So I finally got round to doing something I have planned to do since I first got a roll of film back from the lab, Theres only one thing that beats the excitement of seeing your pictures for the first time, Thats seeing them for the first time after you have developed them yourself. No matter how much you read on the web it is not as complicated as some people can make out, Everyone knows that photographers do like to geek out on stuff like this. I wanted to do a write up of the process I used and the lessons I learnt. Firstly let me say that the process I describe in this post is just the way I developed my first roll after researching it from various sources. There are many other options and I bet this process will be tweaked over time and practise. Also this is a very minimal way of going around the process, it is possible to add extra steps and more complicated equipment but this is here for anyone wanting to try a simple way to develop there film at home on a budget.
Before we get started theres a small selection of things you’re going need to process your film, And like I mentioned earlier this is about as minimal you can get to still produce good results. Here is a short list of the equpitment and what it is used for;
- Developing tank – This is where the magic happens. You have to load the film onto the spool in complete darkness but once the first lid is shut it is light tight and allows the chemistry to be pour in and out in the daylight without exposing the film. There are a few different brands but the are all based on a similar design and will include instructions for loading
- Changing bag – Using a changing bag to load the film into the tank reduces the need to make a darkroom, although for my first roll I didn’t have one of this so I loaded the film in the darkest room of my house at night inside an old jacket, and that seemed to have worked but a bag would’ve made it much simpler.
- Scissors – For cutting the leader of your film if developing 35mm, and for trimming negatives for storage once you’ve finished.
- 3 glass bottles – I used some brown glass bottles to make a litre of each chemical at a time and store them, the brown glass stops the chemicals going off.
- 3 measuring jugs 500ml – I used 500ml glass measuring jugs as thats the amount it takes to fill my developing tank, that way i had the exact right amount of each chemical ready for when i needed it.
- Thermometer – A simple chefs thermometer does the job of checking that your chemistry is at the right temperature before starting.
- 2 pegs or film clips – After you have completed the development and wash you will need to hang your film in a dust free space for at least 1 hour, add a weight to the bottom peg to hang the film straight.
- Stopwatch or smartphone – Simply for timing each step of the process, I just the stopwatch in my mobile phone.
- Chemicals – There a 3 main chemicals you will need for the process and here is what I used. I have also included the optional last chemical.
1. Developer – Ilford Id11 (came as 2 part powder that just had to be diluted into 1 litre of warm water. This chemical can only be used once)
2. Stop bath – Ilford Ilfostop ( This liquid dilutes 1:19 with water. I made up a litre and this is reusable for quite a few developments)
3. Fixer – Ilford Rapid fixer (Another liquid chemical that dilutes 1:4. Also reusable)
4. Wetting agent – Kodak Photoflo (This is optional but reduces risks of getting water spots on your negatives when dry, especially useful if you live in a hardware area)
Once you have collected all the items together you need to find a suitable place to turn into a makeshift photo lab, the best solution is either your kitchen or bathroom. Although not very glamorous they will have the necessary running water, sink and dust free hanging area. Showers are great for this as the steam from using your shower keeps it very dust free, I processed my film in my kitchen sink and then hung it up to dry overnight from my shower rail. This meant washing up was easy and my negatives remained dust free. Now for the fun stuff.
Step 1 – Loading the film – As described earlier I used a dark room and a heavy jacket in order to load my film onto the spool and into the tank, but you could also use a changing bag. Practise really is key here, I practised loading an old roll again and again so I knew I was comfortable loading the film without looking at it. I found a great tutorial on loading a spool on this blog HERE so I won’t cover that too in-depth.
Step 2 – Measuring chemicals – For this step I simply measured out 500ml of the pre diluted Developer, Stop and fixer into beakers that were clearly marked (you don’t want to get the wrong order). And then place the beakers in a dish of warmish water, you want all three chemicals to be at 20 degrees celsius when you start developing so keep an eye on the thermometer and adjust the water tempteraure if needed. You can see from the picture below that it you don’t need a large space for this to work.
Step 3 – Develop – Every developer reacts slightly differently with different films and the times for develop change accordingly. This information is usually on the packaging of your developer. I knew that with Ilford Id11 and Kodak Tri-x 400 iso it would take 7.30 mins with agitation every 30 secs. Agitation simply involves turning the tank slowly upside down and back again for about 10 seconds and then tap it on the work surface. We do this so the chemical doesn’t sit next to the same bit of film and lose its effectiveness, and the tap dislodges bubbles. When you are nearing the end of you 7.30 mins get ready to pour out the Developer this usually takes about 15 secs. It can be poured down the sink.
Step 4 – Stop bath – The same as with developer each stop bath has different timing. Using Ilfostop the recommended time is 10-15 secs. So as soon as your developer is out pour in the stop bath and close the lid, I then agitated slowly and constantly for 15 secs and then pour the stop bath back, remembering that its reusable.
Step 5 – Fixer – Ilford rapid fixer needs 4-5 mins to work with agitation every 30 seconds. I poured mine back into the bottle after 4 mins.
Step 6 – Wash – For the wash I took the lid of the tank and ran the film under a cold tap for 10 mins to make sure all of the chemicals had been cleaned of. Your film is now ready to be pulled gently out of the spool and you can inspect you handy work. I soaked it in water with a drop of Photoflood for 30 secs after the wash to make sure it was all extra clean.
Step 7 – Drying – You will need to hang up your film for at least 1 hour to dry before you can do anything with it. Like I mentioned earlier i hung mine from my shower curtain using two clothes pegs (1 with a weight on) to reduce the chance of dust landing on the film strip.
After your film has dried there are different options of what to do next, filing, scanning or darkroom enlarging…. But firstly you should pat yourself on the back for developing your first roll of film.
As soon as I can get my negatives scanned properly I will write a small post with all of the images i got. I hope you found this helpful, please drop any questions in the comments below. Thanks for reading.
This was just the process that worked for me on my first go but I cannot promise that i will be the same for you, Always check the manufactures suggestions.
I purchased all of my chemicals from AG Photographic, I have no affilliation to them but they had a great range of products, reasonable price and very fast postage so I would recommend checking them out.Tags: black and white, bromica, developing, film