Workflow Tutorial #2: Stand Development with Rodinal

So last time I went over the basics of what happens when you develop film, if you missed it, take a look at the previous tutorial: Film Developing Basics. Go on, I’ll wait… read it? Good! Now we’ll take a look at stand development, my personal favorite. Stand development goes against the grain of a lot of photographers, especially those that have worked in or with professional developing labs because it thumbs its nose at most of the standard practices and gives the finger to the rest. Film should be developed at a tightly controlled, exact temperature… stand development doesn’t care. You should have a stop watch on hand to precisely schedule each inversion cycle and total development time… nope, don’t care. Under no circumstances should two different brands or two different ISO rolls be developed in the same tank… well, maybe… nah don’t care. Normal developing methods are more or less an exact science, every photographer might have their own tweak on the manufacturers recommended times, but it’s just their own exact science. Stand development is grounded in some good science, but it’s much more an art form. Ask any two photographers how long you soup Tri-X in D76 and you’ll get pretty much the same answer every time, but everyone I’ve talked to about stand development has given me wildly different magic formulas for the perfect soup… and they all work.

The reason it’s called stand development is very simple… the basic principle is you put film in developer, and just let it stand there. The way it works is kind of amazing. The first big difference between normal and stand development is that with normal souping methods you’re putting your film in a solution with way more developing power than you need for one roll of film. This is why you have to be pretty precise with when you take the film out, left in too long it will just keep on developing and give you way darker negatives than you want. It’s also why you can re-use a lot of the normal developing solutions over and over again, only a small part of its developing potential is used up every roll. With stand developing you’re mixing up a one shot developer with just enough developer for each roll you’re souping, no more; this is important. You can use stand developing with many different developers, the biggies are: Rodinal, HC-110 (favorite of Ansel Adams) and X-tol. I like Rodinal; not just because it’s readily available in my area, but because I find it gives really nice grain and sharpness, it lasts FOREVER and it’s really easy to work with. Xtol has to be mixed in 6 gallon batches from a powder, which is a pain. HC-110 is a thicker, and harder to work with as a solution at stock concentration, and I’ve just never liked the grain I get with it as much as Rodinal.

So after experimentation, I’ve settled with Rodinal at 1:100 dilution from stock, using 3.5ml of Rodinal per roll. If you’ve mixed your own chemical before you’ll notice this is a much more dilute mixture than with standard developing. Most times you’re mixing up solutions in the 1:5-1:10 area, so many people wonder how the hell such a weak solution can possibly develop a roll of film. The reason it works is because you’re going to give the film a chance to use up every last bit of developing agent in the solution. Most peoples soup times range between 20-120 minutes with stand developing, just slightly more than the usual 3-10 minute range πŸ™‚ Remember how I said highlight area will develop faster and exhaust the surrounding developer faster than the shadows, this is the key behind stand development. With such a weak developer and little or no agitation your highlight areas are going to exhaust the developer around them and slow right down while the shadows are going to have tons of time to catch up and fully develop. This is why stand development is so amazing, this little bit of physics gives it so many advantages with drawbacks that are very easily compensated for.

Lets look at why this makes stand development so great. Well the main advantage, which the process was developed for, is pretty obvious; one of the big problems people run into is overdeveloped highlights that give you blown out white areas in your prints, and underdeveloped shadows resulting in black areas with no detail. You can either develop to control blown highlights and lose shadow detail, or develop for the shadows and get blown highlights. Stand development controls blown highlights because the developer around those areas of the film exhausts and prevents over development. It also lets the shadows fully develop, squeezing every last bit of texture out of them. This makes it amazing for pushing film way past its rated ISO. What you end up with is a compressed tonal range, giving you a flatter looking negative with less overall contrast. No worries, this can be fixed in post processing, we’ll talk about that later.

The second, and more subtle benefit, which even people that have used stand development before sometimes fail to realize is this: it doesn’t matter AT ALL what film brand or speed you use. With normal developing if you’re shooting T-Max 100 there’s a specific developing time for each different developer, push it to 200 or 400 and it’s a different time again. You shoot with Tri-X 400 and it’s different time again, push that to 1600, different time again… you get the point. Now lets look at the developing times for Rodinal 1:100 using stand development:

T-Max 100 = 1 hour

T-Max pushed two stops = 1 hour

Fuji Neopan = 1 hour

Ilford HP5 = 1 hour

Some mystery roll you found in a second hand camera = 1 hour

I could go on, but you get the point. As far as I know there isn’t a black and white film that won’t give you a developed negative after an hour in 1:100 Rodinal. It might not be the best possible negative, but if there’s an image to be got from a frame, you’ll get it. I think I should point that out, using stand development might not always give you the best negative, but the trade off is flexibility and reliability. I can take loosing a bit of quality because I know I’ll be scanning my negatives and can fix up any contrast issues later. If you’re going to be wet printing your negatives this might not be the method for you as it’s going to take some dark room magic to get your prints to look like you want them to. But back to the positives.

So if every film soups for the same time, that means you can develop two different brands or ISO’s in the same tank. Take that one step further, if you can soup a roll of Tri-X 100, and a roll of the same film pushed two stops in the same tank… that means you can actually change what ISO you shoot at mid roll. I’ll repeat that; you are no longer bound by one of the biggest advantages digital has over film, you can change ISO on the fly. This is huge. Large format photographers have always had this advantage because each frame they shoot is seperate, so they could develop each negative differently according to whether it was pushed, pulled, high contrast, low contrast etc. Because 35mm frames are all on the same roll and get developed together, we’ve been stuck with developing them all at once, so you kinda have to stick to roughly the same ISO throughout. It’s so ingrained that some photographers I’ve talked to that use stand development still stick to one brand/ISO per tank and the same ISO for the whole roll, it’s as automatic as breathing.

The last big benefit is how reliable and easy stand development is. Most developing has to be done at a constant and controlled temperature, if you’re off by more than a degree or two it can seriously affect your end product. Because stand development happens so slowly and the dilution is so high, temperature is much less a factor. I generally just use the water straight out of my cold tap, except in the winter when it can be almost icy. As long as you’re within the 15-25 degree Celsius range, you’re fine, colder the better as it helps keep the grain smaller. Time is also much less a factor, your highlights will be mostly developed in the first 15-20 min, after that they exhaust the developer around them and pretty much stop. The rest of the time is to give the shadows a chance to develop, and since they’ll never overdevelop, anything from 20-120 minutes is perfectly acceptable. There’s also only just enough developer in the solution for each roll, so once the roll is developed fully, all the active solution is used up and it’s impossible to develop further. I’ve tried experimenting with various different times and have found around an hour is my sweet spot. After 20 min most of the developing is done, but I do find I can squeeze a bit more out of the shadows by going up to an hour, especially if I’ve pushed some or all of the frames. Between an hour to two hours not much happens, but some people swear they get even more shadow detail, but I haven’t seen too much benefit from it. Plus, an hour is just long enough to watch one or two episode of whatever TV show I happen to have on my computer, so it’s an automatic film timer… bonus!

**UPDATE** One last benefit I forgot to mention: it’s really economical! Because you’re only using 3.5ml of Rodinal per roll, a bottle will last a really long time (depending on how prolific a developer you are). One tip I came across to keep your Rodinal, or any developer for that matter, fresh; go to the dollar store and pick up a bag of plain glass marbles. As you use up the developer, drop some marbles into the bottle to raise the liquid level up to “full”. This keeps unnecessary oxygen out and also makes it easier to use a syringe to get the developer out. Just make sure the marbles are plain glass, not coated with any kind of gloss, glaze or paint coating, who knows how it will react with the developer.

OK so now you know the why, here’s the how. Before you mix up your 1:100 Rodinal solution, using 3.5ml of Rodinal minimum per roll of film, take a look at the math and make sure you have a big enough developing tank. If you want a 1:100 dilution with 3.5ml of developer per roll, you need a tank that can hold a minimum of 353.5ml of developer for each roll. If you don’t know the volume of your tank it’s easiest to just divide the number of rolls it can fit by two, to be on the safe side. I’ve got a three roll Patterson that JUST fits enough developer for two rolls, but it’s pushing it. Metal tanks have even less volume per roll, so make sure there’s enough room. Once you’re sure your tank can fit enough developer, start your routine as usual. Film goes on the spool, spool goes in the tank, tank’s filled with developer… shark’s in the developer… our shark… Start with ten inversions like normal, give the tank a few taps on the counter to get rid of bubbles and go watch TV. That’s it, that’s all.. an hour later rinse, fix and hang. That’s stand development.

Now technically what I do is called semi-stand because I do give my film three inversions at the half way point. Some people will say you shouldn’t do this with stand development because you’re giving the highlights a rush of fresh developer but I’ve just found I like the way my negatives look when I do this. They’ve got a bit more contrast than with pure stand, and it help give you even development. If you don’t agitate at all, you’ll sometimes find that developer settles at the bottom and gives an uneven gradient of development from top to bottom. One agitation cycle seems to prevent or at least minimizes this to the point where I don’t notice it. I find I also adjust my methods on the fly. If I know I’m souping film that’s been pushed heavily or is going to need some pop to the highlights I might do inversions at 20 and 40 minutes instead of just at the half way mark, or do inversions every minute for the first 5-10 minutes to really develop the highlights then let it sit for the rest of the hour to take care of the shadows.

I learnt how to cook by taste, the chefs in my family rarely pay attention to recipes, using terms like “a pinch” and “a dash”, things that drive others batty. You can never ask my Grandmother for one of her recipes because no matter what’s written down on her ancient recipe cards half of it was in her head at the time she wrote it and it’s evolved up there in the intervening decades. I find this has really carried over to my film developing; I adjust my times and inversions differently for each batch by feel and I might never get exactly the same results twice, but as long as it keeps turning out well I’m not too bothered about it. If you take a look at the mouse over text for all the images in this post you’ll get a sense of some of the different recipes I’ve used in the past.

And that’s it! Stand development is super simple, really reliable and as idiot proof as developing gets. As I mentioned before, it’s not the best method to use if you plan on wet printing your negatives, but I really like the results I get out of it from a scanner based workflow. It takes some tweaking to get the contrast back, and you have to pay close attention when you do your scanning, but the results are worth it. I’ll go into more details of how to properly scan a stand developed negative next time.

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  • Iain Cummings

    Just developed my 1st film using your system and the neg’s look BRILLIANT!!!! πŸ™‚

    Many thanks for this Tutorial Jesse πŸ™‚

  • Jesse Hildebrand

    Yup, I’ve pushed Efke 50 as far as 400 (very contrasty). 200 should work just fine

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  • Cian Clancy

    Hi Jesse, very interesting article. After developing for the last few months, I’m looking forward to trying some stand development, as I shoot mainly available light & high contrast.

    I find the part about changing the ISO mid-roll interesting and I was wondering how far this can be taken. If varying ISOs can be developed in the same soup/time, it somewhat removes ISO from the picture taking process, so can we now run around in Manual and shoot at the shutter speeds and apertures that best suited the scene, without paying too much attention to the meter (within reason)?!

    I am a slave to the meter (in the shadows) and have lost shots in available light, because the shutter speed has been too low. Your “Auto-ISO for Film” would seem to turn this on its head! Any thoughts?

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  • Richard Baker

    Jessie, nice shots. I consistently have trouble with one side of my 120 film developing less than the other. I shot several totally flat walls to check it out and one side was much darker than the other. Occasionally the developing is also inconsistent with some “blotchiness” Any ideas?

  • JonLee1

    Thanks for posting this. I know this is an older article, but it inspired me to try Rodinal and Stand Development. Talk about being idiot-proof. Like an idiot, I only used 3.5ML of Rodinal and 353.5 MLs of total solution for a roll of 120!!!. I didn’t realize my mistake until over 6 minutes into my processing. I quickly added an additional 150 MLs of water, re-agitated (10 times), and hoped for the best. Figuring my dilution was now about 1:150, instead of the desired 1:100, I decided to extend the development time to 1hr 15 min. I also did an a few agitations after 20 minutes and 40 minutes. Despite over 6 minutes of only part of the roll being covered in solution, and a more diluted mix than desired, the roll actually looks as good as any of my “traditional” BW developing efforts. I can’t imagine messing up the development like that and still getting good results using a higher concentrate of developer and shorter development time.

  • Jesse Hildebrand

    Sounds like the developer is either not fully mixing, or it’s settling to the bottom… how many inversions are you doing at the start? And have you tried doing just one inversion at about 20 and 40 min marks?

  • Jesse Hildebrand

    Yeah… that’s the big strength of this method, it’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to mess up… I once started a couple rolls in a tank, got sidetracked and ended up leaving them in there over night… still turned out just fine πŸ™‚ It’s a huge advantage for all the forgetful multi-taskers out there!

  • Rafael de Oliveira

    Got to say it: it just works.
    I used to be afraid of developing myself, and for years I sent my rolls to be developed by someone else.
    Reading your post got me confident enough to use this method for my first roll and it came out perfect.
    Thanks for maintaining this post online! πŸ™‚

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  • Pete Karnig

    first of all, thank you for this great post! i have a question, if i may… i need to clarify the instructions. if i have a 4 reel kindermann tank (holds about a quart) and want to develop one 120 tri-x and 2 35mm tri-x rolls (3 rolls total) do i use a solution for the tank equal to 3×3.5ml=10.5ml rodinal + water to fill the tank for the development stand? based on your description it seems the answer should be yes. am i correct? and finally should i expose the film at standard 400iso? or something else. sorry to be a bother i promise to send physical prints of the results if that interests you. thanks again!

    pete on the oregon coast.

  • Jesse Hildebrand

    You’ll probably have to do the three rolls in at least 2 batches… you’re right about the amount of rodinal for three rolls, but it has to be at a dilution of 1:100 so your tank would have to hold at least 1000ml of water + 10.5ml rodinal for stand development. If the developer is too concentrated it won’t exhaust around the highlights and they’ll blow out before the shadows are done developing. It depends on the tank, but you can usually do only half the usual number of rolls for their to be enough room for the extra water.

    As for exposure, the beauty of stand dev is that you can push or pull with a great deal of leeway, even from shot to shot… I would try to keep it around 320-400 if you can to keep the grain down… but I’ve pushed 400 all the way up to 1600-3200 with good results (although 3200 is pushing it… no pun intended πŸ˜‰ ).

    I’d love to see your results!

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  • jason fung

    First I would like to thank you for sharing this article; which has answered many of my reservations towards stand development. If possible, I would like to answer a few more questions for clarification before I undertake my first roll.

    (1) If I have a development tank large enough. that can hold over 1 liter of chemicals; can i develop 2 rolls of 35mm film. 7 ml solution and 700 ml of water? 1 hour. inversions every 10 seconds for the first minute. Stand 30 minutes, one slow inversion, stand 30 minutes.
    (2) Can anyone elaborate more on the temperature control for stand development? Highest and lowest temperatures you’ve tried?
    (3) Am I wrong in assuming that one roll of 135 film the equivalent to one roll of 120 film and equivalent to one 4×5 sheet film? (it kind of seemed to work for me while I was souping HC110 and HP5). Does the same rationale apply to stand development?
    (4) I want to try stand development with sheet film (4×5 sheet film) in a 1 liter Patterson tank and the Mod 45 holders. Because of this, I do need one liter of fluids to ensure the sheet is immersed. At the same time I should only use 3.5 ml of rodinal. (1) Do I need to have 350 ml of water for every 3.5ml of developer? What do I need to do to get that 1 liter of solution that I need?

    thank you thank you thank you

  • Jesse Hildebrand

    1) Yes! You can develop as many rolls at a time that you have room for chemicals, keeping the 1:100 ratio
    2) I honestly haven’t measured… try to keep it in the range of what comes out of your cold tap (as long as it’s not freezing, colder temps will control grain a bit, but too cold could hinder development… if your water is really cold, try doing a 1.5-2 hour soup)
    3) Most people agree that the three are roughly equivalent
    4) just keep the 1:100 ratio, even if you go above 3.5ml of developer… you might have a bit of extra developer floating around, but the dilution should compensate, just maybe don’t do as many inversions or agitations at the half way point)

  • Spencer Freeman

    Jesse Hildebrand, you are a godsend. I found your initial post and read every word, every comment. I was worried there was no way a 4-year-old post was still active and being responded to. So kudos to you!!

    My obligatory, newbie question is:

    I believe I have the mix ratios and times down, BUT when it comes to FIXER and the steps after developing… that is where I need help. (equipment (fixer, hypo, anything, etc. ) , mix-ratios, temperatures, and anything else I might need to complete the “after develop, but before scanning negatives” phase.

    Basically curious what is needed after developing, to get that film ready to scan.

    Thank you so much, your time and dedication to this feed is admirable. πŸ™‚

  • Jesse Hildebrand

    After development, the process is pretty much the same as any other development. I don’t bother with a Stop-bath, by the end of stand-dev there’s very little active developer left so I just do 3-4 flushes with water… dump the dev, fill with tap water at roughly the same temp as your developer… couple inversions, dump, repeat. Once you’ve rinsed the film off… fix as usual using the directions on the bottle of whatever fix you choose… after fix, I dump that, rinse again well (I do the same as above but just let the water sit 60 seconds or so before dumping… whatever you’re comfortable with). Then I do use hypo as my water is slightly hard and can leave streaks. So yeah… no special post-development process… just follow the ratios on the bottle for fix and hypo… and try to keep the temp the same as during dev. Cheers!

  • Spencer Freeman

    Thank you for the rapid reply! Which fixer do you use/like most?

    I am in Texas, where the tap water is less than ideal. I have seen that buying/using distilled water is an effective and cost efficient way to rinse. (Is that instead of using hypo?)

    Also, are you air drying your film, squeegee, microfiber cloth to dry? I have seen multiple methods but have only used squeegees in my experience. (Sometimes feels unpleasant as if I am squeezing some life or enamel off the film itself.)

    Anywho, thanks for your info! Hope to hear more from you.

  • Jesse Hildebrand

    Honestly, I’ve never seen a difference in the various brands of fix, just use whatever is cheap and available. Distilled water is good, but if you want to be economical, you can just use tap water for rinsing after the fix then use distilled water for the hypo and final rinse. … I just air dry… I’ve always been worried with scratching or leaving behind dust on the film. If you use Hypo, air dry shouldn’t be an issue. You definitely need to thoroughly rinse before hypo… get all the fix off the film as residual fix will eventually degrade the negatives. Not sure what your air is like, the only other suggestion I can give is to air-dry in a room with a humidifier if your air is really dry. It will take longer to dry but you will prevent the film from curling or bowing which can be an issue with really dry air…. if you’ve got decent humidity, don’t worry about it.

  • Matteo Prezioso


    First of all I wanted to congratulate you for the excellent post(s). It’s not easy to find something that concise and direct. So well done πŸ™‚

    As of writing, I am doing a stand on a Fuji Neopan 400 (120mm) w/ Rodinal 1:100 (20C). My very first time going stand dev, I had been thinking for a while about trying it and after reading your article, I just decided to give it a go. I went for 1 hour (slow agitation 1st minute, 4 agitations half time.) I am drying the neg. It seems ok but I’ll have a better look after.
    I decided to go for one hour due to what you wrote. On the I found Neopan 400 w/ Rodinal 1:100 for 20 minutes (20C). Quite a difference from your time, but I just went for it.

    I wanted to ask you (I hope you won’t mind) do you do any pre-washing?
    Also, re: fixing & washing, how long do you do that for? Do you change their times according to the film you’re using?

    As or me, for standard development I usually do a 15+15 mins fixing (continuous agitation for the 1st minute, then 10 secs every minute) As for the washing, I also do a 15+15 minutes (agitation 1st minute then sit. I’ll change the water for the second 15 minutes.)

    Thanks again,


  • Jesse Hildebrand

    For washing and fixing… just follow the instructions on whatever Fix you use, and then rinse for a good 10 min or so. No need to change recipes depending on your film πŸ™‚

  • Neto Macedo

    This is a reaaaally good article! Thank you very much!