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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
With a scissors, square off the lead end
of the film.
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.
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
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.)
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
At the end of the developing time, pour
out the developer.
Pour in the correctly measured volume of
stop bath. Agitate gently for about 15 seconds and then pour out.
Fill in the tank with fixer solution and
set the timer for the maximum recommended fixing time according to the
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
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
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
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
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.