Developing Black and White Film

Developing black-and-white film is reasonably easy and can be done without benefit of a darkroom. Follow the following steps and pointers carefully.

In Room Light

  1. Mix the developer, stop bath, and fixer chemicals according to the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to record the date on a label attached to each bottle. Chemicals weaken with use and time. Photographic chemicals keep better in dark bottles where they are shielded from light. Use brown glass or opaque plastic bottles.

  2. Check temperatures of all three chemical solutions. Each should be at 20°C (68°F), average room temperature. Make necessary adjustments before you begin processing, either by running warm or cool water over the outside of the bottles if you have mixed small quantities of the chemicals or, if you have made gallon quantities, by pouring the required volume into graduates and standing them in a water bath at 20°C. In either case, the solutions, once they are brought to the correct temperature, should be kept in a 20°C water bath for the entire processing session. A plastic dishwashing tub is fine for this purpose.

  3. If you are working in a room that can be completely darkened, pour the developer into the developing tank. If you use a changing bag. Leave the tank empty and go on to step 4.

  4. Set, but do not start, the timer for the appropriate developing time. A simple kitchen timer can be used if you put on a bit of masking tape which you can feel in the dark opposite the correct time. (This isn't necessary if you use a changing bag—the timer won't be in the dark.)

    In Total Darkness

  5. Holding the film cassette by its spool end, pry open the other, fin end with a bottle-cap opener. Carefully remove the spool of film.

  6. With a scissors, square off the lead end of the film.

  7. Thread and wind the film onto the reel of the developing tank according to the instructions supplied with the type of tank you own. It's a good idea to practice steps 4, 5, and 6 with a spoiled roll of film until you feel confident enough to repeat them smoothly with you: unprocessed film. You will soon learn to keep opener, scissors, reel, developing tank, lid, and timer within easy and familiar reach to avoid fumbling for them in the dark.

  8. Gently drop the loaded reel into the chemical filled developing with one hand, and, with the other hand, start the timer as the reel reaches the bottom of the tank. (In a changing bag, the developing tank is dry and the timer should not yet be started.) Place the light-tight cover firmly on the tank and remove the tank from the water bath. Tap the bottom of the tank lightly on the table or counter to dislodge any air bubbles that might be clinging to the film.

  9. Agitate the tank immediately for 15 seconds, using random motions. Turn on the room lights. (If film was loaded in a changing bag, pour the developing solution through the light-tight opening in the lid of the developing tank. Start the timer as you pour.)

  10. Agitate the tank throughout the developing time of the film according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer of the chemicals. In between agitations return the tank to the water bath. Agitation is very important—it moves the exhausted developing solution away from the emulsion and keeps fresh solution flowing around and over the film. Use the recommended agitation times and intervals. Too little agitation can result in underdeveloped film; too much agitation can overdevelop the film. Random motion in agitation will prevent wave marks from forming on the film.

  11. At the end of the developing time, pour out the developer.

  12. Pour in the correctly measured volume of stop bath. Agitate gently for about 15 seconds and then pour out.

  13. Fill in the tank with fixer solution and set the timer for the maximum recommended fixing time according to the manufacturer's instructions.

  14. Agitate the developing tank frequently during the fixing period, about 15 seconds at first and about 10 seconds every 60 seconds thereafter. When the timer rings, pour out the fixer.

  15. Open the developing tank—the film is no longer light-sensitive—and run a hose from a sink faucet into the core of the developing reel. Be sure the water temperature is adjusted so that it is the same as the chemicals used during development, usually 68°F. Allow the water to run very slowly into the bottom of the developing tank. The film emulsion is soft when wet and can be damaged by too strong a flow of water.
    The washing time will vary depending on whether you use a washing agent. Such agents cut the wash time considerably and save water as well. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. If you use water only, the film must be washed for about 30 minutes. Don't cut the wash time short!

  16. Soak the film in a wetting agent as directed by the manufacturer. This will prevent water spots from forming on the film as it dries. You can omit this wash if you choose, but be sure you wipe the water carefully from the film as described in next step.

  17. Gently unwind the film from the reel. Hang it to dry in a dust-free place such as a cabinet or the middle of a room—not near doors or windows. Attach a clip or clothespin to the bottom of the film so that it hangs straight. Wipe it carefully on each side with a Viscose sponge held at a 45° angle.
    Special clips are made for the purpose of hanging film to dry, but plastic or wooden spring-type clothespins work just as well. Don't use ordinary sponges for the wipe however, as they may scratch the film.

    If You Are Using Reusable Chemicals

  18. Finally, make a record, preferably on a label attached to each bottle, of the number of rolls you have developed and fixed. Trying to exceed the number of rolls that can be successfully processed by chemicals recommended by its manufacturer is poor economy. You risk ruining your film with exhausted chemicals.

Exact and strictly controlled film processing sequences yield negative ready to be transformed into the final product of your creation; the important thing of all you have invested in time and energy and money, the result of equipment, technical know-how, and artistic effort The transformation. -negative to positive is, or ought to be, a creative process in itself.

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