How to develop your B&W films at home: A beginners guide by David Bromley
David Bromley has been kind enough to write us a nice little guide about how easy it is to develop at home. This is not the first one featured on the site, but you know what, you can never have too many. Come and see how easy it is to do it.
So, your DSLR just isn’t doing it for you any more so you’ve changed to film, good on you. Film photography can be much more satisfying and fun to do. Processing your own films at home is fun, satisfying and easy if you have the right equipment. It will also save you lots of money in lab costs. I am not a pro photographer or an expert, just an enthusiast who loves photography. So here is my beginners guide to developing your black & white films at home.
Here is a list of the things you will need. The brands I mention are just what I use personally, others are available.
Film developing tank with reel
I have a Paterson Universal Tank. It came with 1 reel which can extend to hold 35mm or 120 roll film.
To hang your film up to dry
I use Kenro archive sheets
Ilford Ilfosol 3
Ilford Rapid Fixer
These chemicals are hazardous so consult the labels before use and don’t leave them anywhere where your dog can drink them
I use a dedicated Paterson photography measuring jug as they are very accurate. The chemicals need to be diluted accurately so it’s best not to use the pyrex jug in the kitchen
The temperature of the chemicals is important
The one on your phone or watch will do
Paper kitchen towel
Step 1. Load
This is the tricky bit, getting your exposed film onto the reel and in the tank in complete darkness. It will take a bit of practice. If you are winding the film back in your camera manually then try not to wind it all the back into the canister, that way you can get a head start in the light. Other than that, this step must be done in COMPLETE DARKNESS. I block out my bathroom window with cardboard. If the film is wound all the way into the canister then you can either buy a film retriever or pop the top off the canister with a bottle opener. I recommend the bottle opener, it is much easier, but make sure the light is off!
If you have the odd cheap film lying around it may be worth wasting it to practice loading the reel in the light. There is nothing worse than turning the bathroom light on and finding the film is on the floor and not in the tank!
Step 2. Dev
Once the film is locked in the tank you are ready to dev. First of all you need to prepare your chemicals. Depending on what combination of film and dev you are using will determine what dilution and time is needed. For this example I used AGFA APX100 film in Ilford Ilfosol 3. The dilution is 1+9 and timed for 7 minutes. I use 500ml of solution in my tank so I mixed 50ml of dev into 450ml of water at 20°c. You will need to check the label for times and dilutions. Ilford offer all documentation for their films and chemicals on their website.
Once the dev solution is in the tank, leave for the allotted time, agitating occasionally.
Step 3. Stop
When the developing time is finished, carefully pour the solution down the sink. Your Ilfostop should be mixed and ready to pour into the tank straight away to stop the development. Ilfostop dilutes 1+19 plus it can be used more than once. The times don’t have to be exact, a couple of minutes will do. Then pour it into a storage bottle, the solution will change colour when it is exhausted.
Step 4. Fix
Your rapid Fixer solution should also be mixed and ready. I dilute mine 1+4. I usually fix my film for around 5-10 minutes. Fix is also reusable so have your storage bottle and funnel ready.
Step 5. Wash
Once the fix is out, your film is light proof. It still needs a good wash though. I take the top off the tank, leave it under a running tap for a few minutes and give a good dunking. You can buy special washing solutions to stop your film drying streaky. Add this if you want but I’ve never used them.
Step 6. Dry
Once the film is washed, remove it from the reel and attach a film hanger to either end. It is important to remove the excess water from the film. You can buy a specialist squeegee for this but I use paper kitchen towel folded gently around the film. Now hang it up to dry thoroughly, wet film can damage easily so hang it somewhere where it wont get knocked off or is dusty. I hang mine in the shower cubicle over night.
Step 7. Archive
When the film is dry cut it into strips and store it in dedicated archival products, I use Kenro, which hold strips of 6.
So there you go, your film is developed and safely archived, ready for printing or scanning. I hope you found this guide useful and enjoy developing your films at home.
David has his own blog, which covers film and photography. Check it out to see more.