Semi-stand development.

I found a film camera in a bin around four years ago, which hooked me on film photography. I started developing myself to keep costs down, and quickly moved from ‘standard’ developing to stand developing. Standard developing (explained by Ilford here) is with a dilution of around 1:5-1:20 (developer:water), and timing is important. Stand developing uses a massively dilute concentration of developer (1:100-1:150 or even less), and timing is less important.

Developing. photography. film development.
Getting ready to develop.

The idea of stand developing is that you don’t mix the developing tank, so the solution lies over the negative without moving, and it’s very dilute. So areas of the negative that are highly exposed develop rapidly and then exhaust the developer, while areas that were underexposed develop slowly, but don’t run out of developer, and so develop for a long time (there are also some neat effects where developer from areas that are underexposed diffuses into bordering areas that are exposed, giving ‘edge effects’ that can look great).

This means the film is automatically pushed or pulled. In fact you can change the ISO of the film mid-roll, although how well that works depends on the film. Pan F 50 is less happy being pushed or pulled, while Delta 400 seems to have no boundaries. Some film gets very grainy with stand developing, lending a very ‘film’ look to your photography.

Developing. photography. film development.
APX 100 (@80), semi-stand developed with Adonal, 1:150. A lot of Grain.

The downside of stand developing is that it’s a fucking nightmare, and leads to photos coming out like the one below.

Developing. photography. film development.
A bad case of stand developing gone wrong.

I spent almost a year trying dozens of variations of stand developing to get something that worked consistently. In the picture above you can see the problems with pure stand development. First, the sprocket holes leave long, bright streaks down the negative. There are some people that say this is due to overly vigorous shaking, and that the developer is surging through the holes and causing this effect. Those people are wrong. Leaving the tank to stand for too long causes these sprocket lines to appear and also a gradient of development to appear across the negative vertically.

The solution is to invert the tank regularly, and vigorously [‘semi’ stand-developing]. Here is the final protocol I use, and have now used for hundreds of rolls of 135 and 120 film with no problems so far.

  1. 1:150 dilution of Adonal/Rodinal at 18.5°C in a water bath [temperature doesn’t matter so much, but around 18-19 seems like a slow enough temperature to keep things from cooking too fast].
  2. Invert tank ten times, tap to get rid of any bubbles, put in water bath at 18.5°C for ten minutes [5 minutes for 120].
  3. Repeat step 2 five more times [total development time is around an hour].
  4. Rinse, fix, wash and dry.

That’s it. It can give very clean results with clear films like Pan F 50;

Developing. photography. film development.
Bride preparation, Leica M7 with 35mm summicron, semi-stand developed.

However the main advantage is being able to push the film to ridiculous levels, this photo is also Pan F 50 but taken at night in a dark alleyway with an F2 lens, but still semi stand-developing manages to bring something out of the murk.

Developing. photography. film development.
A very pushed Pan F 50.

For black and white photography it’s cheap to do, easy to do, hard to fuck up and lets you change your ISO to suit the lighting, there’s pretty much no downside.