A silver halide is one of the compounds formed between silver and one of the halogens — silver bromide (AgBr), chloride (AgCl), iodide (AgI), and two forms of silver fluorides. As a group, they are often referred to as the silver halides, and are often given the pseudo-chemical notation AgX. Although most silver halides involve silver atoms with oxidation states of +1 (Ag+), silver halides in which the silver atoms have oxidation states of +2 (Ag2+) are known, of which silver(II) fluoride is the only known stable one.
The light-sensitive chemicals used in photographic film and paper are silver halides.
When a silver halide crystal is exposed to light, a sensitivity speck on the surface of the crystal is turned into a small speck of metallic silver (these comprise the invisible or latent image). If the speck of silver contains approximately four or more atoms, it is rendered developable - meaning that it can undergo development which turns the entire crystal into metallic silver. Areas of the emulsion receiving larger amounts of light (reflected from a subject being photographed, for example) undergo the greatest development and therefore results in the highest optical density.
However, close attention is necessary for other compounds in the test solution. Some compounds can considerably increase or decrease the solubility of AgX. Examples of compounds that increase the solubility include: cyanide, thiocyanate, thiosulfate, thiourea, amines, ammonia, sulfite, thioether, crown ether. Examples of compounds that reduces the solubility include many organic thiols and nitrogen compounds that do not possess solubilizing group other than mercapto group or the nitrogen site, such as mercaptooxazoles, mercaptotetrazoles, especially 1-phenyl-5-mercaptotetrazole, benzimidazoles, especially 2-mercaptobenzimidazole, benzotriazole, and these compounds further substituted by hydrophobic groups. Compounds such as thiocyanate and thiosulfate enhance solubility when they are present in a sufficiently large quantity, due to formation of highly soluble complex ions, but they also significantly depress solubility when present in a very small quantity, due to formation of sparingly soluble complex ions.