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It’s been a while since I posted here, so I thought I will follow up on my promise to talk about enlarging photographs.  Today, I will list the types of material needed for photo enlargement.

The basic chemicals needed for paper development are

  1. Developer – There are many developers available for selection, including Dektol, Polymax, Bromophen, etc.  I personally use Ilford Multigrade paper developer, which I dilute 15 times in water to make up a working solution.
  2. Stop Bath – This is an acidic bath that is used to neutralize the developer to prevent premature exhaustion of the fixer.  I use Ilfostop for my process, diluted 20 times.
  3. Fixer – The fixer is responsible for washing away undeveloped silver, so that the paper can reach a sort of stable state.  Again, there are many fixers to choose from, though I stick with Ilford and use their Rapid Fixer (without hardener) at 10 times dilution.

One thing to take note of is that the chemicals do not have the same capacities or working life.  For example, the developer has a working life of about 24 hours, and a capacity of 70 resin-coated (RC) papers per liter, while the fixer has a working life of almost a month, with a capacity of 80 RC 8×10″ sheets.  Therefore it is necessary to plan out the number of sheets you want to process, to prevent wastage of chemicals (especially the developer).  Each frame typically needs to be developed 3-4 times (one test strip, one over exposed, one underexposed, one final print), so plan accordingly. 

There are two main types of paper base – either fiber-based (FB) or resin coated (RC).  The former, when properly processed, can give richer blacks and can also achieve archival standards (very roughly, storage for more than 100 years without degradation of image).  They are, however, much slower to process than RC papers, which, as the name suggests, has a layer of resin on the surface that prevents water from swelling up the paper fibers.  The result is that the RC papers can be processed much more quickly.  This is important because unless you plan to process papers on consecutive days, it is difficult to have the FB dry sufficiently to provide accurate feedback with regards to the exposure and development time needed for a good print.  A (reusable) blotter book can help dry the FB prints faster, though care must be taken when washing to prevent contaminating the blotter pages.

All the materials listed above can be purchased from Adorama.  That’s all for now.  Next time, I will write more about the equipment needed for paper development.