When I was young 40 years ago and did a lot of black & white photography, I strictly followed the descriptions on the packages of developer – for my sake mostly Rodinal – with solutions like 1:10 or 1:20, development times in the range of a few minutes, high dependency on the correct temperature and the correct timed agitations of the developing tank.

At that time no one was speaking of stand development though it was invented in the early 20th century, or using weird solutions for developer like our days experimental “caffenol” development (developing in an instant coffee based solution). I have tried both and my favorite method is actually stand development but based on standard developer. I prefer to drink my coffee instead of using it for a developer.

What is stand development?

So what is stand development? Basically, it’s a method where you pour the developer into the tank containing the film and leave it for a long time without touching it before finally pouring the completely exhausted developer out of the tank and continue with a traditional process of stop, fix, rinse and dry.

Advantages and disadvantages

To me stand development seems to give the best results in most situations, though there are some rare occasions where I will use the traditional methods. The advantages of stand development is:

  • You get a higher perceived sharpness from the film
  • High lights areas are seldom burnt out
  • Low light areas are developed more fully so information in these areas become useable
  • You can mix film in the tank exposed at different ISO values
  • As a side effect of the above you can expose frames on the same film at different ISO
  • It’s a very economical method of developing as you are using very small amounts of developer
  • You don’t need a stop bath

Off course stand development also has some disadvantages, though these can be taken care of, which I will come to later:

  • Bromide drag which shows itself like streaks drawn across the film
  • Halo effects around prominent high light areas
  • The results are not suited for darkroom enlargements due to relatively low contrast

I wont go into more detail on the advantages and disadvantages. You can read much more about all this and much more in the links at the bottom of the page.

My process for stand development

I have used this process to develop both 135 film, 120 film and 4×5 inch sheet film with very good results, but I must admit that the results in the beginning were not consistently good. Experimenting with different types of film, different ISO values for the same film, using film expired long ago, using varying degrees of agitation of the film in the process and other variables might have caused the variance in the results.

Now I tend to get consistent and most importantly good results. I have changed the parameters slightly but the basic process remains the same, and I have a set of values for each film size.

135 film

When I’m talking about 35mm film it’s any type of it – well except those weird types like Ilfords otherwise awesome XP2 that require C41 color development. I’we used the technique below for Ilford HP5, Ilford FP4, Fuji Across, Kodak Tri-X and recently very often the newcomer Fomapan 100. Some of the Ilford FP4 expired 38 years ago but delivered very nice results.

I use 3,5 ml of Rodinal pr roll of 35mm film no matter if I have one, two or several film in the tank. I dilute it with the amount of water that is necessary for the number of film in the tank. That amount can typically be read on the tank itself. The water most NOT be hot, this can give some unwanted effects like the above haloing. I use something around 15-20 degrees C. I give the film 10 seconds of agitation in the beginning, and if the primary images are of normal contrast I agitate the tank 10 seconds after half an hour. In total I develop for around one hour, but the time is not very important. Once I forgot the film and had it develop for almost two hours but I couldn’t see any adverse effects due to this. And there is a reason for this .. using that very small amount of developer you actually completely exhaust the developer. Therefore, leaving the film to develop for a longer time will not change very much if anything.

If the primary images to be developed are from low contrast scenes, maybe taken in dull weather, I do a little more agitation by giving 10 seconds every 20 minutes. This tend to increase the contrast a little without burning out the highlights.

120 mm film

The process for 120 film that I have found giving the best results resemble the process for the low contrast 35mm i.e. 10 second agitation every 20 minutes. I can’t explain why this seems to give the best results, but my experimentation has showed this to be the case. But I recommend that you experiment yourself before you commit to develop some very important images.

Regarding the amount of developer I use 5 ml. for each roll of 120, but the rest of the process is exactly like the process for 35mm.

4″x5″ sheet film

Developing 4″x5″ inch requires a steady hand and slow movements to avoid having the sheets of film afloat inside the development tank. But apart from that it is exactly like the 120 film except that I use 20 ml for a tank containing 6 sheets of film i.e. 3,3 ml pr sheet.

Stop, fix and rinse

Due to the fact that you completely exhaust the developer there is no need for a separate stop bath. You can use a little water to rinse the tank, but it shouldn’t make any difference.

Fixing is the ordinary process which means that you have to be present to agitate the tank during the usually 4-8 minutes of fixing depending on the fixer you are using. I use Ilford Rapid Fixer in the ordinary solutions and according to the descriptions on the package.

Rinse is as usual for any development. I do around 15 minutes with lots of floating water in the beginning and a small trickle after the first few minutes. For the final rinse i use demineralized water and a drop of dish soap to make the water easier float of the film without leaving unwanted drops and drying marks.


I scan my 35mm film on an old Canon CanoScan FS4000 which is an awesome scanner for that format, which is the only it can do. The 120 and 4″x5″ I scan on a newly bought Epson Perfection V800 Photo flatbed scanner. I’ll write more on this in the future, as for now I’m struggling to get good results and not that experienced to give advice.

Link to other articles on stand development

The Art of Photography, that I follow on youtube, has an article and a video on stand development, that you can find here: The Art of Photography

The Wikipedia side on stand development holds some interesting facts on the history of this method and links to further information: Wikipedia stand development

J B Hildebrandt describes the process in detail, and it was the first thing I read about the process and that inspired me to try stand development: J B Hildebrandt Photography