What could be the issue with my negatives?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by steve_pfost, Nov 26, 2017.

  1. So I'm shooting film again, which I haven't done in quite some time. My negatives seem to be a bit muddy? Now, I'm assuming this may be an exposure problem, if it is, that's fine. I just want to rule out any issues with my developing. This roll was developed in D-76 1+1 pushed for 1600 at 13. 25 mins, fixed for about 8 mins or so. Fresh developer, fixer is old but seems to fix the negatives just fine.

    The attached files show a raw un toned image / then toned

    and two toned images in epson and lightroom.

    [FONT=Proxima Nova, helvetica neue, helvetica, arial, sans-serif]Any help would be appreciated.[/FONT]




  2. My negatives seem to be consistent with this muddyness which has me a bit disheartened and a bit frustrated.
  3. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Too bad we can't see what the negatives look like.
  4. How could I show you? Full scan of the negative?
  5. Take a picture of the negatives on a lit background like a light box or white screen. If you show the edges and more than one frame, it will help us judge. And post as large as pnet allows so we can see them as if we're holding them.
  6. What film?
  7. Several possibilities:
    Stale film
    Badly stored film
    Fogged during processing
    Insufficiently fixed
    Grossly underexposed

    Fresh film?
    Fresh dev + fix?
    Proper fixing time?
    Handled in total darkness?

    If the answer is no to any of the above, then that's probably the problem.
    So try re-fixing in fresh fixer. Followed by re-washing of course.

    Also 'pushing' = underexposing and overdeveloping. Overdeveloping = increased grain and contrast.

    There's nothing you can do in developing to truly increase film speed more than about 0.5 EV above the box speed.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2017
  8. And to parameters selected for the scan have a lot to do with the finished product. The last three examples are about what I would expect from an ISO 400 film pushed to 1600 and developed in D-76. Nice available light shots.
  9. Okay just to answer your questions

    Fresh Developer, Fresh film, but fixer is quite old so that may be the issue.
    Proper fixing time I believe (again I'm a bit rusty, I fixed for about 8 - 10 mins.
    Handled in darkness of my changing bag which I've had no issue with in the past.
    As always there are some that may have been a stop underexposed but the entire roll is the same muddyness

    It may be my fixer. So let me ask you, since I've never had to do this before. The film is cut how should I re-fix with new fixer? Place film in a tray with the fixer? and allow it to sit for a bit agitating the tray?
  10. No point in dunking the whole film until you know for definite it's underfixed.

    I'd suggest re-fixing one strip as a trial. This can be done in the light and the film checked for any improvement.

    I'd also suggest playing safe and reloading it onto the spiral, if possible. Tray processing brings the risk of scratching the film.

    You might also want to check your changing bag if it's an old one. The rubberising can split or perish over time.
  11. Are the edges of the film clear? If so, then your film is probably fixed adequately.
    From the massive dev chart, it appears you shot Tri-X? Pushing to 1600 is underexposing by 2 stops and you will never get shadows from the film. Are you sure you're camera was set to ISO 1600 and that no exposure compensation was set? What is the make and model of your camera?
  12. Okay, so I took photos of my negatives with my cell phone and crappy light box. Hope maybe this could help. Sorry I wasn't clear, yes I'm shooting Tri-x 400. My bag is only two years old, maybe slightly newer so I would hope that isn't the case. I shot this roll on my Leica M6. The meter seems to be working just fine and is pretty accurate. I am going to the store today to grab a battery for my seconic handheld to double check.




  13. Let me start off this post by thanking everyone for the help so far! These are some frames shot tri-x 400, exposed for 400. The film still needed some adjustments in epson scan, I adjusted the levels. Then tweaked them in light room. When scanning the neg's without any adjustment they still look flat and muddy. Now, is this something to expect from scanning, should I have to be adjusting the negatives in epson? For Instance the last three of the horse. Unadjusted, levels adjusted in epson, and negative. Also, in regards to pushing 1600, it's the first time I've ever experimented with that, really. So maybe I'm just not used to the outcome quality.






    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
  14. I'd say that your negatives look rather underexposed. The ones that are worst have one bright light source in an otherwise dark area. I suspect your meter is seeing the bright light, and choosing too little exposure. Meter without the bright window in the frame, and then use that exposure.

    Check that your light meter agrees with the "sunny 16" rule outdoors.

    Your developing time looks OK, since there are some very black areas in the negatives. Your "Dmax" looks fine.
  15. The Dmax doesn't look fine to me. The strips of negs posted first look very overdeveloped. No properly developed B&W neg should have a density above around 2.1D, otherwise you can neither print nor scan it easily.

    OTOH the second strips look slightly underdeveloped and flat.

    Both strips appear to show a variable Dmin, with some areas between frames looking denser than others. If this isn't just an illusion from the cellphone snaps, then I'd say that almost certainly the fixing hasn't been completed.

    How accurate is your control of process temperature?
  16. Back in my filmshooting days Tri-x was my longtime (from the early 80's to the early 00"s) favorite BW film, used for shooting under 'normal' light, but also ( and a lot) under bad/low light (back in the film days 'low light' was easily ran into considering the max high 400 ISO sensitivity of the films of those days)

    When I look at your negatives, to begin with what strikes me first that basically they seem exposed for the lit/high light parts. That of course breaks the first rue of shooting negative film : expse for the shadows

    Having your exposure on the lit/high lighted parts rather then on the shadows, you consequently now have well exposed highlights on the negatives, with a decent, but none too thick density
    But at the same time as a result of that your shadows (on the negatives) are bare/naked, which in print translates in blacks with loss/no details.
    If you try correct that in print, you consequently have to expose and develop (your paper) too short to get decent blacks and contrast, and that as your first image shows end up with something muddy looking

    Don't know if you do your own film developing and final orinting, or have some advanced knowledge of the principles of those processes, but the solution can be found there
    Unfortumately the only knowledge many nowadays ' born again filmshooters' have is to shoot a film, send it to their lab for standard development, and then do their 'printing' digitally since that's where the images end up anyway
    IMO at least as far as low light shooting is concerned (shooting with 'good' light is easy, basically shoot Sunny 16) you have to completely overhaul your way thinking how to shoot, how to develop your negative film, and how to do your printing

    So first, expose for the shadows or at least with the emphasys on the shadows (ALWAYS !)
    With the contrast of the situation you took the picture of, overthink the way you will develop your negatives. Just throwing your film in a standard developer and extending the development time doesn't cut it. Depending on the contrast, you have to (pre)select a certain type of developer.

    D-76, like eg ID 11 is a basic developer, giving whem used normally nicely graded negatives, and thus a fine choice for 'normal' light condition.
    However in a low light/low contrast situation, you will need a developer which is 'agressive' enough to create (some) density in the shadows/shadow parts of your negatives
    Problem then of course becomes that while creating that density in the shadows, the same built up if density will also occur in the high lights, resulting in a negative with density (= details) in the shadows, but also too much density ( is loss of detail, in prints recorded as 'burnt out') highlights, and due to the high density negative much (more) grain (the real one, not the digital 'pixel' one)

    Solution is easy, at least on paper, however in practice means a lot of work/experimenting to find how to work taht out in a way that funtions for you
    As said when shooting negative film, always expose for/ with more emphasys on the high shadows (just like with slide/daylight film you expose for the high lights)
    Then if possible try find developer which will 'flatten out' the contrasts.
    Based on my experience and much trial and error what would work for which situation, I varied between using Microphen, Microdol X, Acu-1, Acufine, May And Baker Promicrol, and for a while (untill it became no longer available) even Agfa Leicanol (very much regretted when that was taken of the market, wonderful contrast reducing developer)
    That flattening/reducing of the contrasts can be influenced by several things
    1) Temperature of the developer: warm = more 'clouding'/details in the shadows, but also too much density in the highlighs (too cold will give the reverse effect)
    2) Agitation : the time how long you agitate your film in the developer/ how many times you shake your development tank per minute (as you [pobably know, at least I hope so, is that while developing your film, the deveoper touching the film mus be refreshed every now and then, eg by just shaking your development tank)
    Little agitation : flat negative Much agitation : high contrast negative
    3) Shorter or longer development time then recommended by the manufacturer : Short : less density = little/no shadow detail Long: too much density = loss of detail in / burnt out hightlights

    These 3 factors have to be combined, but from a distance an exact 'how to do it and get a perfect result every time' can't be given
    I don't know how consistent you can keep the temperature of your developer, what you consider 'agitation' (care fully tilting your tank, of literally shaking it top over bottom a few times)
    Or how strictly you keep your timing: does it start when you pour in the developer, of only after you ended your first cycle of agitation, including the one to cleat possible bubbles; en does it finish when you pour out the developeer at the end of the period, or after you rinsed your film and applied the stopping solution?
    Those are things you have to find out to find your own process that works for you, and it's not as simple as moving your RGB slider in your RAW processing software

    That said, keep in mind that back in the film days, it was normal to have an 'all night'er to in the early hours of the morning end up with maybe/hopefully two or rhree '[erfect prints (and a lot of failures in the process) and hopefully not discover that after some sleep and under the bright daylight, it turned ot still not to be 'perfect

    As some kind of comfort though, just like nowadays in the digital era when there are endless videos and tutorial on the net on digital processing, back in te film days there similarly were bookshelves full written on how to perfectly' develop your film and make the 'perfect' print :)
    I personally have gladly abandonned shooting film and embraced digital, no more long night is the dark amid fumes of developer and fix, although I do my digital processing with what I learned in the filmdays in the back of my mind

    And sometimes, sometimes, I do miss dancing around in the darkroom on my socks, listening to a Van Morrison tape softly playing in the night while waiting for a print to reveal itself in the developer .....

    Enclosed image shot somewhere in the 80's at sunset (as can be seen by the direction of the shadow, and the contrast)
    Kodak Tri X, Agfa Leicanol )don't remember solution, time and agitation, but it was a contrast lowering developer to begin with),
    printed on Ilford Multigrade, developed in Tetenal Eukobrom (which gives higher contrast. deeper blacks, tones to the prints)
    Kodak Sepia Toner (the two bag solution one, first Ferrocyanide bleacher, the the stinky sulpher based toning batch)

    Yvonne F _ Elite Models Amsterdam Fashion Models Milano.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
  17. Okay, Maybe this could work as a better negative view. The first image (missing the frame on the bottom) is Tri-x developed for the time stated on the dev chart 9.75 (which would be 9 mins 45 secs correct?) at 68 degrees 1:1 dilution. The temp stays pretty constant on on the nose. I agitate as I was taught (so it may not be 100% correct) which is turning the tank 3 times over every 30 seconds. (that's the best way I could describe it in words I guess) I get that developing isn't a set in stone process and items have to be tweaked. I just don't want to continue to develop to get these results.

    Second frame is same developing dilution, temp, developed as the 400 iso just pushed to what the dev chart says, 13.25 (I believe, going off memory)

    BOTH SCANS have zero adjustments in epson program, just a raw scan.

    Once I finish developing I put in a ilfo stop agitate for a minute

    Then fix. Fixing is my only chemical that I may not have a set temperature, most likely under 68'

    I will be making new fixer tonight and trying to refix a strip sometime tomorrow. Is there a point where a film can not be fixed anymore? I'm trying to remember how old my fixer is. It's probably nearing two years old and fixed about maybe 75 rolls of film (35, 120, 4x5) give or take


    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
  18. Right off, I don't like diluted developers. That said, you don't have as much developer available, so it will exhaust if there isn't enough solution. Check, but I think one should always use a double tank for a single 36 exp roll with diluted developer. A single is probably OK for a 24. Developer is such a small part of the overall cost, I don't mind using D-76 full strength as a one-shot or couple-shots at most. Got mud? Try full strength. Partially used solutions go bad faster, so even with fixer I pour off a smaller bottle (16 oz.) and use it to capacity. Then I dump it and start again from the larger unused solution. The quality of your fixing will be much better.

    Nobody wants to hear it, but pushing doesn't actually work. There's little you can do to increase the actual film speed. Push the film and you'll have no shadow detail, even if you get the brighter areas to loo decent. I'd strongly recommend doing a traditional "ring-a-round" to understand exposure and development, or even try a Zone System calibration, though it's hard to take advantage of that with roll film.
  19. Underexposed and possibly overdeveloped. Pretty much the opposite of what gives good negs. As others have said - meter the shadows and don't believe all the hype about pushing. Use fresh chemicals, fresh film, and box speed to start.
  20. 75 rolls sounds high, but maybe that is a gallon bottle.

    It is usual for 35mm films to have a gray base, both for antihalation and light piping. (When loading, light can go down the end of the film out of the cartridge.) 120 doesn't have light piping, so can use a clear base.

    But I do believe that some are underexposed, and will have lower contrast than optimal. That is easy to fix in printing with a grade 3 paper, or appropriate filter with variable contrast paper, or appropriate settings when scanning.

    And some scanners have less than optimal default settings, so you have to adjust even for perfect negatives.

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