There’s loads of information out there on stand development with Rodinal. But rather than just regurgitate what everyone else has written, I wanted to concentrate on my own personal experience. So whilst this is no way a detailed guide, it does have the benefit of being my first-hand experience.
What is Stand Development?
Stand development is the process where the film is left in a very dilute developing solution for an extended period of time, with little or no agitation. The theory is that the developer exhausts itself in areas which require greater development while remaining active in less-exposed areas. In other words, the highlights don’t burn out whilst the shadows develop a bit more detail. Not all developers are suitable for this, but I’ve been using this method successfully with Rodinal for many years.
What’s The Process?
It’s simple, really. Bear in mind this is all about what I do and what consistently works for me. Other opinions are available.
- You mix up a solution of Rodinal and water in the proportion 1+99. So to create a working solution of 500ml, that’s 5ml of developer and 495ml of water.
- Temperature – some people say that the temperature of the solution is irrelevant. But because I strive for consistency and predictability, I always go for 20℃.
- Pour the solution into the film tank, and agitate well for 30 seconds. I then give the tank several good whacks with a wooden spoon on the top and sides, to ensure any air bubbles are dispelled.
- You can then leave everything to develop for 60 minutes. After the first 30 minutes, I give the tank one very gentle turn upside down and back (don’t forget to whack afterward), before leaving for the remaining 30 minutes. Technically, this is called semi-stand development. I’ve tried leaving for the whole 60 minutes, and I’ve noticed you can get some strange ‘halo’ effects on the edges of subjects. Apparently some people like this, but it’s not for me, hence the gentle turn mid-way
- After the 60 minutes are up you pour out the developer. I never bother with a stop bath because the dilution of the developer is so low, and in any case it’s exhausted by this stage. Just give the tank a good rinse out under the tap.
- Fix and rinse in the normal way.
- Whilst you’re waiting for the negatives to dry, kick back and listen to some fantastic music.
When To Use Stand Development
When the forums on Flickr where a lot more active than they are now, I used to marvel at the things people did with their films. It’d start off with someone saying “Yeah I always shoot at 80% of box speed and then underexpose by 1/3 of a stop” and then escalate to “Well I drop my film in a bucket of peanut butter and then develop in a homemade concoction made from Irn Bru and lard. It seemed to become a bit of a dick-swinging exercise in the end. (And yes, it did mainly seem to be men).
I don’t mind the odd bit of experimentation here and there, but the pictures I’ve shot are important to me. What I’m really looking for is consistency and the ability to be able to predict my results. So when I find something that works, I tend to stick with it.
What I’ve found is that stand development works best for me with medium format films. I don’t know why this is, but I don’t get the same results with 35mm. It can be done with 35mm, and indeed I’ve had some success with HC-110 instead of Rodinal. But to me, the look is inferior to developing in the normal way.
Similarly, through a process of trial and error, I’ve found I get the best results with traditional grain, rather than T-grain (i.e. Tmax and Delta) films. So FP4, Tri-X, and Fomapan (and therefore Kosmo) in 120 I always stand develop. Those have now become my go-to medium format films.
What Are The Advantages of Stand Development With Rodinal?
- Longevity – Rodinal lasts for years. Quite literally. Even though it may change colour and consistency, it never seems to lose its efficacy. I’ve previously had a bottle for over 5 years with no problems. There are even reports out there of people successfully using bottles that have been kicking around for decades.
- Economy – Currently a 500ml bottle of Rodinal is £13.98 at AG Photographic. If you were developing in the conventional way, you’d dilute Rodinal at a ratio of 1+24 or 1+49. For stand development I use 1+99. To develop a roll of 120 film you need 500ml of liquid, so that works out at 5ml of Rodinal and 495ml of water. That’s 100 rolls of film per 500ml bottle, working out at about 14p each. Pretty cool, right?
- Grain / Tonality – Rodinal is renowned for its distinctively high level of grain. Many people love this, but I find using this method the grain is more restrained, which I prefer. I also love the tonality I get from this method. But that’s very much a personal opinion.
- Exposure – Old cameras don’t always have accurate shutters. I’ve found that stand development seems to compensate for small exposure errors.
- ISO Agnostic – You can (and I often do) develop films of different ISOs in the same tank for the same amount of time.
- It’s easy! Sure it takes longer, but you’re not hunched over the sink having to agitate every 60 seconds for ten minutes. Instead, just sit down and marvel at how much better life used to be in the ’70s when we were growing up. Or not.
Hey! Too much time on your hands? Why not check out my other guides: