Common Film Development Errors

Particularly for beginners, there may be nothing more disappointing than shooting a roll of black and white film, developing it, and finding out that something went wrong and the film didn’t turn out. While the film may not be saved it helps to know what may have went wrong so that the next roll of film turns out.

Film is Blank After Developing

If your black and white film is blank after development then you need to see if the edges of the film are black. If the edge of the film is black and has manufacturer info, frame numbers, or anything of the sort then it’s a separate issue than the entire roll being clear.

All 35mm film is manufactured with information along the frames edge. If you develop a roll of film and everything is blank but you can see this info then it means something happened during exposure. It’s entirely possible that you incorrectly loaded the film into the camera and, as a result, never exposed it. There is also a small chance that the entire roll was completely underexposed. If you have a through-the-lens light meter and your film is underexposed then your light meter may be off. If you’re absolutely certain the film was loaded correctly into your camera then check your shutter and aperture. Open the back of the camera and select a shutter speed of 1 second. Fire off the camera and make sure the shutter opens and closes, as it should. Also check through the lens and ensure the aperture is opening and closing.

If the entire roll is clear then something likely went wrong during the development process. Most commonly this could mean that fixer and developer chemicals were switched. This may commonly happen in shared darkrooms, such as those in universities, where multiple students are using the same lab. If a photo lab develops the film and this happens then you can probably get your money back, but unfortunately there’s no way of getting your images back.

Film is Black After Developing

If the film comes out completely black then you have a light leak in your camera or you somehow exposed the film to light before it was properly developed and fixed. If you take a roll of film on vacation, particularly if you fly, don’t let your film go through an x-ray. The x-ray will expose and ruin your film and most people don’t realize this happens.

Film is Cloudy, Foggy, or Stained

If your film has some odd cloudy marks after development it means it was either not fixed long enough or the fixer has been used so much before that it just didn’t do the trick this time around. This problem is generally corrected by re-soaking your film in fixer for a few more minutes, depending on how severe the cloudiness is. Be careful when doing this as the film will be prone to scratches if not handled carefully.