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I processed a roll of Kodak Portra 800 today, using Tetenal C-41 chemistry. When I opened the Paterson tank after rinsing, the film was entirely clear – no frame numbers, no maker’s mark and worst of all, no pictures.

What did I do wrong? My guess is either expired developer or insufficient developing time. I did 8 minutes @ 30°C, agitation every minute.

Thanks in anticipation.

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Nobody can say for sure what went wrong. One would think that even an expired and contaminated developer would yield something.

My bet is, you mixed up the chemicals and poured then in out of order. Anyway, it’s easy to test the developer.

In room light pour some developer in a shallow bowl. It won’t hurt to do the same with the other fluids.

Now take a snippet of film, a piece of the tongue will do. Swish the film in the developer. As you watch, the film should blacken. If it doesn’t, it’s no good.

Now take another snippet. swish it in the other chemicals, in correct order. In other words, skip the developer for this snippet. As you progress, this snippet should turn from opaque to clear.

This is not a perfect test but it’s can shed some light on what happened.

  • My money is on using the fixer before the developer. Or using water (instead of developer) and then fixer. – Michael C Apr 14 '18 at 19:24
  • +1 for including the clip test -- @MichaelClark is right though that this is classic "fixer first" symptoms. – jkf Apr 14 '18 at 20:44
  • I think we’re narrowing it down. I did process a roll of Ektar 100 with the same batch a few weeks ago, and it was fine, so I can rule out incorrect mix from the concentrates. This would also indicate that, if I’d done them in the correct order, there would be at least a little development taking place. As it appears the entire roll, including the leader and frame numbers has been “bleached”. Are there any other situations where this might happen? Thanks. – Chris Dixon Apr 15 '18 at 0:36
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It's hard to guess exactly what you did wrong, but one way or another there was no development at all. No matter what your camera did, you should still see exposed leader and frame numbers. Totally blank film is not the result of merely expired developer or a bit too little developing time. At 8 minutes and 86 °F, something should have been visible, even with very exhausted developer.

A number of mistakes could lead to this same result. You could have poured in water instead of developer. Maybe you flipped the fixer and developer. The bottles could have been labeled backwards. You could have messed up mixing the developer in the first place, like forgetting to include the actual developer and accidentally ended up with only water. Maybe the developer was neutralized by getting a significant amount of fixer or stop bath into it last time.

Open your developer and fixer bottles and smell them. They have a quite different smell, although if you're not used to the difference you may still not know which is which.

Put a few grains of baking soda on a piece of glass or something inert, then add a drop of chemical. Do this separately for each of your solutions. The stop bath and the fixer should cause bubbling. Nothing interesting should happen with the developer.

Rub a drop of developer between your fingers. It should feel a bit slimy, like soapy water does. The stop bath and fixer will not feel slimy. Make sure to rinse and wash your hands afterwards. You shouldn't generally touch these chemicals, but a drop for a few seconds won't cause any trouble if you rinse properly.

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