There are only a few things you need to develop your black and white film at home. Against popular beliefs, you won’t need a darkroom, only a little bit of space and running water. The whole setup will cost around $100-$150, much less on the used market. In the long run you will save a lot of time & money developing your own film, not to mention full control over the quality of your negatives…
What you need – from left to right
1.) measuring cup (ideally one for each chemistry)
2.) storage bottles
3.) film developer, stop bath and fixer (brand of your choice)
5.) darkroom thermometer
6.) developing tank & film reel
7.) small graduate
10.) film retriever or can opener
11.) changing bag
now, let’s get started – you have exposed your b/w film and take it out of the camera… usually you would take it to the lab and anxiuosly wait a few days to get it from the lab. From now on you will get a hold of your black and white film within less than an hour or so.
First, you’ll want to retrieve the film leader out of of the film canister – old school shooters use can openers, I highly recommend a Hakuba film picker.
In order to load your film on the reel, you will need to cut off the narrow part of the
round the corners with scissors to make sure the film loads safely on the reel
It’s time to break out the changing bag – for the next few minutes, you’ll need the sensitivity of your fingertips only – yepp, basically you’re blind, everything is happening in the bag. Place your roll of film and the developing canister, including the lid, the film reel and the stem into the changing bag.
***film, canister and your hands are in the changing bag***
position the film in the first groove of the reel… I prefer to use the Jobo plastic reels
hold the film with your left thumb and advance with your right thumb, move forward until the whole roll of film is on the reel, rip the film off it’s spool and put the film canister aside (in the changing bag)
position the holder in the reel
place the loaded reel and stem into the developing tank
finally it’s time to get out of the sweaty changing bag – close the developing tank tight and take it out of the bag.
*** we’re out of the changing bag ***
it’s time to get the chemicals up to spec, mix the developer, fixer and stop bath according to the manufacturer’s specifications (the old dogs have ’em prepared already :P). Get the temperature right – 68°F (20°C) is standard. At higher temperatures, more contrast and grain will develop.
1st pour the developer in the tank
Always agitate slowly. For right now, use the manufacturer’s developing time and agitate according to their recommendations. Later on, you might want to experiment with these times. Developing time controls the shadows and agitation controls grain and contrast. Different developers and film combinations give you a different look of your negatives. I prefer Kodak Tri-X as my standard film and develop it in Ilford DD-X @ ISO 400. For ISO 800 and 1600 I either use Ilford Microphen or Diafine, both are speed enhancing developers for push process.
Once the developing is done, you can dispose the developer – many developers are one-shot developers only, so they have to go after use. Some developers -like Diafine- can be used over and over, so that would go back in the bottle.
*repeat the process with the stop bath and the fixer (no pictures here)*
Wash your film under running water for 5-10 minutes, discard the water in the tank often.
an alternative method to save water: fill the tank with fresh water, invert 5 times, discard the water and fill the tank again with fresh water. Turn 10 times and discard, fill again and turn 20 times, one final wash. This process takes less time and saves gallons of water.
Take the reel out of the canister and spool your film off the reel, soak it for a few seconds in water with a drop of dishwashing liquid. Some people use Hypoclear, which does the same thing – both prevent water stains on the negative.
Wipe the water residue off your negative strip with a film squeegee
Hang your film on a line in a dust-free room (the shower is a good place – close the curtain) and let it dry for some time. Use a clip at the bottom as well, to prevent curling of your film.
After the film is dry, cut it in strips of 5 or 6 negatives and store it in archival sleeves. The negatives are ready for printing or scanning.
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A collection of New York black-and-white street photography from 2003-2013