Films Developers and Processing

Despite what advertising may suggest, no film or developer is ideal for every use. Developers and films all have very specific qualities that are best suited to particular applications.Your goal should be to define the kind of photography that you intend to do and decide on the appropriate materials.

As you begin this process it's easy to feel that you may never learn enough about all of the various developers and films available and their effects. There is in fact a much more direct and practical way to approach this problem. What most photographers actually do is look at the work of a photographer they admire and use the film and developer that that photographer uses, at least as a starting point for their own work. This approach not only gives you a concrete model to follow, but you also can learn the pitfalls and limitations of a particular film/developer combination.

It is for this reason that I have decided to give you as much practical information as I can about what different films and developers will do. Of course, not every available film and developer is included in this appendix, but the ones I have chosen cover most of the major products available in the United States and, more important, all of the major categories of films and developers that are made. As I mentioned at the beginning of Chapter 9, there have recently been significant changes to a number of the most revered traditional photographic products. Comments on some of these issues are included in the following sections.

The first section, The Basics, describes the general categories of films and their uses. If you're already familiar with these basic concepts, skip this section and refer to the sections Developer Notes, Film Notes, and Processing Notes for more detailed information. The section Film and Developer Questions and Answers summarizes my personal evaluations of how certain films and developers actually perform.

Once you have chosen a given developer and film, stick with them until you're sure that you understand their advantages and disadvantages; only then should you begin experimenting with different variations. In the end you will find that the simpler your tools and methods, the easier it will be for you to accomplish your photographic goals.

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