Rodinal Semi-Stand Development (Part 2 – Getting More Technical!)
Matthew Osborne Photography
Black and White Film Developing
Regular readers will know I develop my black and white film at home using the Rodinal (R09 One Shot) semi-stand development method using times less than one hour. The more common approach is ‘Rodinal stand development‘ for a duration of one hour. I have already written one post on stand developing (link below) but as I like to experiment I am starting to fine tune my method (and I will continue to do so).
The standard stand development method is a good safe option but can produce ‘flat’ negatives. By that I mean mostly mid greys and lacking contrast (highlights and shadows). I generally develop my Kodak T-Max 100 film in Rodinal for 40-45 minutes with one or two turns (“agitations”) during that time. What I noticed is when I have shot a roll of B&W film over a period of several days in varying light conditions the film negatives results will also vary dramatically.
- Photos taken in bright light/ direct sunlight/ contrastly light/ hard light such a direct flash / speedlights benefit from a shorter developing time (such as 40 minutes) and give high quality negatives with a broad dynamic range (highlight detail, range of mid grey detail and shadow detail).
- Photos taken in the shade / even light / overcast day / inside without obvious directional light will develop as just mid greys lacking contrast and clarity when using the same developing time. Luckily film retains a lot of detail so negatives can be pushed / pulled when scanned to boost contrast and if needed boost contrast further in PP.
I know that all sounds obvious. It is not rocket science that contrasty light when taking a photo on film will give a more contrasty negative. But, the trick is when you want to create a contrasty negative from flat light. If the photos were taken on an overcast day increase your developing time and also the number of agitation during film developing and this will help the highlights (or brighter mid greys) develop further to give a negative with more contrast.
OK, to recap how stand development works, highlight areas develop faster than areas of shadow. Developer around the highlights stops working after a certain time and then the remaining time lets the shadow detail develop further. If you don’t agitate the film and stand for one hour the highlight detail and shadow detail both have time to develop. Highlight detail is not blown as the developer becomes exhausted around highlight detail sooner so stops.
Now, for semi-stand development you are basically refreshing the highlights areas with new developer each time you agitate the film so the highlights develop further and faster. By stopping the time sooner the highlights are developed but some deeper shadow detail remains less developed thereby produce a negative with more contrast.
That shorter time works well if photo are taken in ‘good’ light (good light being with direction). If however the light is flat then more agitations will refresh the highlights more to try to ‘over develop’ beyond the brightest seen when taking the photo and thereby giving a negative with more contrast.
The problem arises when you have a ‘mixed’ lighting conditions roll of film. Some negatives will be near perfect already and some will be flat. If you agitate the film more during developing then you will blow the highlights on the contrasty negatives. If you agitate less the flat negatives will develop as just that, flat and grey.
So in conclusion, I will try to make a note of the lighting conditions I shot the film in if films are being stored before being developed. For medium format film I will try to shoot an entire roll in similar light as you get less photos on a roll anyway (8-16 depending on 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, 6×9, with 645 format normally giving 16 negatives). For 35mm film when you have 36 exposures it is not always possible to shoot all images in similar light so in this instance I might develop with less agitations for a longer duration and increase the contrast in post processing (“PP”).
I hope that made a little sense! The best way to learrn is to try what method works best for you. Everyone is different but the above approach is how I currently develop my black and white film.
Examples images – Film Portraits (Leica M2)
- Flat light – flat negative push when scanned (note more grain)
- Contrasty light – contrasty negative with fine grain