Developing your own B&W film does not need rocket science knowledge or precision engineering skill. It’s actually very simple and only needs a few hours of practise and some experimental spirit.
If you can afford a few hours and a couple of tens dollars, I can guarantee that you will find more fun and satisfaction in B&W photography.
Step 1 – Preparation
You need 2 kinds of solution. The first solution is the Developer.
There are a few kinds of Developer Solution that you may use. One of the most economical is the HC110 solution. It’s very concentrated and comes in a not so expensive bottle which you can use for a long long time.
The D76 powder is also one of the more economical developer. The D76 might not be as popular as other developer as some people feel that it’s a hassle to dissolve the power into a pail to create the working solution before using it.
The advantage of D76 is it is very affordable and in powder form, can be stored for a longer period of time.
The second solution that is required is the Fixer.
The dilution formula for fixer is usually 1 part of fixer solution to 3 parts of water. Hence if you are using a 650ml tank, it’s approx 170ml of fixer to 480ml of water.
Next you need the developer tank. The more common one is the AP. It’s made entirely of plastic and is one of the easiest to load in the film.
You will need the measuring cylinger & a thermometer.
A stop watch is a must.
Invest in a changing back. Do not think that your store room is dark enough.
Step 2 – Load Film
Now you have the tools, it’s time to start work!
When rewinding an exposed roll of film, leave the end behind so that you can pull out the film from the canister easily.
This step is supposed to be done in total darkness or in a dark bag. Do not expose undeveloped film to any form of light. Your entire roll of film will be void.
Remember: DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS STEP IN BROAD DAYLIGHT !
Now you can load the film into the developer tank. You will need to do this in the dark bag! Do not pull out the film and expose to light. All the shots that you have taken will be exposed & void!
If the entire roll is reeled back into the film canister, you will need to open up the film canister using a bottle opener or use a film picker to retrieve the end of the negatives.
This is the most crucial part of the developing process.
Reel in the film into the white reel. You will need to practise this procedure in the light first. Practise with a void exposed negatives and make sure you are confident in doing it in the dark.
Practise reeling in with your eyes blindfold or in total darkness.
I personally find that it’s easier to pull out the entire roll of negatives in the dark bag first and reel the end portion into the reel.
The negatives are rolled in with the help of two small ball bearing roller on the reel.
Ensure the reel is DRY before reeling in the negatives. Wet reels cause the ball bearing to loose friction and unable to reel the negatives proper;y. You may damage or bent your negatives if the reel gets stuck.
Apply consistent pressure and make sure the negatives do not get stuck and bent.
In “rocking motion” reel in the entire roll.
Practice make Perfect.
Now you can load the reel into the developer tank.
Once the reel is in the developer tank, screw in the top cover. The rest of the procedure can be perform in the light.
The tank is designed to be light tight. So, do not be afraid the film might get exposed from this point forward.
Step 3 – The Developing
Preparing the developer solution.
Follow the dilution instuction on the film. If you could not find the dilution instruction, check out this web site:
for development timing with respective solution.
Pour the solution into the developing tank. Shake the tank for 10sec for every minute of soaking.
Shake well in a rocking motion for 10sec.
Dislodge the bubbles after shaking by hitting the bottom of the developing tank lightly on a piece of cloth.
Reason for doing so is to dislodge, clear the bubbles from the reel that was built up during shaking.
Failure to do so might end up with white spots on the negatives.
You do not need to follow the time up to the last second. Give and take 15~20sec should not get noticable difference on your negatives.
To “push” the film, simply develop slightly longer (about 1 to 2 min) to get the film exposed to the developer longer.
You can store the developer working solution for future use.
Remember, this is done at your own risk! If you want to save on the developer, the working developer solution can be used up to 3 to 4 times in a month with no noticable degradation. However, extend the developing time by 30s for each cycle as the solution might get more diluted after a few wash.
I would suggest to dispose the working solution after 3 to 4 use or after 1 month.
After pouring out the developer working solution, you will need to wash away any developer residue on the negatives surface.
You can either use the stop bath or flush the developer tank with plenty of water.
In this part of the world (Singapore) water is precious. So usually, I will recycle the water to flush my toilet.
Rinse up to 4 to 5 times to ensure the developer is thoroughly washed off. If possible, shake the tank to make sure the negatives are thoroughly rinsed..
Step 4 – The Fixer
Next, prepare the fixer. Follow the instuctions on the fixer and perpare the fixer working solution.
Pour the fixer into the developing tank and do the same as the developing process, for every minute of soaking, shake the tank for 10sec and dislodge the bubbles by hitting on the surface of the table lightly.
You can recycle the fixer solution too. I personally recycle the fixer for up to 4 to 5 times or up to 2 months when stored in a cool dry place.
I am not suggesting you to be as frugal as me, but if you shoot a lot of film, this is one way that can help to bring cost down.
Store the developer in a container and REMEMBER to label it. Keep the solution in a cool place away from pets and children. Do NOT mix with drinks or your favourite alcohol beverage.
Step 5 – Final Rinse
From this stage, you can open up the developing tank and expose the negatives to light.
Rinse the negatives in running water. Some of the negatives (Kodak Tri-X & T-Max) have a purple tint on the surface and is only washed off with lots of water rinsing and soaking (in clean tap water).
Rinse & Soak the negatives in clean tap water for at least 15min to rid of any developer or fixer residue.
To save environment, recycle that water to flush or wash the toilet.
Rinse very very well.
Step 6 – (Final Step) Drying
Now, this is the second most crucial part (after loading)… Drying.
Shake off excess water from the reel. Shake hard so that you get as much excess water off the negatives as possible.
I do not suggest to wipe or use any tools to dry the negatives, as direct contact to the negatives will most probably scratch the surface. Even using fingers running through the negatives will scratch the surface with the dead skin bits on the fingers.
I would suggest the best possible method is shake off excess water & hang dry the negatives naturally.
Always dry the negatives in a cool and dry room, preferably in an air-con room. Do not blow the negatives with hair dryer and fan as they will surely leave lots of dust particle mark on your negatives.
Dry in a cool area for about 1~2 hours. Only when the negatives are totally dry, then you can cut them up to store or scan them.
Storing a partially dried negatives will cause the negatives to stick onto surfaces and damage the negatives.
Hang some weight at the bottom of the negative to straighten the negatives while drying. This ensure the negatives are dry evenly.
Nothing beats the excitement of seeing the images crystalising in front of you…
You may scan or print the negatives in dark room when the negatives are fully dried.
For further reference, please check out these 2 other excellent web sites:
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