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?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – ex-ms
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 4:35

2 Answers 2


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.

  • \$\begingroup\$ very cool photo by the way \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 16, 2010 at 1:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ great answer! does this edge markings work with medium format rolls? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 12:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoséNunoFerreira yes, medium format rolls genearlly have similar edge markings \$\endgroup\$
    – postylem
    Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 16:13

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

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ A light leak? Light leaks are notorious for letting extra light in, not for letting light coming from lens escape. \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Commented May 29, 2011 at 16:07
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 5:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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