Film developing with Kodak D-76

Kodak D-76 is a classic and truly versatile developer which first entered the market in 1927. It provides full emulsion speed, long density range and excellent shadow detail with normal contrast and produces fine grain with a variety of continuous-tone black-and-white films.

D-76 dilutions

Kodak recommends using D-76 as a full-strength stock solution. But there is no reason to use it undiluted. For greater sharpness, but with a slight increase of grain, a 1+1 dilution is typically used, which is also recommended by Kodak. It gives a long density range and allows push processing with relatively low fog.

Kodak D-76 film developer, 3.8 litres or 1 U.S. gallon © Sasha Krasnov Photography

If it is diluted to 1+3 it becomes a non-solvent high acutance developer. Non-solvent developers produce a coarser grain structure but the image will look sharper. It is because there are not many solvents with such dilution to dissolve the edge of the grain.

Fresh solution should be prepared just before developing from certain parts of stock and water. However, I personally recommend diluting it 1+3 for a better compensating effect. Once Kodak included charts for this dilution. But a few years ago they were removed from its official data. For normal processing of low contrast scenes I usually use it diluted 1+1.

Pull and push processing with D-76

For pull processing up to -2EV I recommend a 1+5 dilution that gives a great compensating effect and lowers contrast. It is very good for processing high-contrast scenes. For pull processing only to -1EV I usually use a 1+3 dilution and sometimes 1+5.

For push processing up to +2EV I prefer a 1+1 dilution. To push it even more I use it undiluted, but do it quite rarely. Also, for push processing only to +1EV I use either a 1+3 dilution or 1+1 one and never 1+5.

For push processing, I prefer a 1+1 dilution up to +2EV. To push it even more I use it undiluted, but do it quite rarely. Also, for push processing only to +1EV I use dilution 1+3 or 1+1 and never 1+5.

Process stability

The key to stable results is strict compliance with the same rules every time you develop the film. Do not modify temperature and agitation until you get stable results with a certain dilution. If you need more or less film density, first try to increase or decrease developing time. If it doesn’t help, other dilution may be used. But the more diluted the solution gets, the lower the contrast becomes, and vice versa.

By the way, any dilution other than stock can be used only once. This is very convenient. As a result, you always get the fresh solution just before developing and you do not need to put the used one back into a separate bottle after the process is over and calculate the developing time for the next film, which is absolutely unpredictable. This is another key to stable results.

Development times

The times in this chart are given for the temperature of 20°C with no pre-soaking and the following agitation: 2 inversions of tank or film reel rotation for 4 sec per every 30 sec. To remove air bubbles from the film I tap the tank a few times immediately after the developer is poured inside. I have been using the sealed Jobo UniTank 1500 tank system for many years.

And, of course, this chart reflects my own experience. Also you may refer to the Massive Dev Chart for other films and times.

ISO/Dilution 1+1 1+3 1+5
Ilford Pan F Plus 50
25 9 15
50 9 15 23
Kodak T-Max 100
50 9 17
100 9 17 25
200 13 25
Fuji Neopan 100 Acros
50 10 17
100 10 17 23
200 17 23
Fomapan 100
50 10 17
100 10 17 23
200 17 23
Ilford FP4 Plus 125
64 11 17
125 11 17 23
250 17 23
Arista EDU Ultra 400
400 13 23
800 17
1600 23
Kodak T-Max 400
400 10 15
800 11 19
1600 19
Kodak Tri-X 400
400 10 19
800 11 27
1600 13
3200 17
Ilford HP5 Plus 400
400 13 20
800 16 25
1600 19

Kodak D-76 Formula

Kodak published the formula of D-76 developer in some of its photographic handbooks, for example on page 15 in Kodak Chemicals and Formulae. Below is the original formula of Kodak D-76 film developer for preparing 1 litre of stock solution.

Water 50°C 750 ml
Metol or Elon 2 g
Sodium Sulfite anhydrous 100 g
Hydroquinone 5 g
Borax 2 g
Cold water to make 1000 ml
Despite the fact that Kodak D-76 developer is supplied in a single packet in which all ingredients are mixed together it is better to add chemicals in the specified order if you prepare the developer yourself.

Stand development with D-76

Kodak D-76 is not a typical developer to be used for stand development, with Rodinal developer being most often used for this purpose. I personally do not practice this development process with D-76 because, in my opinion, it does not have any advantages compared to the usual development in a 1+3 dilution, unlike, for example, stand development using Rodinal. Anyway, the key reason for stand development process is developing shadows while preserving highlights.

However, using Kodak D-76 for stand development is possible and I personally tried it. I used a 1+7 dilution, which is a highly dilute developing solution: just 60ml of the stock is used to prepare 480ml of working solution for my Jobo UniTank 1500. Probably, it is possible to use an even weaker solution, however, it must be noted that there is a limit as regards the minimum amount, which practically depends on the film emulsion. I guess if the dilution ratio is more than 1+7 a real film speed will be hard to achieve.

The initial temperature of the solution should also be kept at 20°C, although in this development method it won’t be decisive. But, I prefer the initial conditions for the development to always be the same. The average development time is 1 hour. It can also vary depending on the background temperature but one hour usually should be enough. I always use my standard agitation: 2 inversions of tank (or film reel rotation for 4 sec) per every 30 sec, but only for the first two minutes. Further agitation is not carried out.

It is important to note that in the stand development method I always develop only one film at a time, despite the fact that my Jobo Unitank 1520 allows me to develop two 120 or 135 films simultaneously.

The stand development creates many opportunities for one’s own experiments, and one could write a separate article about it. For example, if negative images have insufficient density, you can try semi-stand development or agitation for every 15th or even 10th minute. It’s up to you.

I prefer to get a stable result. So, I use stand development mainly as an experiment. Unfortunately, my experience also showed that not all films are suitable for stand development with Kodak D-76. In particular, when it comes to Foma films, probably gas bubbles appear on the emulsion surface during the stand development, which leads to insufficient development in these areas. When scanning, this effect appears as a myriad of small black dots throughout the film. I did not observe this phenomenon on Kodak T-Max 100 films though. However, Foma seems to be improving its emulsion from time to time, so it is quite possible that the situation has changed.

Ilford ID-11

Ilford ID-11 to make 5 litres © Sasha Krasnov Photography

Ilford ID-11 film developer is equivalent to Kodak D-76. It is clear from the Ilford ID-11 formula, which was published on page 14 in Ilford Formulae & Packed chemicals photographic book.

Unlike Kodak D-76, which is sold as a single package, Ilford ID-11 involves two separate packages that need to be added and mixed one after the other. Probably this is exactly what gives rise to questions whether modern Kodak D-76 and Ilford ID-11 are really identical.

There is an assumption that the difference was in the chemical that maintains pH, and perhaps their modern formulas are somewhat different. But, it’s not so important to me as I use both these developers and have not noticed any difference. Even if it exists, it will be offset with a 1+1 dilution, and even more so with 1+3 and 1+5.

Storing the developer

Kodak says that the storage life of D-76 stock solution in a tightly sealed full bottle is 6 months and 2 months for half-filled. I pour the freshly prepared stock solution into several Jobo 1-litre black bottles, and use them one by one, which increases the shelf life of the developer.

In practice, the stock solution can be stored in a black tightly closed full bottle for much longer than Kodak claims. For instance, I once forgot about the last full bottle of the Kodak developer because I switched to developing in Rodinal. And I had it in this state, without access of oxygen, standing for about two years! The developer itself turned yellowish, but its properties almost did not change. Unlike Kodak XTOL, which does not change color during its storage but can completely lose its properties. I can with a certain degree of confidence speak about its preservation based on the color of D-76 solution — it is better not to use it if it turned brown or very yellow.

Another good way to always have some fresh developer is to prepare it yourself in the amount that can be used within 2-3 months. which depends on the number of films you shoot. I rarely mix it myself, but I usually use the prepackaged Kodak D-76 developer to prepare 3.8 litres of stock solution, which I use up within a year, while simultaneously using Rodinal. During this period the properties of D-76 don’t usually change for worse.

Other resources

A good database listing recommended developing times is the famous Massive Dev Chart. You may use it as a starting point in your own experiments with film developing.


Thanks for reading! I would be happy to share my experience of shooting on film, its development, and other practices of using this photographic material. Please, ask me questions in the Leave a reply section below the post. Answers to your questions give me new ideas and allow me to piece better organize my experience.

© Sasha Krasnov


  1. David Lyga

    This is rather interesting especially because you are not afraid of stating diminutions up to 1+5 for D-76. ‘Officially’ you are not supposed to do that but, trust me, it does work with consistency. There are many old wives tales with processing. Your data is more real than most.

    I would have preferred that you had stated dilutions as I had) 1+? rather than 1:?. Why? Because in some literature a, for example, 1:3 can mean one part developer MAKES three parts working solution. Ilford’s way, using the ‘+’ instead of the colon, removes any lingering ambiguity.

    • I use the colon as ‘+’. So, the 1:X means — to prepare working solution take one part of the stock and add X parts of water. But you are right. To avoid misunderstanding I’ve changed ‘:’ to ‘+’. Digitaltruth also uses the same symbol too. Thank you, it makes my post better!

  2. Eric James

    Interesting to see someone use D76 other than the ‘stock’ or 1:1 dilution. I have been using D76 at 1:3 almost exclusively on HP5+/Delta 400/TMax 400 over the years, but lately have attempted to develop FP4+ at 200iso, and at a D76 1:1 dilution for 12minutes at 24C. It worked fine, perhaps a little contrasty, but the day’s lighting was high in dynamic ranges too, so I cannot give a definitive comment yet. I look forward to diluting D76 a little further at 1:3, to compress the highlights and shadows together a little more.

    Many years ago, I experimented with 1:4 and 1:5 dilutions, but since have lost my data. As I recall, I think I was developing for about 60 minutes in some cases!? I cannot remember.

    Incidentally, I do not invert the tank during development, but instead rotate the spiral 3-4 times per minute. No spillage to worry about.

    Many thanks for your article, очень интересная статья!

  3. Maybe a bit late for the discussion but not for the topic.
    To some photographers dilution equates to using less chemistry for an area of film to save money. Others, to obtain a shift in resolution, sharpness or maybe grain. Perceived or real is of no importance to this input. The process still requires the energy to get’er done.
    Example: Using Kodak’s data sheet, a gallon of stock D76 will do 16 unit areas of film UNREPLENISHED (single shot). A unit area is a roll of 35mm/36 exposure, 120 rol, four 4×5 negatives, or two 8×10 negatives. That is 8 ounces per roll. (128 ounces divided by 16 rolls)
    If you do it straight (stock) 1:1, or 1:50, …no difference in the energy needed… it is still requires 8 ounces to provide the necessary energy to full and consistent properly exposed negatives. Meaning 8 oz. of D76 stock and 8 oz. for the water (1:1).

    if you were to try 1:50 (ratio is exaggerated for clarification only ) you need 8 oz. of D76 …BUT 400 oz. of water… If you want to develop a single roll of 35mm film. Result… a very BIG, TANK and Long, very long wait.

    Another example… TMAX developer, as I recall is 2.7 oz… 1:4 ration means 2.7 oz of developer and 10.8 oz of water. Then the question, will that even cover the roll? In this case you may actually need to increase the total solution (keeping the ratio the same, just to get the film covered for processing… A little easier for rotation processing for sure.
    Each developer has it’s own capacity and that is where you need to start for consistent developing of your negatives. I am sure you can adjust down if you wish… but you will not get the negative the boys in the lab got when settling on the number that established the capacity they but on the container.

    For me to follow this capacity issue is this: When I get a negative that is too thin or too dense… I no longer have to ask myself if it was the development or the exposure.


  4. Mikhail

    Hi Tim, hi Sasha,

    Tim, thanks for bringing this information up! According to what you says it is already impossible to “properly” develop a roll of 120 film in a 500 ml development tank (the one that normally fits only one 120 reel) with 1+1 dilution of D-76. According to Kodak’s recommendations it will require 16oz (473ml) of undiluted stock to process one 120 roll. Hence the only “correct” way to develop a 120 film using a small development tank is to use undiluted stock, right?

    I believe this might be the case, however I also want trust the results determined by practice 🙂

    Sasha, if you could tell how many milliliters of diluted D-76 you use per 1 roll of film for each dilution you listed in the table, this would be perfect. I mean only three values:
    X ml for 1+1 dilution;
    Y ml for 1+3 dilution;
    Z ml for 1+5 dilution.

    Thank you!


    • Hello, Mikhail!

      I use Jobo tank that is required at least 480ml of liquid. For the dillution 1+1 I use 240ml of undilluted stock, for 1+3 — 120ml of stock and for 1+5 — 80ml of stock. It is OK, don’t be afraid. So for the 500ml tank you may use 250ml, 125ml and 83ml. But I prefer to prepare 480ml solution because it is more convinent to measure stock wich I will dillute. And of course you need to be sure that the film reel will completely filled with the solution.

      Kodak recommends such a strange 473ml because it is 16 fluid oz in US measurement system. So, in this case you need 8oz, 4oz or 2.66oz. I prefer metric system.

      • Mikhail

        Sasha, thank you for the detailed answer!
        I am curious to try the highly diluted versions of the developer and see if it brings about some highlights compensation effect and softness, hence my question. Ansel Adams book (already very old) recommends HC-110 for the work and tells to use larger tanks, so the recommended by the manufacturer amount of the chemicals is present in the tank. This is what Tim speaks about…

        I am up for trying to do it your way though, I have no big size tank anyways and I definitely see that it works from your work. In the end it is always a bit schizophrenic: reaching the desired result and at the same time enjoying the uncertainty of the experiment 🙂

        Many greetings and congratulations on your work!


        • You are welcome! Being based on my experience… I rarely use dillution 1+5, only when shooting high contrast scenes and do not recommend higher dillution. The reason – I do not know what I need it for. So, my standard is 1+3 and 1+1 if I need more contrast especially to make prints. But Tim is right. There is a minimum amount of developer that should be used.

          If you are going to develop medium format film you do not need a big tank – 500ml is enough for most dillutions even for Rodinal 1+100 and 1+200. As for Rodinal, Agfa many years ago recommened to use at least 10ml of concentrate. It means you are able to use only 1+25 an 1+50 with 500ml tank. But in real practice I’ve used 1+100 for stand development with great results. Such development requires only 5ml of concentrate. Anyway, any dillution should be tested by you to find your own development workflow.

          Thanks for noticing my works!

  5. thanks for sharing your thoughts on D76 Sasha, I have very similar experience with this developer. I mix my own from raw chemicals and I use it pretty much for all BW films. I mostly use it 1+1 or undiluted though as 1+3 seems to be too grainy for my taste. Do you use diluted developer as one shot developer or do you re-use 1+1 for more films? Keep it up buddy.

    • Thank you for the comment, Noah. Typically I use 1+1 dilution for normal contrast scenes and 1+3 to get slightly lower contrast when shooting high contrast scenes. So, too much grain is not so big problem for me and thus I like to use it 1+3 for studio portraits especially made with the flashlight setup. I never use diluted developer for than once. So, it is only one shot developer for me regardless of dilution.

  6. William Hamblen

    Kodak published the recipe for D-76 on page 236 of the 1943 edition of “How to Make Good Pictures” and in other guidebooks. The proportions in “How to Make Good Pictures” are the same as you quote, except the amounts are for 4 liters instead of one.

  7. Mariano

    Hello, hope you read this. I’ve pushed a kodak T-Max 400 film 3 stops (@3200ASA). Is there any chance to develop it with D-76? I’can find information about the develop times anywhere!! Hope you can help me.

    Sory about my English, I’m from Argentina. Thanks!!

    • Hello, Mariano

      Yes, I think it is possible to develop T-Max 400 @ 3200 ISO. But you will need to use a stock solution instead of a diluted developer. Using D-76 1+1 dilution for +3EV push processing sill seriously increase development time.

      As for the development times, I would try to develop T-Max 400 for 12-13 minutes in a stock solution for 3200 ISO. Anyway, you must remember that is better to overdevelop the film while push processing. So, I consider to develop it rather for 13 min. If you decide to use 1+1 dilution, the development time should probably be increased to 33-35 minutes.

      Please, let me know about the result.

  8. Thasin Jeelani

    Hello Sasha…
    How many no. of 35mm and 120 mm films can be processed with 1+3 dilution using Paterson Super system 4 tank…

    • Hello Thasin,

      It does not depend on a dilution of the developer, at least 1+1, 1+3 or even 1+5. But, considering your question:

      1) type 135 — as many as you may put film reels in this tank.
      2) type 120 — depends on the feature of a film reel to hold two 120 films in the same spiral. I’ve nothing to say about this feature on Paterson reel but for instance, Jobo 1520 reel does it well — it has a special stopper which is allowed to insert two 120 films one by one into the same spiral. If Paterson reel does it too, you may also expect to develop the same number of 120 films as 135 films in this tank.

  9. Sasha, great post, thanks for all the great info. I enjoyed reading your work in this area. Makes me want to try D76 again.

  10. Tomas

    Nice article as usual. Which film do you prefer for outdoor portraits please?

    • Thanks for reading. The choice of a film depends on exposure. I like to use Ilford HP5 Plus or Kodak Tri-X, Ilford FP4 Plus or Fomapan 100 if exposure is sufficient to shoot w/o tripod.

  11. Malcolm

    Very interesting discussion. What seems to be missing from the discussion about 1+3 dilution is that the developer is no longer super-additive and has far less solvent action. Sodium Sulphite acts as the solvent and at 1+3 dilution the solvent action diminishes greatly. This has two results: firstly, the negative will have much higher acutance and the silver grains will be much more sharply defined, and thus more “visible”. This results from the loss of solvent action which softens the edges of the silver grains. The increased acutance is due to the enhanced edge effect which is caused by the silver grains at the border between high and low contrast areas being more sharply defined. Second, the contrast will be reduced due to the lost superadditivity process between the Metol and Hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is the agent that produces higher contrast and Metol lower contrast. D76 used at 1+1 dilution has a “softer” grain structure due to the solvent action. Rodinal has no silver solvent and thus delivers negatives with more acutance and more visible grain. Rodinal was originally formulated for use with large plate negatives and didn’t require any solvent, whereas D76 was designed specifically for 35mm movie film and was the first commercially available developer to include a silver solvent. So D76 diluted 1+3 is a very different developer to that diluted 1+1 and the resulting negatives will be sharper, grainier and lower contrast.

    • Thank you, Malcolm, for the comment. It’s a really great and important addition to the article. I’m not a chemist, but use D-76 for many years, more than 20 I think. And, my experience of film developing with D-76 gives similar conclusions about sharpness and contrast. I usually start off from the understanding of contrast — do I need it a bit to lower or to higher. Considering this decision I choose appropriate dilution.

  12. Eugene

    Hello Sasha!
    Thanks for your great article! Would you be so kind to give a clue how to calculate times for 1+3 – 1EV pull processing if I only have times for 1+2? I prefer to shoot on Kodak Double-X 5222 135 and pulling high contrast scenes 1+2 for 9 minutes (formula which I got on massive dev chart). It works fine for me, but now I really interesting in your 1+3 pulling solution. Thanks!

    • Hello Eugene!

      I’m sorry for the late answer. Your question is interesting and difficult to answer. Why do you need the formula? Massive Dev chart already contains all necessary data for pull processing of Kodak Double-X 5222: 13 min at 18C for 100 ISO. It’s about -1.3EV. If you develop films at 20C, as most people do, you may convert it with Time/Temp Converter available on Massive Dev Chart website — it’s about 11 min.

      If you still need a formula you may consider these calculations. Usually, switching from dilution 1+1 to 1+3 increases developing time by x1.5 ~ x1.7 and up to x2 keeping the same ISO at the same temperature and agitation. But in practice, it seriously depends on the film. Developing time tends to be increased by x1.6 ~ x2 for the classic films, and to x1.5 ~ x1.6 for modern films. So, having only data for dilution 1+2 you may try to decrease/increase the time by sqrt(multiplier). For Kodak Double-X 5222 you use sqrt(x1.6) == x1.265, and multiply by this value the developing time for dilution 1+2. Use it only as a starting point.

  13. Nigel Lee

    From Kodak’s point of view it makes more economic or profitable sense to encourage users of D-76 to dilute less, and use more developer than they would otherwise. And as you’ve rightly pointed out, Kodak used to give the development times for a number of different films using their D-76 diluted 1+3 (including for perhaps their most popular film – Kodak Tri-X 400 too), but they don’t any longer.

    However, given that Ilford’s ID-11 Film Developer is of course IDENTICAL to Kodak’s D-76 when it’s made up (notwithstanding its 2-parts formula as opposed to Kodak’s 1-part), it’s worth noting that Ilford ID-11 – at least when I last looked – still quotes development times for films using 1+3 dilutions; and this of course means that times will be the same when using Kodak D-76 diluted 1+3.

    • Thank you for this comment! As far as I know, Ilford ID-11 may slightly differ from Kodak D-76 by the type of buffering agent. Kodak modified the original D-76 formula adopting it for tap water. As for now, I use Ilford ID-11, it is a bit cheaper and easier to find in a local store. And, yes, you are right, there is no difference (or much difference) in these developers.

      • Nigel Lee

        Thank you Sasha … I dare say you’re right that these two developers differ very slightly in formulation, but as you acknowledge, the differences between them must be totally negligible in practical use. I’ve used them interchangeably over the years – buying whichever of them is the cheaper or whichever one I can get my hands on!

        • Thank you Nigel for this information! It’s extremely important to have statistics of the interchangeability of Kodak D-76 and Ilford ID-11 proved by time for all who will read this article!

  14. Krzysztof

    Hello Sasha!

    Thank you for sharing here your experience in D-76 development procedures. I work with FOMAPAN 100 and I have tried 1+1 and 1+3 dilutions so far. I like the results I got. Right now I would like to experiment with @400 exposure and push D-76 development process. I have two questions:

    1. How to calculate development time for such pushing? I came across with this formula (I assume D-76 is a “Standard Developer”). Does it follow your experience?  Is 24 min (10*2.4) of development time reasonable for FOMAPAN 100@400 developed in D-76 (1+1)?

    2. Does this formula also applies for higher dilutions? For example: does it make sense to develop the same film in D-76 (1+3) for 42.5 min (17*2.5)?

    All best,

    • Hello Krzysztof!

      Thank you for visiting my website and for the question.

      This is a general formula for calculating the starting point only. And, this time depends on the film emulsion type rather than the developer type.

      1) But 23-24 min seems to be ok and I think it should be enough in the case of D-76 diluted 1+1! Anyway, it is only a starting point, you should understand it. You will need at least 2-3 rolls to test before you will get stable results.

      2) Personally, I could not recommend using Kodak D-76 diluted 1+3 to push the film more than +1EV for some reason. You may get too thin negatives which are more suitable for scanning rather than darkroom printing. In this case, probably, you will have to increase this calculated time a bit more to get an appropriate film speed. So, the total time may be too long. Developing film for more than 30 min in D-76 is a bit too long in my opinion. Anyway, I think you need your own experience. Why not try push +2EV in Kodak D-76 diluted 1+3?

      And, I’m so sorry for the late answer. Let me know, please, about your result. It’s quite interesting!

  15. Michael Ives

    Hi Sasha

    I’ve just discovered your website and I am very impressed with all the information you and your visitors have supplied, particularly regarding Kodak D76.

    As a newcomer to darkroom developing and printing I would just like to ask a very basic question? can developers be used more than once or is a fresh solution needed for each session/use?

    Sorry if it’s a little basic but the answer would be a great help.

    Many thanks.

    • Hi Michael

      Thank you for visiting my website and for the question. So, in the case of using the stock solution, the developer will be reusable. But you will need to add about 25% to the development time for each next film. After development you need to store the developer in a separate bottle, not in the same bottle where you prepared the stock solution. But in practice, it is better to additionally dilute D-76 making it a one-shot, i.e. single-use developer. It makes the whole process stable because you always make a fresh solution just before the development.

      Do not hesitate to ask me more questions. I will help with all I can!

  16. Michael Ives

    Hi Sasha
    Many thanks for the information and for your prompt reply. It’s really helpful and I will be putting it into practice very soon.

    While I was on your site I also looked at the various pictorial stories you have uploaded. I like them very much indeed; you make what seems like a very ordinary shot into something quite special. Particularly when you provide accompanying text. I found looking at your work quite inspirational.

    Please keep up the great work – I will be visiting your site many times.

    Many thanks – Michael

  17. Sasha, do you have any experience of the value (or otherwise) of pre-development ‘seasoning’ of B&W films. Some photographers recommend filling the tank with 20C plain water and leaving the film to soak for 10 minutes before emptying (apparently one is not to worry about the now-coloured waste), before adding the developer.

    • Hi John,

      thank you for this interesting and complex question! It may be hard to give a simple answer to it. Yes, I do pre-soaking for the extremely specific film development. But for common cases, I see no big reason for it. The film pre-soaking may be suitable for this:

      1) to remove the air bubbles on the film completely when the developer is poured into the tank after pre-soaking. But, if you use a sealed tank you would better remove the air bubbles by tapping the tank from the bottom a few times right after the developer is poured into the tank. But, in the case of developing a large format film, you might still need pre-soaking. The LF films sit in the guides not so firmly as 35mm and 120 films in the reel. And tapping the tank from the bottom might be not a good idea. It depends on the tank. For LF film development I use Jobo 2520 sealed tank which I tap from the bottom right after the developer is poured into the tank and I have no issue with air bubbles.

      2) to temper the developer tank and film. Again, for general film development, you do not need it because typically you would better choose the development time at least 9 min to keep the results stable. The optimal time is about 13-17 min. It depends on the developer dilution and desired contrast of course but this period of time is quite enough for the temperature not to be an issue. So, you do not need to temper the tank with pre-soaking. The only reason for me to temper the tank using pre-soaking is when I do a rapid film development in the stock solution or in a highly concentrated developer. I mean development time of 3-4 min. A separate article may be written about this. But, this technique allows producing film negatives with higher contrast, sometimes much higher. The pre-soaking shortens the development time by preventing sudden temperature change of the developer and also making the chemistry interaction with the film a bit better right after pouring the developer into the tank.

      3) to develop a really old film having delicate (weak?) emulsion. But in this case, it is better to use the stand development in a cold developer instead of pre-soaking.

      So, practically you do not need the pre-soaking unless you will get a specific case in my opinion. Do not worry about coloured water after pre-soaking — the anti-halation layer makes it coloured.

      Btw, a typical time for pre-soaking is about 2-3 min, not 10 min. I hope it will help you!

      • Brilliant. Thank you so much for all that helpful information – particularly the shorter pre-soaking time.
        Just one more question (for now!). Using a D76 stock solution (138g powder to 1 litre of water), is there any estimate of its reusable life, in terms of weeks, if stored in a concertina bottle or of how many 120 films, for example, one batch of stock solution can process before it becomes exhausted? Thanks again.

        • Not at all, it is my pleasure.

          In a 250ml batch of stock solution, you might develop about four 35mm films, in a 500ml batch — eight medium format films. You would increase by 25% each next development time starting from the second film. For example — 10 min; 12.5 (10×1.25) min; 15.5 (10×1.25×1.25) min; 19.5 (10×1.25×1.25×1.25) min. For medium format, it is better if two films can be fitted into the same reel. Otherwise, you will need to increase the development time by 12.5% for 500ml batch per each film unless you have a 250ml tank for MF films which is quite rare. This rule is too approximate and depends on many factors like a film emulsion type or even the scenes you photographed. The last one means — the more black tones on the negative the more developer is exhausted. Storing the used developer for a long time also increases the development time for the next films. You are cannot precisely predict the amount of development time to increase for each next film after the first one. But it is up to you.

          It is hard to say how long you may store once used developer. But Kodak recommends two months for a half-filled bottle of fresh (!) stock solution. I think you should fully use the batch within a month or less.

          If you are talking about 138g to 1 litre of water, I suppose you intend to make a stock solution from a part of the prepackaged D-76 developer. Am I right? If so, I personally do not recommend to do this. The reason — you do not know the amount of each chemical in this 138 g. It does not mean that you do not get an acceptable result but it just decreases the stability of the whole process like using stock solution many times. The stability of the whole process is the key to successful film development.

          I cannot recommend these techniques. Anyway, you would try it and get your own experience! It is quite important!

    • Sorry, I forgot about this.

      4) Also, please pay your attention to the case when you are going to process a new film that you have never developed (tested) before. Almost certainly, you would refer to a third-party chart like or else for a starting point. So, you will get the development time with no pre-soaking in 99% of cases. Thus, you would probably be required to test this film a bit more, increasing the development stability if you choose pre-soaking. It is quite important to remember. As for me, I choose to no pre-soak the film in almost all cases.

      • Again, more clear and invaluable guidance. Many thanks.

  18. Robert Łysakowski

    Hello Alex, I am reading your blog with much interest. I am just starting the analog development journey so I still need to figure out what and how. The information I your blog is very helpful ?.
    Can you share which chemicals you use for the rest of you development process?
    I am also interested to know how you’re digitising your negatives.

    Best regards,

    • Robert Lysakowski

      I meant Sasha, sorry ?

    • Hi Robert,

      thank you for reading my articles and for the question 😉 I use chemicals only available in a local photo store and do not order them over internet. So, I use Fomafix or Compard Fix AG Plus as fixer. The last one is a stronger than Foma’s fixer. It allows to fix 8-10 film rolls in 500ml over 6-8 rolls for Fomafix. I use dilution 1+9 for both concentrates. However, Fomafix is much cheaper and easier to find. After washing the film I do final bath in wetting agent. I use Ilotol Wetting Agent duluted (1+250) in distilled!!! It allows to eliminate the water spots completely. Do not use film squeegee like Paterson or Kaiser, they produce scratches on film rather than spots removing 😉

  19. Gunnar Graff

    I am reading your info with interest. I have used D76 as a standard developer together with Tri-X, back in the 60-ties when I was a young journalist. I also tried Rodinal, but stopped due to more grainy negatives. Then I began experimenting, bying chemicals and made D76 to a 2-component developer – with exellent results of grain-structure and contrast. Developing time was no longer critical, due to the developing substance (borax) was in bath nr. 2. The negatives got a softer contrast, with details both in highlight and shadows. How contrastful I wanted to make the final print was determined by the copy-paper.

    • Hi!

      Thank you for the information! Could you, please, share the recipe of two-component D-76? It’s quite interesting. I guess it should also have a longer shelf life than original one.

      • Santiago Arraga

        He’s probably referring to divided D76 – 1st bath developing agent, 2nd one alkali, left there to completion. Google ‘divided D76’.

  20. Sasha,
    I just getting back into film processing. I started in 1962 or 3 in high school with a Speed Graphic and a Rolleiflex and D-76. In an earlier reply, someone discussed the role of sodium sulfite. As a retired chemist, I wonder what the advantage would be of adding sodium sulfite to a 1+3 dilution of D-76. By the way one of my pet peeves as an analytical chemist was the use of 1:X nomenclature. Using the 1+X leaves no ambiguity.


    • Wayne,
      are you talking about mixing a D-76 1+3 solution without sodium sulfite just before film development each time?

  21. Peter Christensen

    Thx for the article.

    I have returned to film after a 20 year “break”.
    Back in the late 90’s I used to shoot Tri-x or agfa 100 developed in D76.
    When I returned to photography, I skipped the Tri-x due to the cost, and I started shooting agfapan APX 100 and 400, developed in X-tol. Sadly, I did not know that the Agfa films are not the same anymore since Agfa went bankrupt. Therefore I have been struggling with the new emulsion, It seems I get very thin negatives with very underwhelming contrast.
    After reading your article, I will return to D76 and give it a try, as It never caused me any problems back in the day, when I always shot a box speed and the specified dev. times.

    Best Wishes


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