test prints and vary the filtration to get the color right in the final print. Some photographers take the hybrid workflow for color: develop color negatives and then scan. From the scans make prints with a good ink jet printer. Less expensive than real photo paper, but can still get expensive.
  3. The process isn't that much different, but you have to be more careful with the time and temperature.
    The usual system is to start pouring each into the tank the appropriate time since you started pouring the one before.
    Also, C41 is at 100F (37.8C). In the winter, my darkroom is about 65F (19C) and it is hard to keep the chemicals warm enough.
  4. Hi, to elaborate on what Mike has said: from your viewpoint, for color neg film, you basically add one more chemical step, and you have to lock down the developing time and temperature.
    With B&W negative films, the important chemicals are developer and fixer. There are a variety of different developers that can be used, and if you want more or less contrast, you can change the developing time (or temperature) until you are happy with the result.
    With a color negative film, there is one exact developer to be used; you can get it from different manufacturers, but the bottom line is that what you pour into your developing tank has to closely match the formula designed by Kodak when they invented the C-41 process. Also, you have to closely match the specified temperature and development time; you are not allowed to change these. (If you DO make changes, the 3 separate color layers won't match up properly.)
    For color, the second chemical is called bleach, and this is followed by fixer. Again, these should be designed for the C-41 process, but the times and temperatures are not very critical. Years ago, the last step used a so-called "stabilizer," but today's films are different, and so is the "final wash."
    Your biggest problem will probably be in finding a small-enough chemical kit. Sorry, I don't have sources for you.
    If you want the full specs on the C-41 process, you can read through Kodak's Z-manuals. Don't let this scare you off; the Z manuals include all the info needed by a professional processing lab. For your purposes, you only need to find the table listing times and temperatures for the different chemical solutions.
  5. Color processing is a matter of carrying out a standard and unvarying process to close tolerances, particularly regarding temperature. Unlike b+w, doing it yourself gives you no extra creative control. Color chemicals in most countries are considered toxic and are subject to hazchem regulations (such as a requirement to place all waste in a hazchem drum and have this disposed of by a registered contractor). My personal advice - send the film to a lab, home processing is a waste of time.
  6. I developed b/w extensively over the years. Even it's a bit of a chore, but a relatively simple one. I dabbled in developing my own slides for a few rolls, but dropped it. It's about double the steps, temperatures are very critical, and elevated above typical ambients. Not a lot a lot of fun.
  7. As you are speaking of processing your pictures yourself, there are two steps involved, film processing and paper exposure and wet processing. Neither is easy, for reasons already stated (for film only, but paper is also difficult). Making changes to the negative or print during development is also much more limited in scope than with B&W, which is relatively easy to master to at least a limited degree. I see little benefit in doing it yourself. In the former days of dye process printing it might have been worth it to do printing yourself, for the enhanced quality and longevity of the product, but that was also a complex process few mastered. Today, although the professional or high quality laboratories are more limited, it pays to have someone do it for you. You can make cheap small prints (at Walmart or the equivalent) from your negs or slides as convenient records, and later have larger better quality prints made in the cases of images that are most important.
  8. Processing C-41 film is not that hard, just be as precise as you can with the developer temperature as stated earlier for best color quality. Other than that, is really no more difficult than black and white. The chemistry is no more hazardous than anything you might find under your kitchen sink. Just handle with care.
    You can do color printing in trays. Use Kodak RA-RT Developer/Replenisher at room temperature (68-75F) for two minutes followed by bleach-fix and wash and you will get excellent results. It is a lot less hassle than drums at higher temperatures. Color chemistry can last as long or longer than b&w chemicals when stored properly.
    Learning to color print successfully takes a bit of skill to color correct the prints (done by changing color filtration in the enlarger) as the color balance can change from film to film and exposures made under different lighting situations, but that comes with experience. The advantage is you have control over this, as well as cropping, instead of trusting it to some lab.
  9. Developing the negative is about the same. You have three chemicals, but instead of developer, stop bath and fixer, they are developer, blix and stabilizer. The big difference is that instead of being able to develop at any range of room temperature you like (from about 65-75F), the temperature has to be exact (103F sticks in my mind but I'd have to go check to be sure). To do that, you need a water bath to control the temperature. I have an old Road Warrier water bath and Dev Tech heater to do that so it's easy. Not so easy if you don't have the proper equipment. You also need something like a Kodak Process Thermometer, which is accurate to within about 1/4 or 1/2 degree. An ordinary darkroom thermometer isn't necessarily accurate enough. Other issue is that once mixed the chemicals are only good for about a month. A $20 press kit will do a dozen 24-exposure rolls but unless you shoot a lot, you need to save up the rolls to get your money's worth before it goes bad.

    Printing is another story. You need either a color head on your enlarger where you can dial in cyan, magenta and yellow values, or a set of filters to do the same. Paper has to be handled in total darkness, no safelight. You have to deal not only with getting exposure right but also color. You can develop in a tray like B&W but most people do it with a tube. Been there, done that, not worth the trouble now that I have the option to scan the negs and print on an inkjet.
  10. As someone already mentioned, the Kodak RA-RT Developer/Replenisher and Blix kits work great in trays at room temperature. I find it no more difficult than B&W and actually faster to make prints.

    I also use an acid stop bath (same one as used for B&W) between developer and blix. Citric acid stop baths are not recommended for RA4 colour printing.

    I have a #13 amber safe light which works fine at a distance, there is just enough light to see where the trays are. You can also get an RH Designs colour safe torch which is very handy.

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