Film processing
Film processing
Film processing

This is How You Process Black and White Film

If you’ve got your chemistry, your equipment, and your exposed film, now you’re ready to process black and white film! You can check out our guide to all the things you will need to start processing your own film if you haven’t.

Load the film

Let’s start with loading the film. This needs to be done in complete darkness. If you have a dark room thats perfect, to make things easy in the dark, lay your developing tank out in front of  you with the lid off and the reel removed. If you don’t have a dark space, you can use a changing bag for this step, just place all the bits inside the changing bag. You will also need a film canister opener (for 35mm), some scissors and your film.

If you are using a changing bag, with all the stuff inside, close both zips and put you arms inside the sleeves. The cuffs should be tight enough around you arms to prevent any light getting in. If you are in a dark room, just turn off the lights.

Now open your film. Use an opener on 35mm to remove the top ring of the film canister and pull out the wound roll of film. Carefully cut the the tongue of the film, leaving you with a straight edge that goes all the way across the surface. 120 film will unwind easily once you break the seal.

Now pick up the reel and make sure you can feel both notches on the outer edge are aligned. You then need to slide the end of the film under the two notches until you feel it catch the sprocket holes. If the film has gone in straight you will be able to turn both sides of the reel in an alternate back and forth motion, which will move the film along as you go.

We would definitely recommend getting some exposed film to try this out in the light for the first time. Once you get the hang of it you’ll be loading the reels without thinking, but it can be tricky the first time.

Once the film is on the reel you need to put it inside the tank. After the reel is in put the lid on and turn it until it locks in place. You’re developing tank is now light tight and it’s safe to turn the lights on, or take the tank out of the changing bag.

Mix up your chemistry

The specifics of this will depend on which chemicals you have chosen. You can usually find the dilution ratio for chemistry on its label. With this you can work out how much you will need in relation to water. You will need 300ml of developer, stop and fix per 35mm film, and 500ml per 120 film.

So say your developer has a dilution ratio of 1+9 and you have one 35mm film to develop. You would divide 300ml by 10 (the total of 1+9), and this would tell you you need to mix 30ml of developer with 270ml of water. Repeat this for the three different chemicals.

Each chemical will also give you the time it takes to work and temperature it works best at.When processing black and white film the standard temperature is 20°. It’s best to get your water to the right temperature first, then add in the chemistry. If you find it is warmer or cooler than it should be once mixed up just sit your jug in warm water to heat it up or cold water to cool it down.

If you’ve got three jugs you can mix up your developer, stop bath and fixer so they are all ready to go.

Develop Black and White film

You’re now ready to develop your film. Every film and developer combination has a specific developing time so make sure you know exactly how long your film will need. Set a timer going (a clock or your phone works fine for this) and slowly pour the developer into the central funnel of the processing tank. Once it is all in securely fit the flat lid.

Throughout development you will need to agitate the tank. This makes sure the film gets evenly developed. Agitate by turning the tank upside down, then back up again. Do this for the duration of the first minute. Once the minute is up bang the bottom of the tank against a hard surface. This will dislodge any air bubbles on the film.Continue agitating for the first 10-15 seconds of each minute until the full development time has passed.

This is the standard agitation, but some developers may have instructions for other methods. After some experimenting you can find the one that works best for the results you’re after.

As the development time nears the end get ready to pour out your developer. A one-shot developer, such as should be discarded. Reusable developer can be put into a airtight plastic bottle to be used again.

Stop

Now quickly pour in the diluted stop bath. This will completely stop the development. Agitate the stop for a minute and pour back in to a storage bottle. Stop can be reused many times.

Fix your film

Next pour in your fix and again agitate for the first minute. Fixing will take up to about 5 minutes. Fix can be used again so pour it out into a bottle once the film is fully fixed. About half way though fixing the film will be safe to look at in the light if you can’t wait to see it. Make sure you give it the full time though.

Wash and hang up to dry

Now the film is fixed you need to  wash it. Just leave the tank under running water for 10-20 minutes.

When the film is has been through the wash, fill the tank with water and put a couple of drops of wetting agent in. Leave to soak for a minute then hang up to dry.

You can use your fingers, chamois leather or squeegees to wipe the excess water from the film before hanging up to dry.

That is all there is too it. You should now be able to see your fully developed film. If you have had any problems feel free to contact us and we will try work out what went wrong.