10 steps to develop black and white film at home

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Once again, I developed a black/white film, a Tmax 400. As you properly know, I started shooting in the middle of the 00’s, when it was all digital. So it is only now that I have started analogue photography (and development). To set the record straight, I would mention what is needed to develop black and white film at home.

• A developer tank

• Thermometer

• Chemicals (developer and fixer)

• Darkroom changing bag

• Measuring cups (x5)

• Clothes Pegs

Now you are good to go.

1. Select a developer

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I have developed a few films before and in the beginning, I used a cheap developer. That works okay, but when you dive into the analogue development process, you will find that the developer is almost everything. So now I have changed my developer to Ridonal after much research on the internet. As far as I am informed it should be the best developer for creating contrasts in black and white film, which I am a big fan of.

2. Wind the film onto the reel

First of all you need to rewind the film in the camera and then remove it. Afterwards you put the film, the developer tank, a knife (to open the film cassette) and a scissor into the darkroom changing bag. The bag is light proof, so you can safely take the film out, and wind it onto the drum. Once it is done and you have closed the developer tank properly, you can open the bag.

3. Mix the chemicals


My advice for everyone, is to mix the chemicals in advance. In this way you are well prepared, and don’t have to temper water, in the middle of the process. It can be difficult to achieve the exact temperature directly from the water tap. As a backup I always have some cold water in the fridge, so I'm sure I can get the wanted temperature.

Most mixing ratios can be read directly on the bottle. In my case with Rodinal, they suggest from 1/25 up to 1/100, but then it is about figuring out what to use. The way I decided what ratio to use, was to read forums on the internet, and what they suggested. I ended up using a ratio of 1/100. On the bottom of the developing tank the ideal amount of water required to cover a roll of film is stated. In my case with 35mm film, the total amount is 300ml. So the chemical mixing ratio is calculated as following 300/25 = 12. Rewritten:

288 ml of water at 24 degrees and 12 ml developer.

For stop bath I used normal tap water and it worked just fine. The fixer itself is a noname that I have always used. The way you determine the fixer ratio, is the same as for the developer. On the bottle it said ¼, so the formula is 300/4 = 75.

300 ml water at 24 degrees Celsius water, for the stop bath.

225 ml of water at 24 degrees Celsius and 75 ml of Fixer.

4. Rinse the film before starting

Before you pour the chemicals into the developer tank, it is best to wash the film. The reason why you do so, is to rinse the worst chemicals off, so the developer responds better to the film itself.

5. Developing your film

Pour the developer in the tank for 8 minutes and inverse the tank constantly for the first minute, and 4 inversions every minute. After 8 minutes, the developer is poured back into the bottle from which it came from.

6. Stop bathing and fixer

Pour the stop bath (300ml tap water) into the developer tank. Let it rest for a single 1 minute while the tank is tipped constantly. After 1 minute, the stop bath is poured back into the bottle it came from.

You’re almost done. Now you must pour the fixer into the developer tank. The timeframe for this is 3 minutes, with 10 inversions every 30 seconds. When time has elapsed, and it is done, pour the fixer back into the bottle where it came from.

7. Rinse the film a last time

Finally, we must rinse the film one more time to clean it for chemical residues. Some say you must use demineralized water to avoid lime stains. I have tried both, and I have never got lime stains on the negatives. So, I use regular tap water.

Fill a bottle with 1 liter of water. Fill the developing tank, so the film is covered by water, and do 10 inversions and pour it out. Repeat this process until have you used all the water in the bottle. Now the film has been developed and must be dried.

8. Hang it to dry

Before the film can be scanned it must be dried. This is done by hanging it to dry. The clothe pegs I used for the film, is not the ones designed for film, but the ones designed for my laundry. They work just fine! On the other hand, I have bought a film squeegee to wipe off the water. It may also be why I do not get lime stains as it removes most of the extra water. I always let them hang for a good while, 30-45 mins, so I'm sure they are dry.

9. Scan the movie / digitize the film

How to make the movie digital again? Scan it.
It can be done in many ways, for example, photographing the negatives back illuminated or scan them. I have bought a used Canon scanner so I can scan multiple negatives at once. And then I've invested in VueScan. Once scanned, I send them through photoshop and remove the last dust, adjust the light a little, and add some sharpness.

10. Print

Since I have not figured out how to produce paper prints the old-fashioned way, I still print them on a modern printer. Why print them? Because I think the photo should not stay on the computer. It is made to be seen on print.


The result