Wednesday, February 4, 2009


What happens during development

When you expose film to light, by opening the shutter, the light reacts with the light-sensitive silver-halide particles in the film emulsion. At this point, the reaction is invisible. The film must be developed in order for the reaction to be visible. The film is developed using a chemical developer, which turns the exposed silver-halide particles into a black metal (silver). The film stays in the developer for the correct time to turn the right amount of halides into silver. The dark areas in the original image will have the least amount of silver on the film, and appear transparent. The lighter areas, conversely, will have the most silver. This effect is why the developed film is called a negative. In order to stop the development process, water is used. It neutralizes the effects of the developer. At this point the film is developed, however the image is not permanent, there are still unexposed silver-halides in the emulsion. If these particles are exposed to light, they will turn into silver quickly. The film has to be made permanent, this is done with a chemical fixer. The fixer attaches itself to the unexposed silver-halides, preventing them from reacting to the light. The final stop is to remove all traces of the chemicals in a wash step. If fixer is left on the film, it will eventually stain the image. There are additives, like Kodak Hypo Clearing Agent, which can speed up the wash process. After washing, the film must dry.

To develop film you'll need:
  • Running water
  • Chemical Manufacturer Specifications
  • Measuring beakers
  • Place where you can mix liquids
  • Very accurate thermometer, and a method of temperature control
  • Funnels
  • Storage Bottles
  • Developer
  • Fixer
Read the time chart on the side developer container to determine your film, time, temperature combo. Photo developing chemicals can be hazardous, particularly in concentrates, so always use with care.
  1. Measure a certain amount of water at a specific temperature - BEST AT 68 degrees -it's usually easier to have the water hotter than the required temperature and let it cool down, or even use an ice cube to lower the temp (remove the ice cube when the water reaches the right temperature)
  2. Measure a certain amount of concentrate. 1:1- 1 reel tank = 8oz.
  3. When the temperature of the water is at the specified temperature, pour in the concentrate, stirring constantly.
This is the general process, always be sure of your film, temperature, developer combo is correct before proceeding. Use the thermometer during the mixing of chemicals to make sure that you are following the manufacturers recommendations - read the labels.

Starting to Develop

Gather together:
  • A film processing tank and one 35mm reel for each roll you will develop. Some people prefer plastic tanks and reels.
  • A pair of scissors, to cut the film.
  • Measuring graduate(s), to measure the correct amount of chemicals for your film.
  • An accurate thermometer, to determine the temperature of your chemicals and the correct developing times.
  • Film clips or wooden spring-type clothes pegs, to hang your film to dry.
  • A can opener to open your film canister.
  • An accurate timer to time your processing - this can be a watch with a second hand. Some people prefer to use their phones
  • A light proof room, closet or changing bag.
  • Developing chemicals - Developer, Fixer, water

Loading the Film on the reels

  1. Before trying to load film in darkness, practice loading your reel numerous times in light with an old piece of film. Do this until you can do it with your eyes closed.
  2. Put the tank, reel(s), film and scissors in the darkroom in an orderly fashion that makes sense to you.
  3. Check that the room is dark and the door is securely closed.
  4. Open the film canister with a can opener being careful with the open edge.
  5. Pull the film out of the canister - it's wrapped around a spool.
  6. Try to touch the film only on the edges - try not to touch the emulsion.
  7. Trim the end of the film square - cut across the film at a 90 degree angle to give you a straight edge.
For stainless steel reels -
  1. Hold the reel in your left hand with your thumb in the center of the reel, with the spiral turning outward clockwise from your thumb (if you are left handed you may want to reverse the hands and the rotation directions)
  1. Hold the film in your right hand, the spool of film held loosely between your little fingers and palm, and the film as it comes off of the spool between your forefinger and thumb.
  2. Gently squeeze the film between your right thumb and finger, it should curve slightly across the width of the film. It should curve upwards - as long as the spool is feeding over the top (counter clockwise) through your fingers.
  3. Push the end of the film into the center of the reel - some reels have a spring clip to hold the film others have the horns that catch the sprocket holes, I prefer the ones without the horns.
  4. Maintain the gentle squeeze on the film, think ladybug or baby kitten. As you rotate the reel slowly counter clockwise, gently feed the film into the reel. When you practice this you can see that the film is settling in the coils of the reel. Note how this feels so you can tell if you are doing it right in the darkroom.
  5. Continue until you reach the end of the film. Cut off the film at the spool.
  6. Continue sliding the film onto the reel, until it is all on the reel.
  7. Place the rolled film in the canister and securely attach the lid.
  8. Make sure anyone else in the darkroom with you is prepared and open the door
  9. MOST IMPORTANTLY - clean up any mess left behind.

For plastic reels -ask for help. We prefer you to use stainless, you'll thank us later...

Preparing to Develop Black and White Film

  1. For this step you need: Loaded tank, chemicals, water, and a thermometer. This is the critical step in developing Black and White film. Using the wrong amount of chemicals, or the wrong temperature or time will adversely affect your film. Most developers have an optimum temperature. The developer we use - D76 is rated for 68 degrees.
  2. REMEMBER- the four most important aspects to film development are:
  3. TIME
  4. TEMPERATURE (Usually 20°C or 68°F)
  6. and DILUTION (Generally 1:1)
  7. Mix the chemicals according to the manufacturers instructions (1:1). Pour the correctly diluted solutions your developing tank - make sure you have the right amount for your tank - it's listed on the instructions. It is best to use the same temperature every time, for consistency, rather than adjusting the time for different temperatures.

Developing Step

  1. fill the tank with water roughly the tempurture of your developer and presoak you film to "wake it up" for processing. Bang. Tap the tank on a hard surface - helps to dislodge any air bubbles.
  2. When you are absolutely sure the developer is at the right temperature pour it in your tank at a slight angle - start the timer set according to development chart.
  3. Agitate for the first 30 seconds
  4. Continue agitating at regular intervals throughout the developing stage. I suggest agitating for the first 30 seconds, then each minute thereafter, at the top of the clock for about 10 seconds.
  5. The most important part about agitation is to do it the same way every time. Some people say I over agitate, but it's the way I started, and I do it consistently.
  6. At the end of the time, based on the development chart to start, later you will refine your developing time, remove the outer cap (ONLY!) and pour the developer out, either down the drain with running water or into a bucket for later disposal.

Water bath

  1. Pour the H20 into the tank, through the hole in the inner lid, then put the outer lid on.
  2. Agitate continuously for 30 seconds. But don't forget to invert and bang.
  3. Remove the outer lid, and pour out the chemicals.


  1. Pour the fixer into the tank from the container clearly marked FIX, through the hole in the inner lid, then put the outer lid back on. Be sure to make a hash mark on the continer for every roll of film you develop.
  2. Agitate. I agitate for about 20 seconds, then every minute for about 10 seconds.
  1. At the end of the manufacturers recommended time - 5 mins for normal film, 10 mins for T grain film. Remove the lid (it's now safe to remove the whole lid if you want), and pour the chemistry back in the container. DO NOT POUR FIX DOWN THE DRAIN!!

Rinse and Hypo

  1. Remove the inner lid.
  2. Run water into the tank. I like to run water for about 15 seconds.
  3. Fill tank with Hypoclear and agitate consistantly for 2 minutes.
  4. Pour Hypoclear back into the correct container, be careful not to mistake FIX and HYPO bottles.


1. Place film in Turbo washer - turn on water to create bubbling, think champaine not fish
2. Wash film for 5 minutes. CLEAN-UP WHILE YOUR FILM IS WASHING!
3. *Be sure to never add film to wash once initial cycle has started.

Photo-flo (LFN)
  1. Empty the tank, and fill with wetting agent (Kodak Photo Flo, diluted correctly - 5 drops to distilled water).
  2. Put the reel(s) in the wetting agent according to the recommendations (30 seconds).
  3. Remove the reel from the tank.
  4. Slowly pull the film off of the reel.
  5. Using your fingers as a squeegee, ever so gently, squage your film over the waste basket to remove any water droplets.
  7. Weight the bottom of the film, with clothes pin, or film clip. Be careful to not scratch the negatives, they are very soft at this point.
  8. Hang in the drying cabinet
  9. RELAX... film takes about 20-30 minutes to dry. Weather permitting.


  1. Remove the weight from the bottom of the film.
  2. Count up 5 frames, cut between the 5th and 6th frame. 5 frames fits across an 8" sheet of paper, and fits into negative sleeves.
  3. Put each strip into a separate negative sleeve.
  4. Label the sleeve with a sharpie
  5. Keep cutting into 5 frame lengths until you've cut the entire length of film.
  6. NEVER LEAVE ONE FRAME AT THE END, better to have at least 2 frames next to each other.

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