This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
This post is the first in a series where I will talk about developing film at home. In today’s post I will show how I get the film into the light proof developing tank. Future posts will talk about the actual processing. I developed my first roll of black and white film over 20 years ago and my process hasn’t changed much since then. I should point out that this is how I do it. Different people will have different methods but the one presented here works for me.
This is what I use:1 dark changing bag 1 developing tank
1 film retriever 1 scissors A few things to note here: First of all, my method uses a film retriever. A lot of people don’t use this and I will talk about the alternative later. Secondly, all of this is laid out on my kitchen table in daylight. In other words, none of this is being done in a dark room or light proof closet. Let’s take a closer look at the developing tank, shown here taken apart.
At the front is the reel. This reel is a plastic “auto-load” reel. It is called an “auto-load” because film is held on the reel by two small ball bearings and it “walks” automatically onto the reel as the sides are ratcheted back and forth. At the back is the tank itself and to the right is the top of the tank. To the left is a cylindrical tube which will be inserted into the middle of the reel. When the reel and tube are placed into the tank, the funnel part of the top fits into this tube providing a method of introducing chemicals into the tank while maintaining a light tight environment.
On the left is the tank lid which stops the chemicals from spilling when you invert the tank. I’ll talk about using chemicals for the actual processing in a later blog post. Some people use stainless steel reels and tanks but I have never used such equipment so I cannot comment on them.
Loading the Film Onto The Reel
As I said earlier, I use a film retriever as part of my method so the first thing I do is use the retriever to pull out the film leader from the 35mm cannister. The reason why I do this is that I like to start my film on the reel in daylight so I can see what is going on. Alternative Method – As I stated earlier, not everyone uses this method. The more traditional way is to start the film onto the reel in the dark.
There are different types of retrievers so I won’t go into details on how to use them here but you should follow the instructions that came with your retriever.
. cut off the narrow part of the leader.To make it easier to load the film onto the reel.
I also cut two slight diagonals into the film at the end to make it even easier to load. . Once that is done you are ready to start the film onto the plastic reel.
Warning: At this point we are only starting the film onto the reel. Do not allow more than a few inches of film to come out of the cannister or you will fog the first shot or two. .
Alternative Method . . In that case you will extract the film from the cannister by first opening the cannister. Once that is done you can put the reel with the film attached into the changing bag.If you are not starting the film in daylight. you will need to do all of the above in the dark changing bag.Insert the film into the spiral on the reel and make sure it catches in the ball bearings that are on either side of the reel. A bottle opener can be used for that. You will then trim the end of the film leader in the dark bag using a scissors and then start the film on the reel as I have shown above.
Next you will put the rest of the equipment you need into the changing bag. . So there is less clutter I assemble the tank first. That means you need to put in the tank and the rest of its parts.
Next zip up the bag.You can also put a scissors into the tank if you plan to cut the film off the 35mm spool later. .
Stick your arms into the “sleeves” of the bag and you are now ready to load the film onto the reel. .Most bags are double lined so there will be at least two zips. The inside of the bag is now lightproof.
. I pull some of the film out of the cannister. that wouldn’t make for interesting photographs so for the next few photos I am using a black background to signify that this is inside the bag. First of all. I don’t pull it all out since inside the bag it is tidier if remains in the cannister until it goes on the reel. Obviously.Working In The Dark Warning: The next few steps take place inside the bag in complete darkness.
To load the “Auto-load” reel. you ratchet one side back and forth and the film will automatically wind onto the reel. I recommend going slow at first to make sure it is loading properly. Remember all of this is now in the dark so you are going by touch. .
ratchet a little more to get the end of the film onto the reel. After the film is detached from the spool. . I usually do the latter. At this point you will need to disconnect the film from the 35mm spool. You can either use a scissors (assuming you have one in the bag) or you can just pull the film off the spool with a little force.Pull out more film from the cannister and load onto the reel and continue until all of the film is out of the cannister.
Now you need to thread the center tube into the center of the reel. . It doesn’t matter which way up the reel is but make sure to push the tube all the way until it stops.
You must make sure that the reel is at the bottom of the tank so that when you later pour in chemicals. .Now put the reel and tube into the tank. it is completely immersed.
Screw on the top of the tank. It should make a click when it is on all the way. .
You can now remove the tank from the bag and bring it into daylight for processing. .
If this happens. If things appear to be going wrong in the bag it is easy to start getting stressed and frustrated. When you come back to it. You can reuse your sacrificial roll over and over until you get the loading down. I used a 35mm roll but the process is similar with 120 medium format. The only difference is that you can’t pre-load 120 film in daylight so everything is done inside the bag. In this example. Don’t forget to also insert the center tube to keep everything light tight.If you are not going to process right away I’d recommend putting the lid on the tank since it is possible some light may get in over time. . Sacrifice a roll of film and practice everything in daylight until it is all second nature. gather up the film in the bag and put it into the tank with the top on. But with a little practice it will become second nature. And that’s how I load a roll of film onto a reel. everything may just fit into place. Tips For Beginners. Then take a break for a few minutes.
In this post. Processing Overview To process the film these are the steps I follow:1. I may have left something out so please let me know in the comments if something is not clear. a Stop Bath is used. Fix 4. Stop Bath – To prevent continuing development. My changing bag works for 120 but it is a little small. Development 2. Make sure you know how your equipment works. The chemical used in this step is called a Developer. Wash 5.You may find it easier to load a 120 roll in a lightproof closet compared to a changing bag. Here you will find nearly all film/developer combinations. Wetting agent 6. everything will be easy once you start to load film blind. Once again if you practice with it. the developer needs to be agitated periodically so that fresh chemicals are adjacent to the film. Developing Film Part 2 – Process Overview and Equipment This post is part 2 in my Developing Film series. I will give an overview of the process of developing film and will briefly go through the chemicals and equipment required. Color processing is slightly different and is something I do not have any experience with. . Instructions come with each developer listing recommended development times for various common films but a greater resource exists in the Massive Dev Chart online. the latent image on the negative is converted to a visible image. this post is for black and white film processing. The amount of time the film is processed in this step depends on the type of developer and film being used. Also. There are many different kinds of developer from many different manufacturers. You may have a different tank than me so read the instructions before starting. Dry Development – In this step. The next post in the series will then show the process in action. This is usually done by inverting the tank a few times every 30 seconds or every 1 minute. Some people use water instead of chemicals in this step. This is usually a very diluted solution of acetic acid or citric acid. You can read part 1 here where I go through putting your exposed film into a developing tank. Stop bath 3. During development.
Fix – Up to this point. It is best to dilute right before processing since it last longer when stored in its concentrate form. Every so often I test how good the fixer is by putting a snipped off film leader into some of the fixer. Wetting Agent – This is an optional step. This can be reused multiple times. the tank is filled with water and inverted 5 times. I also helps reduce the formation of water marks than can occur during drying. this developer comes in a highly concentrated form which must be diluted before use. In this method. The amounts of this stuff you use is so minute that I think the bottle I have will outlast me. Fresh water is then used and the process repeated for 10 inversions and 20 inversions. It will change color when it is exhausted but as far as I can tell it lasts for a very long time without needing to be replaced. This is a “one shot” developer so is discarded after use. The film is removed from the developing reel and hung up to dry. Equipment In addition to the chemicals. When fresh. Dry – The film is obviously still wet so needs to be dried before it can be printed or scanned. What you use is a personal preference but this is a list of what I am using these days. Here a very small amount of surfactant is added to water. With black and white there is some leeway but it is best to have the developer at the recommended temperature. Wash – During this step. This helps the film shed water faster and helps speed up drying. the film is washed to remove any traces of chemicals which can harm the archival properties of the film. the developing tank can be opened and the film can now be exposed to light. . Thermometer – Most developing times are listed for 20 deg C (68 deg F) so the temperature of the chemicals is important. In the US. this fixer can fix film in about 2 minutes but as it gets depleted it can take about 5 minutes to adequately fix the film. Once the drying is complete. I time how long it takes for the film to become clear and will then use twice that time for my fix. Chemicals I Currently Use There are many different chemical manufacturers and each manufacturer may have different chemical product lines with different properties. Developer – At the moment I am using Kodak HC-110. This stop bath can be reused many times. the film is still light sensitive so a Fixer is used to make the image permanent. Fixer – Right now I am using Ilford Rapid Fixer. Dust is your enemy now so the place being used must be relatively dust free. some equipment is needed. Wetting Agent – I use Kodak Photo Flo. After this step is complete. Washing can be achieved by using running water for 5 to 10 minutes or by using the “Ilford Method” which uses less water. the negatives can be cut into strips and stored in a plastic negative sleeve. Stop Bath – For the stop bath I am using Kodak Indicator Stop Bath.
Where to Buy It is getting more difficult to find chemicals at local photography stores but some still carry some limited supplies. Because many people have switched to digital. Stirring Rod – To mix the chemicals you will need something to stir with. The containers should be opaque and be rated for chemical storage to avoid spoiling or leaking.com/applications/page.ilfordphoto.asp?n=9 Developing Film Part 3 – Processing Details . I use my cylinders to hold the chemicals while I am processing but some people use dedicated beakers for this. But if there is nothing suitable Fresstyle also carries a huge selection of supplies. Film Clip – These are small metal clips that are used to hang up the film to dry. When I started developing many years ago I used clothes pins to hang up the film. Storage Bottles – Some chemicals are “one shots” so will be mixed before use and discarded after. it is possible to buy the equipment needed on eBay or Craigslist for real cheap so it is worth doing a some searches online.wikipedia. However. References http://en. Negative Sleeves – These sleeves store the negatives with cut into strips of 6. I use a 50 ml one for measuring out small amounts of chemicals (like the developer) and I have a few more ranging from 300 ml to 1200 ml for the other chemicals. You can read my review of that application here. It is best to use bottles specifically designed for photographic chemicals. I actually use the Massive Dev Chart iPhone app which contains the film/developer database and has a built in timer. I actually use my thermometer for this because mine is a dial type thermometer with a long metal rod that is inserted in the liquid. If you are using a glass thermometer it is probably not recommended to stir with it. The Details In the next post.Graduated Cylinders – You will need a few of these. Stopwatch – You need some way to time each of the steps so a stopwatch or clock is required. My local store only carries a few brands and not the ones I use so I buy my chemicals at Freestyle Photographic Supplies.org/wiki/Photographic_processing http://www. some can be reused many times so you will need some containers to store them. I will go through the development process that I follow in detail.
Wash 4. One thing to note is that all of this is done in my kitchen in daylight. Dry Other photographers may follow a slightly different process and with time you will develop a method that suits you. I recommend you first read the first two parts if you have not done so already. There is a misconception that you need a darkroom to develop film. Any place with running water will suffice.This post is the last part in a 3 part series I am doing on developing film at home. Before reading this post. . Step 1 – Preparation The first thing to get is to get all of your equipment and chemicals ready to use. Development 3. Preparation 2. Developing Film Part 1 – Loading The Tank Developing Film Part 2 – Process Overview and Equipment Process Overview 1.
With . An important thing to note is that you will need to ensure the temperature of the chemicals and water are close to the recommended temperature. Since I use Kodak HC-110 developer.a) Mix any chemicals that need to be mixed or diluted. In most cases this is 20 degree C (68 degree F). this means I mix 9ml of concentrate with 291ml of water. I will first mix the concentrate with water in one of my graduated cylinders. These chemicals are stored in pre-mixed form so no further preparation is required. I also lay out cylinders with stop bath and fixer. For 35mm film I use 300ml of developer so for “dilution B”.
black and white film development the tolerances allow for you to be off a few degrees but it is good practice to aim for the right temperature. I use the iPhone app Massive Dev Chart App but any clock will do. However. . “room temperature” in my house is around 20 degrees C so there isn’t anything special I need to do to maintain the correct temperature. b) Prepare the timer you will use to time each of the steps. during the summer the house is a bit warmer so I will put each of the cylinders in a water bath to keep them around 20 degrees. In the winter.
stop and fix times for the chemicals you are using.Make sure you know the development. Stop and fix times will normally be written on the packaging and if you are not using an automated timer like the .
Repeat this every minute until the end of the developing time. the film is normally fixed in about 3 minutes but I normally fix for 5 minutes. Read the information that came with the chemicals. The actual fixing time will depend on the fixer being used. j) Repeat this agitation every minute until the end of the fixing time. Set the tank down on the counter. g) Pour in the fixer and agitate for 1 minute. There are many different agitation techniques. One is to use a rod to rotate the reel in the tank but more common method is to invert the tank and bring it back right side up. i) Every minute after the first. c) At the end of the first minute. Put the top lid back on the tank. c) Of course you also need your developing tank with the unprocessed film already loaded. Pour out the stop bath.Massive Dev Chart app. . When fresh. Step 2 – Development Once everything is in place. Some people do it at twice this rate. Note: here I agitate continuously for the first minute. Step 3 – Wash The film is now developed and fixed and can be exposed to daylight. Some people just agitate for a few seconds initially. gently tap the tank on the counter to dislodge any air bubbles from the sides of the film. b) Gently agitate the tank for 1 minute. agitate gently for around 10 seconds and tap the tank to remove the bubbles. a) Pour the developer into the developing tank and start your timer. The reason for agitation is to ensure fresh developer is in contact with the film during the process. You don’t want to over-agitate the chemicals. Pour out the fixer. A key thing is to do this gently. you are ready to start developing. Note: the actual stop time will depend on the stop bath chemicals you are using. gently tap the tank on the counter to dislodge the bubbles and set the tank down on the counter. pour out the developer. I normally invert the tank and return it upright once every 5 seconds. I use Ilford Rapid Fixer. Note: Whether you discard or keep and reuse the chemicals depends on the chemical being used. agitate by inverting the tank four times. f) Pour in the stop bath. h) At the end of the first minute. put on the lid and agitate for about 30 to 45 seconds. d) Every minute after the first. e) A few seconds before the end of the developing time. you can find the developing times for your film/developer combination on the Massive Dev Chart website.
The next step is to wash the film to remove any remnants of the fixer and other chemicals. There are two main methods for washing film. The first is to run fresh water into the tank (at 20 deg C) for 5 to .
10 minutes. . The second method. sometimes called ”The Ilford Method” is the one I use and is described here.
The key thing about this step is that dust is now your enemy. fill with fresh water and invert 10 times. I usually dry my film in the bathroom. . b) Empty the tank. invert the tank 5 times. you will need to dry the film. I run the shower for about a minute before hanging the film.a) Fill the tank with 20 deg C water and with the lid on. d) Add wetting agent like Kodak Photo Flo to the tank and allow to sit for 30 seconds. To reduce dust (expecially in the summer). Drain the tank. c) Empty the tank. Step 4 – Dry Lastly. fill with fresh water and invert 20 times.
b) Using a film clip (or clothes pin) hang the film somewhere dry and dust free.a) Remove the film from the reel. .
How long the film takes to dry depends on the environment but you can periodically check the film by touching the bottom of the film (nearest the ground since this will dry last) where there are no images. Rushing the drying may result in damaged or dusty negatives. If you have any questions or better methods add them in the comments. If you are in a hurry you can use a hair dryer on the lowest setting but I don’t recommend that. I know the anticipation can be really strong but relax and wait. . If it is sticky or damp. Other people may use different techniques. wait a little longer. cut it into strips and put into a negative holder to keep the film dust free. d) Once the film is dry. I use my fingers but you can use special film squeegee. Putting damp negatives into a negative holder is a recipe for disaster.c) You may want to squeegee the film the remove excess water. Conclusion The process presented here is how I develop my film.