The 4x5 Project Blog
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As promised on Instagram, I want to write down the process for photographing on photographic paper and develop it as a paper positive.

Right now this process works best with Ilford Multigrade Paper V, probably IV too. I am also using Fomaspeed Variant paper but this has some kinks I still have to figure out.

The Process

Take a photo directly on the photo paper. The new Ilford MG V is round about ISO 3 which brings you in the ballpark of Zone V (depending a bit on the color as this paper is orthochromatic). I usually overexpose for round about 1 1/3 stops with my studio flashes. Outside sun is a differerent matter due to the UV.


  1. Develop as usual in paper developer under red safelight. It is best to let it fully develop for round about 90 seconds. The paper negative will be quite dark which is normal. If you take it out too early, the print will be very dark in the end. (All that is black now will be white later and vice versa.)

  2. Rinse bath for a 30 seconds to 1 minute; still under safelight.

  3. Sodiumbisulfate-Potassiumpermanganate bleach for 1 minute with constant agitation! Change agitation direction every now and then. Make sure you bleach it really good otherwise the negative might come back later on. Still safelight if possible or just a bit of ambient light.

  4. Rinse well in running water (you can use your hands and rubb carefully) for round about 1-3 minutes. Make sure you get rid of the purple hue. You will see a remaining brownish negative from the bleaching process. This will vanish later in the clearing bath. You can do this with normal lights on now.

  5. Put the print into the clearing bath and agitate constantly for two minutes. This bath gets rid of the brownish part and will re-sensitise the paper. You can play with different times and different dillutions of this bath to see what happens.

  6. Rinse for a minute in order to not contaminate the developing bath.

  7. Expose to light just for a few seconds. If you turned on your lights after bleaching, you probably do not need any more light. You can experiment here too but it does not need much. If you expose for too long your print will turn pretty dark and/or gets foggy. (This seems to happen with the Foma paper pretty quickly. The Ilford paper is quite robust here.) The moment you see a trace of the positive start with developing.

  8. Put in the developer again and develop until the blacks are fully black.

  9. Rinse bath again for two to four minutes and then dry it. You can use a fixer just to be sure but usually all silver salts should be either bleached out or be developed by now. If you want to tone you can do this now or later. If you do later just remember to wet the paper again before toning. After fixing and/or toning a longer washing period is necessary for long time storage of the print.

    Next post will be the recipe I am using right now.

    P.S. If you are using other paper than RC your rinsing times will be longer but you already knew this. Also keep in mind that your developer will detoriate faster than normal as you put in every print twice.