Before the rush

Before the rush
by evan-pak

Submit your Photo
Hall of Fame

Please participate in Meta
and help us grow.

Photography Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional, enthusiast and amateur photographers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I had a B/W film turn out transparent after being developed. Does it mean that a) it was never exposed b) it was always overexposed or c) something went wrong during development?

share|improve this question
I've tried to give a general answer below, but could probably be more precise if you noted which film, camera, and how it was developed. – ex-ms Aug 23 '10 at 4:35
up vote 25 down vote accepted

The problem is definitely not overexposure; that renders negatives black.

To work out whether it was underexposure or a development problem, there's a fairly straight-forward indicator: Do you see any edge markings (marked red in the example below)?

alt text

They'll vary from film to film; not all will have barcodes, but there's usually a name or number at the very least. These are exposed onto the film at the factory, and should show up if development was correct.

If you have edge markings then the problem is most likely on the camera side of things. There's a few possibilities; the camera didn't wind correctly, the shutter is jammed or sticky and doesn't open correctly. On the less-likely-but-still-possible end of things, you may have left the lenscap on, or drastically underexposed the entire roll (e.g., set to 1/1000s accidentally while shooting in a dark pub).

If you have no edge markings then there was almost certainly an error in development. Exactly what type of error is hard to say, but there are a couple of usual suspects:

  • You developed the film yourself: if it's perfectly clear, with not a trace of density anywhere, then you may have used fixer before developer, or didn't use developer. If there's small amounts of density, the developer may have gone bad, or it may be severely under-developed (e.g., you only left it in for a minute or two when 12 was required).

  • A lab developed the film: they may have developed standard black-and-white in a C-41 process. One of the final steps of C-41 removes all the silver from the film, leaving only dyes. Standard black and white is only silver, and the image is destroyed by the C-41 process.

share|improve this answer
very cool photo by the way – RCProgramming Nov 16 '10 at 1:02
Very good explanation, thanks! – ibz May 16 '11 at 14:31
great answer! does this edge markings work with medium format rolls? – JoséNunoFerreira Feb 6 '12 at 12:36

That pretty much happened to me yesterday. Its possible that its a light leak in your camera, an advance error, or bad chemicals. Remember if your negatives are blank, then your pictures were very dark

share|improve this answer
A light leak? Light leaks are notorious for letting extra light in, not for letting light coming from lens escape. – Imre May 29 '11 at 16:07
Remember, it is a negative. Light turns negative film dark. The dark areas of a negative are the light areas of a print (positive) and vice versa. – Michael Clark Mar 7 '13 at 5:36

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.