From the standpoint of practicability, aerial negative developers should have good keeping power, be slow to exhaust, and work well over a considerable range of temperatures. From the standpoint of the photographic quality desired in the negative, the developer should bring up the maximum amount of under-exposed detail. This means that it should impart the highest possible speed to the plate, with good contrast, and low fog or general reduction of unexposed silver bromide.

There are many characteristics to study in a developer: its effect on inertia or speed, gamma infinity, fog, time of appearance, "Watkins factor," speed of development, temperature coefficient, dilution coefficient, keeping power, exhaustion, length of rinsing, stain, color coefficient and resolving power. These are defined and described as follows:

Effect On Inertia

The meaning of inertia has already been given under the discussion of plate speed. While this is a constant, independent of time of development, for any one developer, it is altered appreciably by change of the latter.

Time-Gamma Relation

Contrast, symbolized by 7, has likewise been discussed under plate sensitometry. Viewed from the standpoint of the developer, the point of interest is the rate at which 7 varies with development, and the maximum contrast which can be reached or 7 infinity. Speed of development is commonly defined by the velocity constant, symbolized by k, which is arrived at mathematically from a consideration of the time of development to produce two different contrast values. High 7 infinity is desired for aerial negatives, and for rapid work k must also be high.


The opacity due to chemical fog is to be kept at a minimum in aerial negatives, as it is chiefly prejudicial to under exposures.

Time Of Appearance And Watkins Factor

The time of appearance is measured in seconds. The Watkins factor is a practical measure of the speed of development, and is determined by the ratio of the time of development required for a definite contrast, to the time of appearance. It is useful also as a guide to development time.

Temperature Coefficient

This is the factor by which the time of development at normal temperature (20 Cent.) must be increased or decreased in order to obtain the same quality negative, for a change of seven degrees either side of normal.

Temperature limits are the temperatures between which development can be carried out with any degree of control or without serious damage to the negative. These factors are of great importance where climatic or seasonal changes have to be endured.

Dilution Coefficient

This is the factor by which the development time is increased in order to maintain a given quality negative in different dilutions of the developer. It is useful in tank development.

Keeping Power

The keeping power of a developer, mixed ready for use, is determined by its ability to resist aerial oxidation. A developer of poor keeping power, which must be made up immediately before use, causes delay and waste of time whenever emergency work has to be done, whereas a developer of good keeping power may be left in its tank ready for instant use.

Exhaustion of a developer is the rate at which it becomes useless for developing, due both to aerial oxidation and to the using up of its reducing power by the work done in developing plates. It is conveniently measured by the area of plate surface developable before the solution must be renewed.

Length Of Rinsing

The time required for rinsing between development and fixing bath plays a not unimportant part in total development time. Dichroic fog is caused with some developers if, due to insufficient rinsing, any of the caustic alkali is carried over to the fixing bath. Stains develop also if the fixing bath is old, or if light falls on the unfixed plate while any developer remains in the film.

Color Coefficient

The function of the sulphite, which forms a constituent of all developing solutions, is two-fold. It acts partly as a preservative, and partly to prevent the occurrence of a yellow color in the deposit. The yellow color, if present, increases the photographic contrast. This phenomenon has been purposely utilized, particularly in the British service, to give "stain" to negatives which otherwise would show insufficient printing density. The color index or coefficient of a negative (with a given printing medium) is the ratio of photographic to visual density. If we take a pyro developer containing five parts of pyro per thousand and ten parts of sodium carbonate, and then vary the amount of sulphite from none to fifty parts per thousand, the color index varies as follows:

Sulphite Parts per Thousand

Color Index













The color index is somewhat different with various kinds of printing media.

This staining effect is a variable one, depending upon length of development, dilution of the developer, length of rinsing, temperature, the fixing bath used (plain hypo being necessary for a maximum effect), the length of washing after fixation and the properties of the water used. Standardization of these conditions in the field is difficult; hence any developer which will give the same effective contrast without resorting to stain is to be preferred.

Resolving Power

Some developing processes and conditions will introduce bad grain into the negative. Hence the resolving power which a developer brings up must be investigated among its other characteristics.