Developing film for scanning

Discuss all aspects of B&W Film.

Moderator: Black & White Moderators

Post Reply
stevierose
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Dec 27, 2019 5:23 am

Developing film for scanning

Post by stevierose »

Hello!
I am new to this forum and just learning it's customs, so if my question is not appropriate for this forum please let me know.

I took my first darkroom course in 1971 but with the time demands of family and career gave up on wet darkroom work in the 90's when I first switched to shooting transparencies and scanning them, using Photoshop for image adjustments and then printing digitally. Later I switched to digital cameras. A few years ago I was looking at some of the wonderful old cameras I had kept in my cabinet--they are mechanical marvels, like swiss watches, that are a pleasure to shoot. I decided I wanted to start using them again by shooting BW film, developing it myself, and then scanning it with the goal of digital printing. Along the way I became intrigued by the history of BW films and film development and by the nearly infinite possibilities it offers. I live near a major university and have access to its libraries which have a large collection of books on these topics going back over a century as well as access to journals--so I have enjoyed going down this rabbit hole. Yesterday I received my copy of the second edition of the Film Developing Cookbook and spent several hours reading it last night and this morning with pleasure.

Most of the material I read about BW film development, including The Film Development Cookbook, assumes the goal is wet printing with an enlarger and states the goal should be something like "so that it prints well on Grade 3 paper". As I have a hybrid workflow my goal is to develop my film so that the negative is optimized for capturing the most information when scanning (or lately, with DSLR based scanning). What I have surmised up until now is that I should choose a film that captures a wide tonal range (I shoot 35mm and 120 film and lately have been shooting mainly HP5+), and develop with the aim of producing a relatively "flat" negative which will produce a scan that captures the full tonal range that can then have contrast adjusted to taste in software. To that end I have read that I should both overexpose and under-develop by 10-15%.

I would greatly appreciate any advice or direction this group may have for me regarding technique as well as developer choice given my workflow. I presently have he following developers on hand, though I am open to all suggestions: Xtol, Clayton F76+, 510 Pyro, and was recently given a bottle of Ilford D-DX.

Thanks!
Steve Rosenblum

User avatar
sanchell
Posts: 205
Joined: Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:47 am
Location: Oregon
Contact:

Re: Developing film for scanning

Post by sanchell »

Welcome to the club, Steve.

The advice you have been given to create flat negatives with maximum information in both the shadows and highlights, and then pump contrast into them during scanning is good. Overexposure will provide good detail in the shadows, underdevelopment will help control the highlights - the old adage, expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights. The shadow exposure is easy, read the deepest shadow you want detail in, and place it on Zone IV (underexpose by one stop). The wild card is the amount of underdevelopment, but -10 or -15% is a good starting point for testing.

As far as film, I recommend to pick one reliable film, such as HP5+, and make it your standard. Get used to it with your standard developer, Clayton is a good brand to make your standard, then purchase 5-10 rolls of another film (enough to run some trial and error tests), and see if you like it better than your standard. Once you know your film, do the same with several developers. See if you can tell the difference in sharpness and grain, but especially tonality. You will find with crystal grain emulsions there often is little or no difference, and we're looking for the differences.

I recommend making lots of photos of your family for your testing. ;)
Do it in the Dark,



Steve Anchell

stevierose
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Dec 27, 2019 5:23 am

Re: Developing film for scanning

Post by stevierose »

Thanks for the prompt and helpful response, Steve. I have learned a lot from your books. It is very kind of you to provide me with some guidance on this. Your response has prompted two questions:
1. You have suggested metering the shadows where I want to preserve detail and adding one stop. I have been taught previously that the darkest shadows with retained detail should be placed two stops from Zone 5, so zone 3, and that I should therefore add two stops to the reading. I will experiment with this, but am interested in any comment that you may have
2. I have read in a number of articles that if the goal is scanning BW negatives a good choice would be a two bath developer, like Diafine because of its ability to preserve highlights while maintaining shadow detail. I just read an article by Sandy King where he tested both Diafine and D23 two bath and also ended up making this suggestion. I will give it a try but am also interested in your thoughts.

Thanks again for your books and your educational efforts which are much appreciated by me

Steve Rosenblum
Ann Arbor

User avatar
sanchell
Posts: 205
Joined: Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:47 am
Location: Oregon
Contact:

Re: Developing film for scanning

Post by sanchell »

I suggest underexposing by one stop to preserve maximum shadow detail for scanning, then compensating for the highlights with underdevelopment. The traditional two stops recommended for wet printing may work just as well. Try exposing a scene with one stop and two stop underexposure and seeing which one works best. Place the camera on a tripod and make two exposures side by side on a roll of film, or two back-to-back sheets. Try it with scenes with a variety of contrast ranges. Do it all on one roll. You'll be testing for shadow regions, not highlights, but underdevelop by 15% in any event just to get you in the ballpark (or perhaps a home run).

With all respect for Sandy, in my opinion, Diafine is an inferior developer that leads to increased graininess, poor tonal separation, and unsharp negatives. For the life of me I do not understand how it has gained the following it has. IMO, the only developer worse than Diafine is Acufine.

D23 two-bath would be a better choice. In fact, almost any other two-bath would be a better choice.

But, hey, buy a can and give it a try. The good thing about photography is no one dies if the film doesn't turn out. In fact, Robert Capas photos of D-Day were badly underexposed and suffered from camera shake. But they are considered iconic images of D-Day. People did die that day, but not because his film wasn't correctly exposed.
Do it in the Dark,



Steve Anchell

Post Reply