If I can do it you can too – how I develop B&W film at home.

I have had a few people ask me how I develop film, so I thought it would write a blog post about it. I realize that there are dozens of blog posts on this process, and each person has their own way of doing this. As you develop your own film at home you will find our own way of doing it that works for you. And the way I do it is probably the easiest and laziest because I haven’t moved on to more intricate methods. But maybe you are just getting into film photography and haven’t ventured in this realm yet. Maybe, since the new year is beginning in two days, you want to try something new. Then this is the blog post for you!

I am writing this for the person who who hasn’t a clue about how to get started. This is where I was when this whole film photography adventure began. I thought about it so much that I talked myself out of it and it became this big scary thing. It took me years to finally gather the courage to develop film at home. YEARS. I had to take a class first to get up the courage to do it by myself.  I am here to tell you that it is not at all scary and it is so cheap that it is crazy to not do this yourself, given the cost to have a lab develop Black and White film. A lab would do exactly what you will do at home (this is why it is so costly to have them do it – they do not use fancy machines to develop B&W – it’s all done by hand).

 

At the end I will post a list of the supplies that I use – which is the very bare minimum.

A lot of people think that they need a darkened room to develop film. This is false. You could use a completely darkened room or you could use a dark bag to load your film into a tank. I use a dark bag to load my film. I prefer steel reels and tanks (as opposed to plastic) because I find it much easier to load film on steel reels. This is a matter of opinion though! In the dark bag you will need something to pry the top of the film canister off – like a bottle opener. You will also need a pair of scissors, as well as your tank and reels.

When you have the top of the film canister pried off and the film out of the canister, you cut the film so that the end is straight. If you are using 120 film, simply separate the paper from the film.

It might take a few tries to get it right! This is the hardest part.

I found this video helpful when I was learning how to load film on my reels.

I like to use a 32oz tank – I’ll save up my film so I can get 4 35mm (or 2 120) to a tank. I stand develop and it’s best to use a 32oz tank for this because you are mixing up such a small amount of developer.

Once you have your film in the tank and the top of the tank on it,  it is safe to be in the light. So I take the tank to the bathroom where I have everything set up and ready to go.

I have a gallon jug of water under the sink that I keep filled and it’s always at room temperature. I start by using this water to soak the film for 5 minutes. Use a 32 oz graduated cylinder to measure out the water and then use it to to fill up your 32oz tank.

While that is soaking I mix up the developer. I use Adox Rodinol and since I stand develop I use a very small amount.  Measure 10 ML of developer (I use one of these to measure such a small amount). Pour your developer in the 32oz cylinder and fill it up the rest of the way with water from your gallon jug. When the 5 minute soaking time is over, pour out the water that is in your developing tank and fill it up with the developer mixture. Agitate the tank by turning it upside down slowly 20 times and then set it on the counter for an hour. Pour it out down the sink when the hour is up.

After developing I like to fill the tank up with water and pour it out three times to give it a good rinse. Then it’s time for the fixer. Fix for 5 minutes.  I like to agitate for the entire time. I use Illford Rapid Fix.  which I have mixed beforehand. You can reuse fixer a few times. The instructions for mixing this are on the bottle. I think I use 1+4 – which means for 32oz (1000 ml) I would fill 200 ml with fixer then the rest is water. After the 5 minutes is up, pour the fixer back in the container.

Now it is time to wash the film.

Wash by opening the tank (it is now safe open) and letting water run over it for 10 minutes – pouring out the water every 2 minutes.

After washing, I pour in a mixture of photo-flo (2 drops mixed with 1000ml of water) and let it soak for 2 minutes. I hang the film from the shower curtain rod using binder clips and shower curtain hangers.

That’s it!!

 

List of supplies:

 

Again, this is pretty bare bones.  But for getting started, stand developing is pretty simple and easy.

Now go forth and shoot film!

 

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14 thoughts on “If I can do it you can too – how I develop B&W film at home.

    1. HI Nick, thank you for your concern! Since the Rodinal is very, very diluted pouring it down the drain is fine. I would never pour it down the drain (or use it on my film) at full strength. But when you stand develop with Rodinol it is super-diluted. The amount of chemical is very minimal. I think mostly it is being used up by the negatives when it is developed. This is part of why I like stand developing. Less chemistry and also a little easier on the environment. Fixer is the chemical that one really needs to dispose of properly.

      Thanks for reading!

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  1. Moni,
    no matter how much deluted, in the end all of the developer will have gone down the drain!
    The silver will be gone in a wiff and the chemicals of the developer are still as toxic to water based lifeforms as before.
    My mom used to work for Marinebiologists as translator and had some very interesting scientific friends who told me some or the other thing about pollution.
    Put it in a tank and dispose of properly! Please!
    Nick

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    1. I appreciate your concern but I don’t appreciate the tone. I completely disagree. I have done my research. Thank you. I would appreciate it if you didn’t comment on my blog again.

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  2. I make my own paRodinal. The caustic element is sodium hydroxide. This is the main element in caustic soda and other products that are commonly sold as drain cleaners. Diluted these have very little impact on the environment when used in the minimal quantities used in photography, especially stand development. In fact drain cleaners usually have a range of other elements such metals in them. The elements I use in making paRodinal are pure, and dilute with minimal impact. Having been very active in environmental action and protection campaigns the impact of small home development is minimal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for that Peter! I read about this in a few places, that the chemistry in Rodinol is similar to other household cleaning products. I would love to make my own! Maybe I’ll look into that when I’m done with my bottle!

      Liked by 1 person

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