Developer temperature control: how important is it?

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pcsaba1981

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Hi All,

First of all the good news is that I've completed my second darkroom printing session in my bathroom. :smile: Results are not too bad at all!

At the moment my focus is to get understand exposure and contrast control.

What I'm worried about is the temperature of the developer. I mixed the developer at 23 C degrees. After 2 hours I measured the temperature of the developer tray, and it was 16 C. How to understand exposure and contrast if the developer temperature is not constant?

The prints look fine, anyway. Some people say that temperature deviation can be corrected by development time, but I haven't found any chart about this. I use Ilford Multigrade IV RC paper and Multigrade developer, I develop for 50 secs.

What is the truth?
 

Kevin Caulfield

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Print development temperature is not too critical. 23 C and 16 C are both fine for printing. The hotter the faster. But you don't want to go too hot or too cold.
 

Gerald C Koch

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If you are printing by inspection and not watching the clock then the temperature of the print developer is not that important. This of course is based on how hot or cold your darkroom becomes. But I have printed at anywhere from 60F to 78F without problems. Unlikefilm development print development is said to go to completion.
 
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cliveh

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As long as the print developer is within + or - a few degrees room temperature I would ignore it and concentrate on what the prints look like.
 

Ponysoldier

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Start off with the idea that with prints (as opposed to negatives) you print to completion - avoid the temptation to "pull" a print because it appears too dark. If that is the case, give less exposure and develop the print. Having said that, 16 degrees C is pretty cold for developing and, with some developers may not result in sufficient activity to produce a convincing black (as opposed to a "veiled" dark gray. Two minutes (at 20 degrees C) is recommended by quite a few of the manufacturers... developing longer usually shifts the image somewhat but isn't wildly noticeable and isn't really practical. Find a time/temperature and agitation (based on the manufacturer's recommendation) and stick with it and you will quickly find yourself producing good prints! "Pulling" prints, ignoring temperature and agitation and you will waste a lot of time and materials to produce mediocre prints.
Joel
 

grahamp

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Most developers have a consistent relationship between the time the shadows just start to appear, and development being complete. With RC paper this is usually pretty short. With Multigrade Warmtone fibre in Multigrade Warmtone developer, I would expect the shadows to just appear after 30 seconds, and completion around 6x that - 3 minutes.

So if you have the factor for your materials at the correct temperature, you can extend the overall time as the temperature drops.

But, and it is a big but, this assumes that your exposure is right(ish) and that the temperature is still high enough that the development process continues.

A drop of 7 degrees C. is a bit large (must be a chilly room). Why not put the developer into a heatproof jug (Pyrex or stainless steel) and stand that in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes until the temperature comes back up? Then you can dodge the effects of large temperature swings.
 

Gerald C Koch

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Xmas

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I use two trays when the house is cold the larger with water from a kettle to temper, a thermometer in the dev.
16C is not comfy to work in.
Hydroquinol slows a lot at 14-15C?
I tend to snatch so dev for time if it is at 17 I dev for longer pro rata.
 

Wayne

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If you have a few dollars to spend just do what Xmas says with two trays, and add an aquarium heater to the larger tray. Set the smaller developer tray in the larger heated tray of water. That's what I do for both prints and sheet film and the temperature remains constant. Its a cheap effective solution. I prefer the metal heaters so there is no risk of breakage, and of course make sure to use a GFI.
 

railwayman3

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I'd follow Wayne's advice as above ^^^.

I'm not obsessive about detail, but I believe in keeping under control, where possible, as many of the variables in photography. There is latitude in most processes (otherwise we'd never produce anything !) But I think that controlling those variables which you are able is a good start if you aim to do the best quality work you can.
 
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I'd follow Wayne's advice as above ^^^.

I'm not obsessive about detail, but I believe in keeping under control, where possible, as many of the variables in photography. There is latitude in most processes (otherwise we'd never produce anything !) But I think that controlling those variables which you are able is a good start if you aim to do the best quality work you can.


That's a really good point about keeping as many variables as possible within reasonable range. The more slop there is in each step of the entire process from focusing the lens to toning the prints, the variability of the end result will swing drastically. The compounded result of slop factor can be significant.

In my darkroom the only thing that really changes is printing chemistry temperature, simply because I'm in an uninsulated basement in Minnesota, where we have 100*F sometimes in the summer (40*C or so), and sometimes -30 to -20*F in the winter (-35 to -30*C). In the summer the area is about 70*F and in the winter it's about 45-50*F. It is very difficult to keep those chemicals at constant temperature. But, since I keep just about everything else under very tight control, it's OK, because I can compensate for one thing easily.

Ethol LPD is remarkably good at low temperatures, by the way. It works just fine down to about 55*F, but I try to make sure the developer is above 62*F by using a hot water jacket as suggested above.
 
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greybeard

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A drop of 7 degrees C. is a bit large (must be a chilly room).

Not necessarily---if the humidity is low, evaporation can drop the developer temperature well below room temperature. This is really noticeable if a small amount of developer (say, 250 ml) is being used in a large, poorly conducting (say, 8x10 plastic) tray. The tray-within-a-tray is probably the best solution, but when doing long (15 minute) tray development of film, I have been known to lay a sheet of glass over the tray to minimize evaporative cooling. Kind of a nuisance, but it works.
 
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I think the greatest reason to control your developer temperature is so that you can readily duplicate a successful print from your note if you ever revisit it in the future. If you do not control your temp you will get varying, albeit minimal at times, results in different sessions. As mentioned above, there are numerous inexpensive means to achieve this end.
 
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