Processing film is not complicated. In short, it consists of immersing the exposed film in chemicals, a thorough rinse and, finally, drying the film. In my previous post, I list the the items needed for processing your own black and white film; now let's look at the steps to processing your own film.
1. Mixing Your Developer & Fixer First and foremost, you need to get all of your chemicals ready. If you purchased powder developer and fixer (as I recommend in this post), you'll need to mix the powder packets with a gallon of water at the right temperature. The developer and fixer will need to sit a full day before it becomes fully soluble. Follow the steps on the package for detailed information.
2. Transferring Film to the Film Developing Tank You'll need to remove your exposed film from its container to the developing tank without exposing it to any light. To do this, you'll need a darkroom changing bag, as seen below.
Place the following items into the bag:
- Your film
- A bottle opener (to pop-open the film container)
- A scissors (to cut the film from spool)
- The film developing tank
Next, zip up the bag so that no light can get in and place your hands in the two sleeves of the bag. From here, you'll need to open the film container up with the bottle opener, unravel the film, cut the end from the spool, and wind the film into the film developing tank holder. Without being able to see what you're doing, This part isn't easy; transferring the film to the spool and placing it in the developing tank is done inside the closed darkroom bag. Make sure your familiar with the motions before attempting this step.
Lastly, close the developer tank and remove it from the bag. Now you're ready to begin processing it.
3. Developing the Film I recommend using a latex glove at this point.
Measure out the correct amount of developer needed in the plastic graduate. The amount needed will depend on what type of film you used and how many rolls you plan to process. For one roll of 35mm film, you need 300ml of developer. For two rolls of 35mm or one roll of 120mm film, you'll need to use 600ml of developer.
Next, look up your film and developer combination time and temperature requirements here before pouring the developer into the developing tank. After, start your stopwatch (I use my iPhone). Once you've poured the developer, you'll have to agitate (shake the fluid in the development tank) in 30 second increments. After you're finished, pour the used developer into a separate, smaller container for re-use (developer can be used up to 4 times). I don't pour it back into the original gallon, in order to keep it separate from unused developer.
4.) Stop Bath After pouring out the developer, fill the developing tank with water and pour it out. Repeat this two more times. This will stop the developing process.
5.) Fixing the Film Measure out 600ml of fixer and pour it into the developing tank. Most fixing times are standard 5-10 minutes. Pour the fixer back into the original gallon after your done using it done. Fixer, unlike developer, can be used 40+ times. At this point, you can take your film out of the developing tank. I do, however, keep it in the developing tank spool for rinsing purposes.
6.) Rinsing your Film & Wetting Agent I choose to rinse my film in bowl full of water for 9 minutes. This, however, wastes a lot of water. A more environmentally-friendly alternative is to use an archival wash aid(this will cut down the amount of time needed for rinsing from 10 minutes to 2 minutes). After 9 minutes, I stop the water and pour 3 drops of Kodak Photo-Flo 200 Photographic Wetting Agent* in my large bowl. This chemical will ensure that it dries evenly without any spots. Make sure the film is immersed in the Photo-Flo water for 1 minute. Take the film out and it's now time to dry it.
*An alternative to Kodak Photo-Flo 200 is to use a small amount of clear dish soap. It has the same effect as Kodak Photo-Flo 200.
8.) Hanging the Film to Dry I use the clips below to dry my negatives. The weight keeps the negatives from curling. This step requires patience: you're done, you can see the negatives, but you can't yet touch them. The film needs to dry and this takes some time (30-45 minutes). It's hard to wait, but worth it!
You should have a roll of beautiful looking negatives after you've finished. Next you can have prints made or scan them into your computer. I'll go over that in a later post.
Developing your own film is a skill and an art. It's a process that makes you appreciate your skills, and keeps you coming back for more. Give it a try, you'll find a new hobby, I promise!