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Storage and Maintenance of the Black and White Image
This document may be copied in part or full for teaching and instructional purposes only. The condition of which is the inclusion of “ © 2006 - 2008 Peter Helm “ on each and every full copy or part copy. This document may not be altered, added to or have subtractions made to its content. NOT FOR SALE - any party wishing to use this document in part or full that would see it sold as a stand alone document or as part of a greater document or publication through any medium whatsoever must first obtain prior permission from the author. Version 1.4
© 2006 - 2008 Peter Helm
The longevity that most museums. primarily social history. Free from excessive technical terms and jargon this document is easy to read and understand. Peter Helm Leura NSW Australia September 2006 ©2006 – 2008 Peter Helm . Just basic understanding and experience of the fundamental processes is the minimum requirement.PREFACE The aim of this document is to instruct the reader on how to produce archival quality black and white negatives and prints. In fact it may surprise some as to the ease at which archival quality negatives and prints can be made with only the addition of a few extra steps to the basic black & white processes. The average family photographic album from days past had black & white images that could stand the test of time. These old images of ordinary family life contain a wealth of information. No in depth processing knowledge of black and white film and print is required. This was because traditional black and white photographic materials had emulsions that were heavily silver based. Silver being a heavy metal lends itself to the stability and longevity of the developed image. art galleries and photographic archives aim for with the black & white image is 100 years for both negative and print once properly processed and stored. You might even say neo–archaeology and anthropology as well as social history in nature because of the possible variation and perception of the subject matter. I hope that the information contained in this document will result in many black & white images lasting for generations to come and so give those in the future a detailed and fascinating look at the past as the old family albums of our grandparents and great grandparents did for us.
©2006 – 2008 Peter Helm Page 1 of 11 . predominantly fixer. Another concern is the storage of the processed negative and print. over time. and time Stop bath – 30sec 1st. (not longer) Rapid wash – 10min Hypo (fixer) clearing agent – 10 min Rapid wash – 10min Wetting agent Dry – hang dry at room temp – not forced Dry – screen or hang – not forced Wash – 15 min Hypo (fixer) clearing agent– 10 min. damage the emulsion and in the case of prints the paper base as well. It is the removal of this residual chemistry. (not longer) 2nd fixing bath –1min. We will look at that later in this document.The Major Threat The major threat to the longevity of both the black & white negative and print is residual chemistry in the emulsion ( as well as the paper base in prints ) after processing has been completed. that is the basis of the archival process. temp. Wash – 15 min. fixing bath –1min. – desired type. temp and time Stop bath – 30sec Fixing bath – time as required Print Developer. The image will eventually either be partially or totally damaged. The Basic Archival Processes for Negative and Print Negative Developer – desired type. generally beyond restoration. This residual chemical will.
is extremely stable. Their heavy silver based emulsion will give a richer image tone and a longer degree of permanence. Used or exhausted chemistry. The generally accepted temperature for processing of black and white film and print is 20°C (68°F). Fibre based paper: This is preferred over the RC ( resin coated ) papers as there is a higher degree of silver in their emulsions and the paper base. • • Use an indicator stop bath as this has an indicating agent that will change colour. For archival quality prints always use fibre base papers. Refer to the maker’s recommendations. RC papers at the time of writing this document can only be safely rated at approx. regardless of which temperature scale you use. usually purple. 45 years. Generally speaking keep all the chemicals in the process within 2° (+ or – ) of each other.Before we start I must discuss temperature. especially the double weight. Fixer for prints is always one session use only! Use fresh fixer for each printing session. Never re-use diluted developer. it is said to be one shot and is discarded after use. when the stop bath is exhausted. Fresh chemistry: This is important. Never exceed the fixer manufacturers recommendation as to the number of films the fix will clear. ©2006 . If any developer type is used in diluted form. in any ratio. Always use fresh chemistry.2008 Peter Helm Page 2 of 11 . In the case of film if the temperature differs greatly between each chemical then reticulation may result. for example a quantity of fixer which has cleared more than the recommended amount of films. If it does not then dump the fix and mix a new batch. The RC coating can break down in time. To test your fixer’s condition place a small piece of unexposed film in the fix and see if it clears within one (1) minute with constant agitation. • Film developer when used as a concentrate can be re-used with an increase in development time for each additional roll of film. It is important to maintain all the chemicals at a near constant temperature when processing. Never try to ‘stretch’ the life of your chemical. Some of you will have a personal preferences when it comes to the film developer temperature. will not only compromise the physical quality of the negative but may also contain contaminants that will effect it’s archival permanence. Most galleries and museums will insist on fibre based papers for their collections and exhibitions.
As long as your two fixing baths use a fresh working solution of rapid fixer mixed to its stated strongest dilution (eg if 1:4 and 1:9 are the manufacturers options choose the 1:4) then the fixing method described in this document will fix your prints to archival standards. when it comes to exactly how long a fibre base print should be fixed. Between the late 1950s and early 1960s rapid fixer became generally available. Eg. it was considered normal to fix a print for 10 minutes or even longer.Fixing times for prints: It is often a point of discussion. The reason for this being that almost 90% of fixing takes place within the first 15 sec. Any longer than this will result in a higher residual amount of fix being left in the emulsion and fibres of the paper. The shorter fixing time meant less saturation of fixer in the print and therefore less washing time. The results of the10 minute fix could now be achieved in only 2 minutes with fresh rapid fix. Never take shortcuts with chemistry by trying to stretch the life of a solution or save time by shortening wash times etc.2008 Peter Helm Page 3 of 11 . This would mean the print would become totally saturated with fix and a very long wash was needed to remove all residual fix. The first bath does the initial fixing while the second bath completes the fixing of the print. This will be harder to remove. Two fixing baths for the print: The print will require two fixing baths. The use of two baths ensures proper fixing. and argument. The total fixing time of the print must not exceed 2min. That is 1min. Long fixing times became deeply rooted in the method of most darkroom technicians and to this day some of the ‘old school’ still adhere to it. Wash times of an hour or longer were not uncommon. per bath. of the print being immersed in the fixing bath. Changing the fix is essential. In the early days of photography. This means the fixing bath will become exhausted very quickly and so it will not be able to properly fix subsequent prints. Always use rapid fixer for both negative and print processing. If two 10”x 8” ( 25cm x 20cm ) trays are used for fixing with each containing 1litre of rapid fix the first bath will need replacing after 10 fibre based prints (10” x 8”) have been fixed. For the second bath 20 prints (10” x 8”) may be fixed before replacement. and right up to the late 1950s. Remember the greatest longevity possible for the negative and print is the goal of archival processing. Keep the baths fresh! ©2006 .
and so on until the required fixing time has been reached. Hypo clearing – gently agitate for one minute at the beginning then intermittent for 30sec.but not too vigorously – you are not mixing a cocktail! The agitation of the print is essentially a gentle continuous rocking of the print in each tray of chemical keeping the print in solution at all times.2008 Peter Helm Page 4 of 11 . Then once again 30 sec continuos agitation. • Inversion agitation is preferable for all processing steps ..g. Hypo clearing: This solution assists with the clearing of the residual fixer and stops the need for very long wash times. The hardener component could also be purchased separately and added to normal rapid fix. It does a very good job of removing residual fixer and is extremely important to the archival process. It effectively works as a leaching agent. There really is no need in this day and age to use a hardening fixer. This fixer has a hardening agent added and is mainly used for film. Hypo is an older name for fixer. Washing times would have to be doubled and the hypo clearing agent would need a time increase of 50%. Then still for the next 30 sec. The agitation during the remaining processing baths should however be carried out as follows: • • Stop bath – continuos Fixer – continuos for the first 30 sec. Twice is usually enough. The purpose of this is to harden the emulsion of the negative to help protect it from constant handling. The use of a hardening fix will result in longer wash times as its effect on the emulsion makes it harder to wash out the residual fixer. ©2006 . Agitation: During film development the agitation method of the developer is the personal preference of the photographer. E.You may come across hardening fixer.intervals throughout the remaining time. then still for the next 30 sec……. Advertising agencies in the past used to have all their black & white negatives processed with hardening fixer to protect them from the handling associated with constant re-printing by many darkroom technicians.
Just ensure that it gives a vigorous flow of water. then the wash will be effective. There are various print washers on the market.2008 Peter Helm *Registered name Page 5 of 11 . It is not too difficult to make your own wash hose. Do not use a ‘tumble’ style washer as print edge damage may result. As long as the print has an even flow of water running over both surfaces and a change of water volume of at least three or four times per minute. In the case of the Jobo* wash hose you actually have a bleed hole to allow air in. Once the film has been washed. Two manufactures that come to mind that offer this hose as an accessory are Patterson* and Jobo* and I am sure there are others. You are looking at changing the water in the developing tank ( or dedicated wash tank ) three or four times per minute. Most manufacturers of film processing tanks have a wash accessory that. Fluctuation within this range during washing will not cause any problems. The air bubbles ‘massage’ the emulsion of the film helping shift the residual chemistry that is trapped. Wash water: Sometimes a point of conjecture as to what temperature to wash the negative and print it is however generally agreed that the temperature. My preference is for a range between 18°C to 22°C (64°F to 72°F).Wash: a) The Film: Once processed the film is washed using a vigorous flow of water. as with film. This is usually achieved by using the ‘hose in the tank’ method. The air bubbles do in fact aid the wash process. b) The Print: Washing the print involves a steady flow of water over both surfaces of the print. You will see air bubbles coming out of the tank when washing. ©2006 . consists of a hose that connects to a tap then attaches to the centre column holding the reels. With every change of wash water during the wash process for both film and print 50% of the remaining residual fixer is removed. use a wetting agent to avoid drying marks. and prior to drying. must remain fairly constant during the wash cycle. Some will have the word ‘archival’ in their name or description. in many cases. The flow of water down the column and subsequently rushing up through the reels of processed film provides what is known as a forced film wash. In the past it was thought that extensive washing was needed to properly wash a print to archival standards and wash times of one hour were not uncommon. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for use.
if not noticed and washed off while the film is still wet.Drying: a) The Film: My personal method of drying is to hang dry in a dust free and still air environment. Then place the prints on the screen and proceed as described above. Prints up to 12”x16” (30cm x 40cm) may be hang dried without fear of stretching the fibres of the paper base. Never use a film squeegee or film sponge as the risk of scratching the film is too great regardless of how careful you are. the type used for hanging sheet film. Small prints can be screen dried as well if you wish. To hang dry a print hang it by it’s longest edge from a line or thin dowel using single bite film clips. which is on a slope. The use of drying cabinets with their fan forced hot air. can embed dust into the emulsion. Let the water drain off until the print has lost the wet look and appears dull. To help avoid / minimise this undulation the drying atmosphere should not be too humid or hot. This involves a framed screen. Some undulation in the dried print may occur regardless of which drying method is used. Hang one side slightly lower than the other to aid water run off. Note: When the screen method of drying is used the prints are first placed face up on a smooth clean surface such as glass or stainless steel. o-O-o ©2006 . b) The Print: Should also be allowed to dry naturally. This allows excess water to run off – never sqeegee the prints. one at each end. This can be fixed by storing the dried print under weight for a short time. will be almost impossible to remove once the negatives are dry as it will dry into the emulsion. Made from nylon type screen material ( never metal ) the print is placed on the screen and turned every half an hour for the first two hours then left until completely dry. Larger prints are usually screen dried. This dust.2008 Peter Helm Page 6 of 11 . similar to fly screens. or even hair dryers.
Having now created a black & white negative and print that conforms to archival standards there is still one more step that involves the print. If in doubt . it can compliment the aesthetic of the print as well as aid in the archival permanence. Selenium toning gives richer blacks. Negative file pages made from polypropylene are archival and easily obtained. Having toned to the desired effect wash the print for 15 min. both negative and print. though not mandatory. Negatives are best stored in negative file pages. century. Always buy from a known manufacturer of archival products. dry as per the methods discussed. Deterioration during storage can be caused by the following • • • Improper storage materials. As there is no residual fixer involved there is no need to use a clearing agent. Sepia gives the warm almost brown tone often associated with older vintage prints from the late 19th. o-O-o STORAGE AND MAINTENANCE OF THE BLACK AND WHITE IMAGE The correct processing of the black and white image.2008 Peter Helm Page 7 of 11 . Once you have mastered toning you may try varying the method and hence change the result to suit your personal preference. Inappropriate storage location / environment damage. Once washed.research the product! Never use PVC or cheap plastic pages as the gases given off by these materials will be absorbed by the emulsion of the negative and print and physical damage will result. Damage due to physical handling. The most common of these being sepia and selenium toners. Always adhere to the toner manufacturer’s instructions. Toning: The use of toners to enhance a print’s appearance has been in common use for over 100 years. century to the early 20th. Toning is done after the print has completed its final wash bath and is still wet. will have been a waste of time if negative and print are not stored correctly. Storage materials It is important that all storage materials be acid free ( pH neutral ) to ensure there is no reaction with the print or negative. ©2006 .
©2006 . Stored away to be accessed and viewed when needed. Wood can. If used ensure they are acid free. Fungus in the emulsion of a neg is virtually impossible to remove without damage to the emulsion.The negative files can now be placed in a ring binder. Ensure the painted surface is clean and not flaky. A single print or collection of prints that is to be archived and accessed only on random occasions may be stored in a metal plans cabinet. with acid free tissue interleaving.either natural or strong artificial. a plans cabinet has a series of shallow draws that are wide and long. Approximately once per month flip through the pages to get a flow of fresh air circulating – stagnant air is a catalyst for fungus. Framed and hung is the most common method of constant display. give of gases that may be detrimental to the print.2008 Peter Helm Page 8 of 11 . The better binders are made from acid free materials but those that are not are useable as long as there is a buffer sheet used at either end. One is placed at the front of the file and one at the back and will act as a buffer between the filed negatives and so protect against possible contamination from the binder. In brief – nothing is actually adhering the entire rear print surface to the board or page. Essentially. The binder is usually placed on a bookshelf or similar place but must be well off the floor. Buffer sheets can be empty neg file pages. The method of storage depends on whether the print is to be: • • On constant display. The drawer is lined with a buffer sheet of acid free tissue or card and prints are then placed in. as it ages. When a print is framed the backing board and matt must be acid free along with any tapes or fixatives. Metal frames are preferable to wood. A collection of prints may be viewed in an album. The framed print must be hung away from direct light. one on top of the other. The black and white print can be stored in a variety of ways. Photo corners may be used but larger prints may pop out of the corners when pages are turned. When mounting prints onto the album pages it is best to apply a small bead of acid free paper adhesive to the top edge of the back of the print which creates a hinge like effect. A matt is essential as it will prevent the print from pressing against the glass. Strong light passing through the glass can fade a print – this is virtually forced aging. The bookshelf must not be on an outside wall and preferably in a location where the temperature will be reasonably constant or change at a slow rate. One of the better styles of album to use is the traditional black page type with the glassine interleaving – all of which can be acquired made with acid free materials. Modern metal plans cabinets are usually painted.
Work in a dust free and hazard free environment. b) Sharp objets such as scissors and blades that are not in use are to be stored away from negatives and prints that are in the work space. an ideal archive. Always ensure a flow of air over the prints at least every month by simply removing then replacing the prints. Oils and acids in the skin are detrimental to the longevity of the negative and print. g) Only the required negative or print for the task at hand to be out – if you don’t need a negative or print for a task then it should be back in storage! h) Careless moving of negative and print storage units can result in damage to negatives and prints. Ensure that the draws are clean and that there is no peeling varnish . lead base paints and far too many contaminants. a) Vacuum your work area and darkroom regularly. This will help prevent fungus and mould. ©2006 . Physical damage As the name suggests it is the actual physical damage that can occur when a negative or print is incorrectly handled or stored.The cabinet provides a dark environment. these can also be used but a buffer sheet on the bottom of all draws is essential. Although not as preferable as the metal type. e) Only persons who need to be in the work space should be – no hangers on! f) Do not smoke. Always wear cotton gloves when handling your negatives and prints.metal is the better way to go. and if placed against an internal wall with moderate temperature change. Some older plans cabinets are made of stained wood. eat or drink in the work areas. d) When cutting negatives ensure scissors are free of residue from previous work – dedicate one pair of scissors for negative cutting.2008 Peter Helm Page 9 of 11 . Never let your bare hands come into contact with a negative or a print. c) Ensure bench tops are clean and smooth and that edges are not jagged or rough. • • • Always ensure you wear cotton gloves when handling a negative or print. Never use a painted wooden plans cabinet – too old.
Environmental damage Environmental damage shares some of the same threats associated with physical damage issues. Damp storage conditions resulting in fungus and mould. the effect initially resembles a bronze hue around the edge of highlights and areas of fine detail. It is irreversible. Toning will help prevent this. Rapid temperature changes and excessive humidity can cause fungus and mould. Silver will oxidise when exposed to air. Just look at the old silver tea service left on the sideboard at your grandparent’s house– it has yellowed and tarnished over time due to the reaction of the silver when contacting the air.2008 Peter Helm Page 10 of 11 . It is extremely rare for this to occur with negatives. ©2006 . one of which is bronzing. Known by several names. However many environmental damage issues are not that obvious. Lengthy exposure to Sunlight and strong artificial light resulting in fading. It is believed that air pollution can cause similar damage. Oxidisation of the silver in the emulsion. Some examples of environmental damage are: • • • • • Cigarette smoke. The toner will effectively coat the silver in the emulsion preventing any air from making contact. In rare cases this can happen with a black and white print when the silver in the emulsion contacts with the air.
©2006 . Please contact the manufacturer of your chemistry. Avoid using glass beakers. Always process in a well ventilated area. pants or full length skirts. If you get chemistry in your eyes wash eyes continuously in cold water and contact your poisons information service. Never eat or drink while processing or printing. stirring rods and bottles etc. Avoid taking short cuts with health and safety – Do not find out the hard way that you react adversely to photographic chemistry! The precautions and advice mentioned above are meant as a basic guide only. Never wear open toed shoes – always closed in footwear. Broken glass in the dark or under safelight conditions is very hard to see and therefore dangerous. local doctor and hospital. If you are pregnant or think you may be – consult your doctor about any possible health issues before using chemicals. A plastic full length apron will prevent contamination of your cloths and help stop chemical soaking through to your skin in the event of a spill. Always wash your hands before using the toilet when using photographic chemistry. If you contact chemicals to your skin wash immediately in cold running water. Know the phone numbers of a poisons information service. Always wear a long sleeve shirt. in a darkroom. Never use or store chemistry in food preparation areas. local poisons information services and your local doctor for more detailed health and safety procedures and recommendations. hospital emergency room and doctor immediately for advice.2008 Peter Helm Page 11 of 11 . Here are a few safety tips that you may wish to consider: Always use gloves and goggles for protection of hands and eyes.HEALTH and SAFETY At all times please remember you are dealing with chemistry. It must be handled with the health and safety of yourself and others in mind.