Suggestion for beginners: start with D76, skip the monobath

Started 7 months ago | Discussions thread
Ranger 9 Regular Member • Posts: 160
Re: Suggestion for beginners: start with D76, skip the monobath

Okay, much as I'd love to unleash my inner Grumpy Uncle and dive into an argument about the merits of May & Baker Promicrol for developing Super-XX films or whatever, I'm going to loop back to the original topic of developer advice for beginners.

My advice: Start out with whatever liquid concentrate developer is easy for you to get in a small quantity.

  • Liquid concentrate so it will be easy to mix — you want to spend your time on the fun part, actually developing film, and not on endlessly swizzling a stirring rod waiting for clumps or powder to dissolve, right?
  • Small quantity so that if you decide developing b&w film is just too tedious, you won't feel wasteful about chucking it.

If you're a genuine beginner, you might even want to investigate the new Ilford beginner kit that has film developer, stop bath and fixer in single-use packets. That's pretty much the ultimate low-involvement starter approach as far as I can see.

If you decide you like film developing, it will be more economical to buy stuff in slightly larger quantities, but I still recommend liquid concentrates unless you have a dedicated wet darkroom and are doing dozens of rolls per week. Personally I consider myself as serious a photographer as anybody, and I'm using Ilfosol 3 because the local photo store sells it in 500ml bottles. That's about all I can use before the concentrate oxidizes and goes bad.

When it comes to developer selection, the brutally honest truth is that you need to be a long, long way down the film-photography rabbit hole before choosing one developer over another makes that much difference. What's more important is to be consistent with your processing (film handling, temperature, agitation) with whatever developer you do use. That way, if (for example) you decide your current developer produces too much highlight density, you'll know you can just dial back your developing time a bit instead of getting mixed up experimenting with different developers.

After all, this is supposed to be fun, right? If we're not having fun, why are we doing it?

Oh, also on the subject of small-footprint film developing, there's this:

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