Darkroom paper developing problems :(

missteacher

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Hi everyone

Wonder if you can help me. I've recently set up a darkroom for the Photography department in the School I work. Having done a level photography, later doing a degree in photography, I have decided to go back to film photography after some years away.

The darkroom is fantastic. We have a durst M605 black and white enlarger and all the Ilford chemicals you could wish you. There is one problem though:

The prints arn't coming out right!

Although they may be over exposed prints, when I turn the lights on, they are grey, slightly biege/brown in colour and there is not a single intention of being black.

Where am i going wrong? Is it the lights (maintenance asure me the lights they have put up are darkroom safety strip lights) the enlarger? The paper? Or the chemicals.

PLEASE HELP ME! I start teaching darkroom lesson in a week and I have to fix the problem...
 

Torus34

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There are certain checks you can make to rule out possible problems.

Safelights can be checked by turning off all lights, including safelights, removing a sheet of paper from its package, and placing it emulsion-side up under the safelights. Cover half of the sheet with something opaque to all light. Turn on the safelights for 5 minutes. Then turn the safelights off again and develop and fix the paper in total darkness. Turn on the lights and see if there is a difference in the two halves of the exposed paper. If yes, you've caught the culprit. If both sides are about as white as the back of the sheet, the paper is OK in terms of age-fogging. If not, the paper is age-fogged.

Another quick check, as you noted an inability to get a full black, would be to take out another sheet of paper and then over-expose it by putting it in the developer and turning on the room lights. If you don't get a rich, full black over the entire sheet in about 30 seconds, you've a major paper or developer problem.

The next things to check, assuming both of the above tests show safelights and paper and developer 'not guilty' will depend on the type of paper [fixed or variable contrast] and the enlarger settings and chemicals used for developing and fixing. More information on just what you're using will be needed for this.

Don't panic, and make sure you've a bath towel handy. You can get through this. ;-))
 
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John Mc

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Agreed with above,however,i'd possibly check your fixing times,i had a problem with my darkroom,ive only had it running a month or so,and ive only been using a darkroom 2 months or so.the issues were simular,brownish patches over the picture,the image itself looked flat and lacked contrast.i kept forgetting to fix the image for atleast a minute and forgot to put the filters in,(i use an lpl 7700 colour,so i use a magenta filter which is built into the enlarger)

I hope ive helped,even if its just an after fought.

John
 
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missteacher

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Excellent. Thanks guy, this is so helpful. I will try everything you've suggested.

I've been using a 3.5 filter in the Durst just while I wait for a pack of filters to arrive. I'm using VC multigrade paper. I fix for bout 5 minutes just for the safe side.

Are there any tests I can do to see if the fix is correct though? I have a feeling its the fix, because the pictures look fine until I turn the lights. Or a way of checking if the fix is old/off?

Thanks again!
 

ann

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there is a product called hypo check, you place a drop in the fixer and if it turns cloudy the fixer contains too much silver and needs to be replaced.
 

Torus34

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A quick way to check fixer is with a small piece of b&w film. About a half inch to an inch cut from a 35mm leader will suffice.

Put it in the fixer. It should become transparent in about 1 minute at the outside.
 

Evansshoots

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Grey/beige prints tend to be a result of dodgy developer. That or youhave inadvertantly been using a low-contrast filter (but that doesn't explait the beige-ness). I use the same paper and developer here. Just my experience.
 

silverimage

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The first thing to check is that your safelights are indeed safe, as described in an earlier post.

This sounds like a problem with the developer, not the fix. Prints will always appear darker and contrastier under the safelight than in white light.

If you're failing to get good blacks in your prints, then -
(a) ensure that your developer is fresh (i.e. both (1) freshly mixed - in an open tray it will go off in 24 hours and (2) recently purchased i.e. be sure that your school is not providing you with old stock that has been sitting around for years. Unopened bottles with the factory seals will keep longer, but if the seals are broken the shelf life will be only a few weeks or a couple of months.)
(b) check that the dev is being mixed according to the proper dilution
(c) make sure that your development time is sufficient - check the dev and paper manufacturers' recommendations - you should leave prints in the dev until there is no longer any visible change under the safelight.

It's also important to be meticulous about avoiding any contamination of the developer with stop or fix. Mix the dev and pour it into its tray last, after you've done the stop and fix, to avoid them splashing into it. And never allow the tongs used in the dev to touch the stop or fix. Set aside one tray of each size to be used exclusively for developer.

Also, check the freshness of your paper stock. B&W enlarging paper remains usable for years but with time it loses contrast. If your paper is less than a couple of years old it should be fine, as long as it has been stored in a cool dry place.

You also need to fix your test strips and then inspect them in white light to determine your printing times. You can't judge test strips under the safelight.

Although it doesn't sound like a problem with the fix, in any case check the dilution and freshness of your fix as well.
 
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missteacher

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If I'm being really honest with you all, I think the store has supplied us with VERY old developer. Within days of opening the bottle, everything is brown, it is leaving brown trails over any surface it touches and the developer tray, when mixed with water, goes bright yellow within hours, rather than a day.


I have emailed the supplier today with photograhps and description. Hoping that is the cause.

Thank you!
 

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