While reading this answer I noticed the DBI concept.

If I understand correctly, the idea is to develop a film while being able to see the progress (and apply the fixer once you're happy with the result).

  • Is that what it means?

If so:

  • I assume you can't use the same chemicals you'd use normally, right? (I'm more interested in B/W, if it makes a difference)
  • A green filter is mentioned; is there a reason why green is used?
  • Any other relevant skills or knowledge needed to do DBI?

2 Answers 2


apply the fixer once you're happy with the result

I actually use stop bath.

I assume you can't use the same chemicals you'd use normally, right?

I followed Jeno Dulovits on this, basically using D23 diluted in half. Rodinal works quite good too, especially for the old emulsions. I know people using HC-110.

See Antec saying "High sulfite developers such as D-76 or D-23 are less efficient than developers like FG-7, Rodinal or HC-110. Any panchromatic or infrared sensitive films may be treated."

is there a reason why green is used?

Green light helps to estimate the contrast better.

A short introduction is here. You may also want to search APUG forums.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! The article at the end mentions a few interesting key points: "The safelight should not be left on continuously"... "take one negative out of the developer and into the stop bath each time you inspect"... Could I perhaps convince you to add those kind of tips to your answer? Either way, +1. \$\endgroup\$
    – Roflo
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, those do not match my experience with old films. \$\endgroup\$
    – Iliah Borg
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 16:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, then. Still if you recall any details worth mentioning on how you've done it, please add them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Roflo
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 16:29
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ IMHO most important thing for DBI is experimenting. Using a stop bath in the middle of development and returning film with acid in emulsion back to developer does not seem like a very good idea to me. If one is going to use D-Tec it comes with very useful and easy instructions. The easiest way to get practice is to take a camera that can be loaded with sheet film, Fomapan Classic or Adox CMS 20 II, and experiment with it. If one has something like an enlarger or contact box, camera may be not needed, but surely adds to fun. \$\endgroup\$
    – Iliah Borg
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 16:34

Development by inspection is obsolete. It was used in the distant past (in other words, before about 1930) when films or plates were much less sensitive in general and almost completely insensitive to red. If attempted today, with fast panchromatic films, you will fog the film, no matter which safelight is used. Development by time and temperature is standard and recommended. It takes lots of experience to develop by inspection, and as I said today's fast panchromatic films do not permit it. They will fog. Kodak and other manufacturers used to make orthochromatic (non-red sensitive) films and plates, which were offered until about 1980 (though a few special-purpose ortho films are still produced for copying, where red sensitivity is of no value). A good example of the old discontinued films is Kodak Super Speed Ortho Portrait film.

This film could be handled under a Kodak Series 2 safelight (deep red). This was not for development by inspection, but rather for ease of loading into film holders. Ortho films were preferred for male portraiture and for ease of handling, since a dark red safelight could be used. Ortho press films were also used where red sensitivity was not important. These films have been discontinued for decades.

At one time, when photographers coated their own plates and exposed them while they were still wet (wet plates had to be exposed very soon after coating) development by inspection was standard: The sensitivity of the plates was less consistent than with modern materials, and adjustments were sometimes necessary. But dry plates were introduced by the 1870s, and shortly thereafter wet plates were abandoned. All of these materials were insensitive to red, of course.

This article is informative.

The article by Michael Smith referenced above applies to large sheet film (8x10, 11x14, etc.) and does not apply to miniature or roll films. The best answer is, forget about it. It will not produce any miracles.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ "Development by inspection is obsolete" - how can you say without practical experience? Why, in your opinion, desensitizers are still in production? The original question, btw, was about processing films that were exposed many years ago and left undeveloped. DBI is the only safe way to process those. \$\endgroup\$
    – Iliah Borg
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 22:51
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This answer didn't actually answer the asker's questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – TroyR
    Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 5:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Out of curiousity: why male portraits? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 11:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Suppressing the red sensitivity with a green filter or using ortho film (which has little red sensitivity) was standard practice for B&W portraiture of men for decades. Basically, it makes the skin look a little darker, which is considered 'masculine' For women, the 'porcelain' look was preferred. See: georgehurrell.com/gallery \$\endgroup\$
    – Ornello
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 13:49

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