developing color prints
Developing color prints is a lot easier than you might think. If you can already develop black and white prints then I would recommend that you try printing color. If you already have a black and white style darkroom, here are the extra things you will need.
Printing filters are needed only if you have a black and white enlarger. They are used in combinations to adjust the color of your prints. I bought large Beseler color printing filters and then cut them down to the size of my filter tray. You can find these filters at your second hand camera shop or on eBay.
Color chemicals are available in kits by ‘Colourtec’ and ‘Naniwa’. Each kit comes with very simple mixing instructions. The best thing about these kits is that there are only 2 steps when developing your prints (instead of the three like in B&W). The Naniwa kit comes as a 1 litre kit which can be developed as 2 x 500ml on separate days (£20). The Tetenal kits are available in 5 litre kits (£40). I think that the Naniwa kit is more economical and easier to use. I have used both of these kits and you can view some sample prints below which were developed with the Naniwa kit.
Color paper is obviously needed if you are going to me making colour prints. I have not used many types of paper, but I recommend using kodak Endura which is fairly priced and easily available in 10x8 packs of 100 from eBay for (£36 including delivery). All the sample prints below were printed on this paper.
A large tray big enough to accommodate two of your printing trays is needed. You need to fill this tray up with warm water so it keeps your developing and fix fluid warm. I use a big tray with 2 10x8 trays because mixing 500ml of chemicals is just the right amount for a 10x8 tray. Please consult the picture below for reference. The two trays inside the bigger tray are the ‘developer’ and the ‘Blix’. The tray at the end is the rinse.
A heater is needed to keep the water in your big tray warm. If you are using Colortec chemicals, the temperature needs to be around 38 degrees. If you are using the Naniwa kit, your chemicals need to be kept at around 30 degrees. There are fish tank heaters on eBay under £10 but they only go up to 32 degrees. It is for this reason that I recommend using the Naniwa kit because it is a lot easier to keep your chemicals at 30 rather than 38 degrees.
I used to have an expensive darkroom brand heater, but then I realised that they are exactly the same as the aquatic fish tank heaters. Just type ‘500w fish tank heater’ into eBay, but Be aware that some heaters are ridiculously over priced, and the ones from china should be around £10. If you don’t want to use the tray idea, there are heating panel style heaters but they tend to be bulky and expensive.
The process of developing your prints
Now you might already know this, but when you print color you must be in total darkness. Color paper is sensitive to all wavelengths of light, so make should make sure not to use your red-light. This might put you off a lot, but don’t let it. Below is a picture of my set up, and as you can see, everything is very close and accessible just by tuning 90 degrees. After an hour or two, you will forget that you can’t see because your feeling and muscle memory starts to take over like auto pilot.
The most difficult part is the first print. This can take you a while, but after that, you have a starting point to work from every time after. I would recommend finding a nicely exposed outdoor shot of a person for your first print. This is because it is easy to spot if the colour is off when you are looking at skin tone. After this, all shots which share similar lighting conditions won’t be far off your starting point.
Once you have the correct colour for a print, you can make a contact sheet of the roll so you can choose which photos are worth printing and also how the colour and exposure might differ. Each paper manufacturer usually includes a ball park starting point filter combination, but just in case, I will give you the settings I used and my example print:
Paper= Kodak Endura ‘E’
Time= 3 seconds
Filter settings= C00 M65 Y95
Size = negative 6x6 enlarged to 8x8 inches
Here are the steps for developing with the Naniwa print kit
1. Once you have mixed your chemicals and everything is set up. Turn off your desk lamp and expose your image. Your set up should look as so
2. Put your print in the developer. It works the best to hold the closest left corner of the tray and put the print in as if you were posting a letter. Now agitate continuously.
3. After 3 minutes take the print out, let it drain and put it in the Blix and agitate continuously. After 2 minutes it is safe to turn on your light and put it in the rinse. After you have finished printing, rinse and squeegee them in the shower and hang them up to dry.
To help you with you development, I will have an audio track (Naniwa kit) which you can use on your MP3 player. I usually have it on loop while I’m developing. It just saves having to mess around with a timer. If you want it, just give me your email and I will send it to you.
Correcting the colour with filters
When correcting the colour of a print, you should try to avoid using cyan and only try to plus/minus Magenta or yellow. Here is a filter guide if your image is the wrong colour.
Print is too cyan? subtract yellow & magenta / plus cyan
Print is too Yellow? add yellow / subtract cyan & magenta
Print is too Magenta? add magenta / subtract cyan & yellow
Print is too green? subtract magenta / add cyan and yellow
Print is too red? add yellow & magenta / subtract cyan
Print is too cyan? subtract yellow & magenta / add cyan
Right color or wrong color?
Please remember that the ‘correct’ color is not always the color you desire. For example, you might want a blue cast to emphasize cold, or a slightly more orange image to emphasize warmth. You might also choose to include or exclude colour casts coming from light sources such as fluorescent or tungsten. You can correct your print to have a tungsten balance, a daylight balance, or anything in between. At a normal lab, the person printing your prints must decide for you. Either that or a computer is. Someone might correct the print to how it ’ should look’, but maybe you wanted to have slightly exaggerated colours in the first place. Here are some more dramatic examples of correcting the colour. All examples are scans of prints which were printed with the previous wedding shot settings
(C00 M65 Y95) F8 3SEC
One other example I should mention is if you printed a cross processed negative. You would expect it to have psychedelic colours right? But when you print, in theory you could choose to correct it back to normal. It is your decision. here is an example of a cross processed print which has been printed to how it should look (left) and then an additional print which shows it corrected back to a normal colour balance (right).
Please remember that your enlarger will be different, so the light source may be more or less powerful than mine. Also, every negative is different and the colour will depend on the light source or on what time of day the photo was taken. If you have any questions or need any help just ask.
Advantages of printing color prints yourself
Developing your own prints helps you to achieve what you first envisioned and allows you to control the creative choices of your print. Making creative choices should not be made by lab staff or a computer, but by the photographer themselves.