Thursday, 5 January 2012

How To: Home Develop Black and White Film

  I thought i would do a tutorial on home developing black and white film as when i was starting out just over a year ago it took me a long time to get all the info together that i needed and its nice to give something back.  Hope you find this helpful.


Film changing bag (the biggest you can afford)
3 x 50/100ml meausring cylinders
2 x plastic water bottles
2x plastic jugs (just some cheap supermarket ones will do)
Developer (i like to use Rodinal as it lasts forever and you only use small quantities).
Stop bath  (i use Ilford Ilfostop)
Fixer (i use Ilford Rapid Fix)
Wetting agent (i use Kodak Photo-Flo)
Developing tank and at least 1 reel (i use a Paterson system 4 tank)
Accurate thermometer (needs to be able to read 20oC)
Film clips


  Im not going to discuss loading your film onto a reel, there a plenty of videos no youtube for this kind of thing.  Basically your film goes onto your reel inside your changin bag and then gets loaded into your tank.  Once this is done you're now ready to start developing.

  First you'll need to mix up your developer.  Now, Rodinal is very versatile as you can mix it in different concentrations which will produce different results on your negative.  The most used ratios are 1:25, 1:50 and 1:100, sometimes 1:200 is used.  The smaller the ratio the bigger the contrast that will be produced eg 1:25 will produce more contrast than 1:50.  The ratio means that for every 25/50/100ml of water you have you add 1ml of Rodinal.  So if your tank takes 500ml of solution and you want a 1:50 ratio you will mix 10ml of Rodinal with 490ml of Water .

  So, measure out your Rodinal using one of your measuring cyclinders and pour it into one of your jugs.  Measure out the water (you can use the same cylinder) and add that to the jug and then mix it (you can use your thermometer to do this).  Once you have mixed your developer you repeat with your stop bath and your fixer.  There is a fixed ratio for these and this will be printed on the bottle of each chemical.

  Once you have completed this step you should have 3 jugs, one with developer, one with stop bath and one with fixer.

  Next you will need to find out how long you must develop your film for using the ratio of developer you have chosen.  The best source for this information can be found on the massive dev chart here:  Basically you tell it what developer youre using with what film and it will tell you the times to develop for certain ratios.  For instance if i want to develop some Ilford HP5+ shot at 400iso in a 1:25 mix of rodinal the chart tells me that for 120 film i should develop for 6 minutes.  You will need to keep an eye on temperature.  20oC is ideal so you may need to warm your chemicals a little if you're developing in a cold room  If you're a few degrees off then follow this link and at the bottom of the page you will see a link to a temperature compensation chart.  Use this to determine developing times at alternative temperatures.


  Ok, our chemicals are all mixed and we have got all our times together.  Now to begin.  I like to start with a prewash of my film.  Some people do it, some dont; both get good results so its really up to you.  I shoot 120 film so i prewash for 5 minutes.  Get 500ml of water at around 20oC and pour it into your tank (holding your tank at about a 45 degree angle to reduce air bubbles).   Once its all in put the lid on and shake your tank.  Rotate it, shake it, spin it.  Really work it hard to make sure that the water covers every part of the film.  Do this for 1 minute then pour out the water.  It willprobably come ou a greenish blue colour.  Pour in another 500ml of clean water and shake again.  Do this for 5 minutes.

  After 5 minutes has passed and you have poured out the last of the water you are ready to pour in your developer.  Agin, angle the tank as this reduces air bubbles.  Put the lid on and rotate the tank vertically 3 times whilst turning it horizontally (this makes sure the whole of the film gets a quick covering of developer).  Tap the tank firmly on the floor to release any trapped air bubbles and then stand the tank on the floor.  When 1 minute has passed give it 3 more rotations and a little tap.  Reapeat this for the length of time you have been told to develop for.  I should tell you here that the more you agitate, the more grain you get.

  After your developing is done you can pour the liquid from the tank down the sink and pour in your stop bath.  Ilfostop only needs to be in the tank 10 seconds so once youve got the lid on agitate the tank for 10 sec and then pour the liquid out back into your jug, DO NOT DISCARD IT because you can reuse it.

  Now its time to add your fixer.  Pour it into the tank in the usual way and you need to constantly agitate for 3 minutes (note, 3 minutes is for Ilford Rapid Fix - if you buy anotherfixer follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturer).  After 3 minutes pour your fixer back into your jug.  Again, this can be reused so DO NOT DISCARD.

  Now it is time to wash the film again so add 500ml of clean water and agitate constantly.  After 1 minute pour out the water and some more fresh and repeat agitation.  Do this for 5 minutes.  On your last wash you will need to add a tiny amount of wetting agent.  Kodak Photo-Flo is highly recommended.  Add 2ml of it to your final rinse and agitate for about 20-30 seconds.  Pour the liquid away and open up your tank.  You should have a fully developed negative.  Remove the film from the reel and hang it up to dry using your clips.  Pour your stop bath and fixer into your plastic bottles and store them away ready for your next development.

  So to put it in a more bulletpoint form:

1) Prewash (constant agitation) - 5 minutes
2) Developer (Agitate for around 15s - 3 inversions at each minute of development) times from massive dev chart
3) Stop Bath - 10 seconds
4) Fixer - 3 minutes (constant agitation)
5) Wash - 5 minutes (constant agitation)
6) Wetting Agent - 20s
7) Hang to dry

  And thats it.  Any questions then feel free to comment on this page and ill get back to you.  All the black and white shots on this blog have been developed with this method so i can assure you it works.  I will be doing another blog soon about push/pull processing and also one about stand developing which is another method of development that takes longer but is simpler.  Hope this has helped.


  1. No need to tap the tank on the floor..
    I find that a my kitchen work's save bending down .So it's easer on the back and legs

  2. Haha, i guess youre right. i do mine knelt on the bathroom floor so i was thinking of that! any hard surface will surely do haha!

  3. This is very informative. Thanks for posting and hopefully saving some from headache! :)

  4. no problem - hope someone finds it useful. ill be doing another on push processing shortly.