Over three years ago when I first dove into film photography and the related development process I wrote an article, The Developing Process. In that time I have adjusted some of the basic techniques a bit and have changed my materials as well.
Last time was just a list of steps, this is perhaps less useful as a guide to others getting started in film developing, so I will this time begin with materials.
- Developing Tank Kit (Tank, reel, light-proof funnel, lid)
- Scissors and bottle opener
- Weighted Film Hangars
- Beakers (500mL is adequate for a single roll)
- Mixed developer (I suggest Ilford ID-11 or another high-quality developer)
- Fixer (I use Ilford’s Rapid Fix Non-Hardening)
- Stop Bath (optional, but recommended, I use IlfoStop)
- Wetting Agent (optional, but I use Kodak PhotoFlo)
- Clock with seconds (or an iOS or Android device loaded with DigitalTruth’s Massive Dev Chart Timer)
- Thermometer for developer
- Set up tank (cleaned), reel, bottle opener, film and scissors in light-proof room
- Turn off the lights
- Open film canister and gently remove film roll
- Cut off half-width leader on front of roll
- Load film on to reel
- Cut end of film off of the roll
- Insert reel into tank
- Insert center column and funnel
- Lid tank tightly
- Turn lights back on
- Load the developer in the tank. Start developer timer.
- Determine the developer time by a chart provided by the developer maker or film maker
- Time the developer based on film type and temperature of the developer bath
- At end of time, empty developer.
- Pour in stop bath solution
- Agitate for about 1 minute
- Some guides suggest pre-rinsing film, I do not, as it saturates the film and may alter development times.
- Pour in fixer (1:4 mix for Illford Rapid)
- Fix for 5 – 10 minutes, agitate for 10 seconds every minute
- Empty tank
- Wash film for 5-10 minutes by allowing running water to flow into and out of the tank
- A film washing hose can introduce pressure to the process and ensure a more thorough wash.
- Mix a drop of wetting agent with enough water for the tank
- Pour in wetting solution, agitate for 30 seconds, dump.
- Remove funnel from tank. Remove reel from tank.
- Pull end of roll free from reel and attach the weighted hangar
- Gently pull remainder of the roll free from the reel
- Clamp non-weighted hangar to front of the roll
- Hang to let dry (usually overnight works well)
At this point I typically make Chris cut my film into strips of 5, and then I scan them to digital, but more adventurous people are free to make contact sheets or produce enlargements.
About Reusing Chemicals
- Most developers discourage reuse, so do I. Use it once, then toss it, its not worth it to have developer you can’t trust
- Until recently I did not reuse fixer, but now I do. When developing multiple rolls close together (same day or few day period), I will reuse my working-strength fixer.
- Stop Bath is usually “indicator stop bath”, if its yellow, you are good to go, if it starts to change colors, toss it. It dies with the absorption of developer, but it will let you know when.
- Wetting Agent – it takes about an eye-dropper of wetting agent per roll. I toss used wetting agent mixtures.
- Most fixers no longer contain “hypo”, and thus, there is no need for a hypo-clearing agent
- Wetting agent is nice to help the film dry, but film isn’t ruined without it
- Stop Bath completely stops development, I recommend it for beginners as it gives a measure of safety to the process
- If using the DigtalTruth Massive Dev chart app, it will walk you through most of the steps, including when to agitate and when to not agitate.