This process is based on my research of the stand method for film development, technically it is semi-stand because I agitate it in the middle to avoid an exposure gradient across the film. This is the most simple and easy way I am aware of to develop black and white film at home. Below I will outline what you need with links to all the specific products followed by simple step by step instructions. This guide is not designed to produce the perfect negatives in every situation, it is designed to be super simple and produce good negatives with minimal effort. I felt a bit intimidated when I started looking into developing my own film with all the different things to worry about like exact temperatures exact mixtures, exact time, this method does away with all that and is incredibly simple. I have intentionally left out options, there are lots of different ways to do things but if I wrote out all the different ways you could tweak this it would became vastly more complicated and difficult to follow, just know that developing film is as much an art as taking the photo, my intention here is to get you hooked with the easy way and I expect you will begin to explore the art.
What you need
- Distilled water – find at your local grocery store
- Measuring cup
- Storage bottle
- Developing tank with spool
- Film changing bag – or just use a dark room
- Scissors – Any old scissors are fine but of you need some these are really good and cheap, the small one is nice for working in the dark bag
- Drying clips – I am using these ones I can hook over my shower rod
- Film Leader Retriever – If your leader is not exposed, here is a YouTube video I made showing how it works
With this method you only need 3 liquids, developer, fixer and water. The developer I chose is Rodinal because it seems to be the standard, others can be used and in the future I will do some testing and post an update about that. I selected TF-5 because it does not require a stop bath making this whole process much simpler. Distilled water is important because it does not contain minerals that can leave spots on the film.
The measuring is simple, for the purpose of this guide I will only talk about doing one roll of film at a time. You will need a measuring cup to measure water to mix with the developer, a syringe measure the developer, and a storage bottle with liter measurements to measure the fixer.
A film developing tank with at least one spool (note: for this method you need a tank that can hold a minimum of 2 spools because it uses a larger volume of developer mix). A changing bag where you can pop open your film canisters and roll them onto the spool, this could also be done in a completely dark room.
This method only works for black and while film, but it will work for any standard black and white film of any speed. It makes things a lot easier if you leave the film leader hanging out a little when you rewind, you can do this on a manual rewind camera if you are careful and some auto rewind cameras can be set to leave the leader hanging out automatically. This guide will assume you left the leader out but here is a YouTube video I made showing how to get it out with a leader retrieval tool.
You should practice all the steps you will perform in the changing bag/dark room, make sure you know how loading the reel works. If you can, get an expired roll of film you can sacrifice to practice, if not watch YouTube videos till you feel you are comfortable doing it by feel. At the very least close your eyes and feel all your parts, practice finding the opening to the reel and inserting into the developing tank then sealing the tank.
With this method preparing chemicals is easy. Fill your Storage container with three liters of distilled water, the one I have linked has a measurement directly on the side so it is very convenient. Next, pour the fixer into the storage container, the bottle I linked to is one liter so just pour the whole thing in this will give us a 3:1 mix ratio. Put the cap on the container and slosh it around to mix up the contents. This mix can be used repeatedly, and should be enough for 20 rolls of film. You will know the fixer is used up when it turns milky, as long as it is clear it is fine. If your fixer is coming out of your storage bottle milky you can probably still get the job done by repeating the fixer step but instead of putting it back in the tank just pour it down the drain* and when it is all gone mix another batch. Next, fill your measuring cup with 350 ml of distilled water and use the syringe to measure out 3.5 ml of developer, squirt the developer into the measuring cup with the 350 ml of water, use the tip of the syringe to mix it up. This 100:1 mix of developer will be a one time use and only used for one roll of film but the bottle contains enough to make 140 batches. We now have all our chemicals ready, note that we are not bothering with specific temperatures, we simply mix and are ready.
- Use scissors to cut the tapered section of the film leader off leaving a square end.
- Place your developing tank, spool, and film in your changing bag along with scissors if you wish to use them to cut the film off from the canister, it can also be torn by hand but scissors are easier.
- Make sure the bag is sealed, insert your arms and make sure there is a good seal around your arms.
- Load the film onto the spool.
- When the film is fully wound onto the spool cut it off from the canister being extremely careful not to cut the bag or your fingers and wind the film on until the end is flush with the start of the spool.
- Place the spool in your developing tank and seal it.
- You can now open the changing bag and you are ready to start developing
- Make sure you have all your chemicals ready, you should have your measuring cup with 100:1 developer (350 ml distilled water, 3.5 ml Rodinal) and your 3:1 fixer in its storage bottle (3 liters distilled water, 1 liter TF-5 fixer)
- Fill the developing tank with enough water to cover the film, you wont be able to see but you should have some idea of how full the tank is, error on the side of more than you need.
- Seal the tank and slosh the water around for about thirty seconds, let it sit for about five minutes, then slosh it around for another 30 seconds and drain it.
- Fill it with water one more time slosh it around and drain it out.
- Now pour in the developer mix you have in the measuring cup.
- Seal the tank and do 3 inversions (gently turn the tank upside down then back right side up).
- Tap the tank firmly on the table a few times to dislodge air bubbles from the film.
- Let the tank sit for 30 minutes.
- Do 2 slow inversions and tap the tank on the table to dislodge air bubbles.
- Let the tank sit for 30 minutes.
- Drain the tank down the sink.*
- Fill tank with distilled water and agitate for 1 minute to rinse the film then pour the water down the sink.
- Slosh around the fixer storage tank to mix it up.
- Pour enough fixer from the storage bottle into the tank to fully submerge the film, you can just fill the tank if you are unsure.
- Do slow inversions for about 1 minute then pour the fixer from the developing tank back into the storage bottle (use a funnel).
- Fill developing tank with distilled water, agitate, and pour down the drain, repeat until water comes out clear, the water may come out clear on the first rinse, in that case just rinse twice.
- You can now take your developed film out the tank, remove it from the spool and hang it up to dry. It can be handy to put an extra clip on the hanging end of the film so it hangs strait down.
Here are a few photos from my first two rolls of film! They were scanned using this scanner, it’s a low end one but produces reasonable results. I have ordered an Epson Perfection V550 so once I’ve spent some time with the two I’ll write up a comparison.
I got a lot of the info I used to create this guide from these two sources, they also provide more info on what happens when you change different parts of the process so if you are looking for more than my guide provides check these out.