First off, I know this is an extremely repeated question, but I want to get to the bottom of exactly what happened in my case. This seems to be exactly my case: What does it mean when film turns out transparent after being developed?

I haven't developed in a few years, but I rented an apartment which had a dark room in the closet (previous tenants who sublet to me are incredibly handy woodworkers). I mention this because 1) it's awesome and I'm insanely lucky 2) I want to point out that I really doubt any problems with the facility, as they have produced hundreds of great pictures.

HOWEVER, when I shut the door, I was able to see just the tiniest crack of light in the door. I had my back to the door the entire time, with the open film in front of me (I don't have a developing bag) but I thought it was worth mentioning, just in case.

Anyway, I followed the exact dilution and time instructions listed inside the box of my Ilford hp5 film, and I used Ilford developer (and I made sure to get film developer not paper), stop, and fix, so I find it hard to believe that I underdeveloped. I have done this process dozens of times in high school, but rarely did I have to mix the chemicals myself.

Is it possible I didn't mix the chemicals up enough? Would a little bit of light cause the WHOLE strip to be perfectly transparent (i would imagine it would be uneven and black at parts)? I learned my lesson, and I'll definitely develop a couple rolls that I don't care about before I develop another real roll, but I would love some insight so I can get back in the game as fast as I can.


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    \$\begingroup\$ Check to see if the developer is still good. Try a short piece of film in an ounce or two of developer in room light. After a short time, the film clip should turn black. If it doesn't, the activity of your developer is done. When you mix your developer, avoid using as much agitation as possible that might introduce air bubbles which will oxidize your developer prematurely. \$\endgroup\$
    – Stan
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 5:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please add some detail. What was the film and what was the developer? Are there markings/print along the edges? Is the beginning of the film also transparent? Any hints of development or not at all? Can you rule out that you didn't swap developer and fixer? What was your dev temperature and time? Didn't you use fixer for color films? \$\endgroup\$
    – MirekE
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 5:10

3 Answers 3


Another cause for the entire roll of film to be blank but with visible edge printing would be that the film was never exposed in the first place. This could be due to misalignment during film loading leading to the tapered tongue not catching onto the take-up spool and not advancing the film after each exposure was made. A tell-tale for this would be a black inch or two at the beginning of the roll where it was lightstruck while being loaded into the camera with the rest of the roll remaining blank after (proper) development.

  • \$\begingroup\$ When I started developing my own film I ran into two blank rolls. Thought I'd severely messed everything up. Turns out I just wasn't used to my new film camera and hadn't loaded it properly. The numbers and everything were still on the edges of the film but the rest of the roll was completely blank. A clear hint at this was that when I got to the "end of the roll" it kept advancing after every shot. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 13:53

To trouble shoot this issue – first examine the film paying close attention to all changes in density (blackening) and report via a good description. Next, check to see it the film has edge printing. The edges of roll film are imprinted during manufacture with frame numbers, batch number, other identification will perhaps be, barcode, makers name, type of film, and other things. Edge printing is applied via exposing these numbers and symbols using light. In other words, the edge printing is an exposure to light similar to the optical image your lens applied.

If edge printing is present and the film is otherwise void of images or plus density, the problem is camera related. If edge printing is not present, the problem is due to improper developing.

The next step is to fully describe the film to us.

That said, the common cause of completely clear film is: The first solution used was the fixer and not the developer.

Would a little bit of light cause the WHOLE strip to be perfectly transparent?

No, this is backwards. You are using negative film. Exposing the film to light causes it to be dark after developing. Since your film came out blank, it means either a developing failure or that too little light hit the film.

There are various possible reasons why the film came out blank. As with debugging any problem, you do experiments that breaks down the failure possibilities into two or more catagories, with the result of the experiment telling you at least one category the failure is not in.

At the top level, you want to distinguish between underexposure and underdevelopment. Take a look at the film leader that was exposed to normal light when the film was threaded into the camera. That should be solidly dark regardless of how the camera later exposed the actual pictures. If it is, then development worked at least partially. If it is clear too, then you had a total development failure. Even a weak developer would have yielded something. This is the symptom you get if you accidentally reversed the fixer and developer, for example, or the developer as all water or something.

If the leader is solidly dark, then there is probably a problem with the camera. Look carefully at all the frames. If the auto-exposure was malfunctioning, you will most likely still see something somewhere. Especially outdoor scenes have reflections of the sun off some shiny metal or the like. Usually there will be small areas of visible exposure in a roll of grossly underexposed pictures.

If there is absolutely nothing at all (but the leader is dark), then it's probably not exposure being off, but a complete failure in the camera. Maybe the mirror didn't flip up, or shutter curtains stuck together, etc. You can see these kinds of things just by looking thru the camera with the back open and no film. Set the shutter to something long, like 1 s, and see if any light is visible at the back coming thru the lens. Try shorter exposures and look for a flash of light.


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