bin birds black and white photography

Developing Black and White Film

I spent a day in a darkroom learning how to develop black and white film. It was awesome and I realised that I can definitely do this at home. The course was run by Tim Pearse at Bristol Folk House.

Things you need to develop black and white film:

1. A room that can be made totally dark or a changing bag.
I think everyone should have a changing bag even if you aren’t developing film. The few times when I have needed to open the back of my camera to fix a loading issue or just had a camera that broke half way through a roll of film. In short, a changing bag is a film saver.

2. A development tank.
I used a Paterson tank. These are light tight and once you have got the film out of the cassette and loaded into the tank you can work in daylight.

3. Some scissors.
To cut away the leader film once you get it out of the cassette (in total darkness) and, not vital but makes things easier, a film cassette opener.

4. Measuring graduates and mixing jugs.
These look cool and when measuring out chemicals it really is vital that you can measure accurately.

5. A timer
You can use your smart phone or there are lots of photography timers available online like this one by Paterson.

6. Chems! Developer, Stop, Fixer.
I used Ilford ID-11 for developing the negatives. Here is an introduction to Ilford film developers by Ilford. Ilford also sell lots of starter packs that include all the chemicals you will need. It is worth mentioning here that you need to be near a sink and some taps. The bathroom is the easiest place to develop negatives, unless your partner or housemate doesn’t mind you rinsing your negatives in the kitchen sink.

7. A thermometer.
This is actually super important. Black and White film needs to be developed at 20c so knowing the temperature of the chemicals and water is important. When I developed my photos in the darkroom, the chemicals were actually about 22c, I then made sure the water I was mixing into the chemicals was 18c to ensure that the mixed up solution was 20c. Having the temperature at 25c (for example) instead would have meant I would have needed to adjust the time of development.

8. Film Clips and somewhere to hang the film to dry.
In the darkroom there was a special negative drying cabinet to hang the film in but I was told that hanging it in the bath or shower for about 12 hrs would be fine. You just need to keep it away from dirt and fibres. These are the film clips that Paterson sell, one is to hang the negatives from, the other is to weight it down.

Your Turn

There are a ton of great YouTube videos out there that explain how to develop black and white film. Here is one from Ilford. There is also this amazing website called Massive Dev (also available as an app) that can help you with development times for all films, ISOs and chemicals.

I don’t have any of the equipment needed to develop my film at home. I have made a pinterest list in the hopes that my friends and family buy me them for Christmas!

Here are some of the photos I developed in the darkroom (and then had scanned at Photographique).

black and white photography building clouds
Pentax ME Super | Ilford HP5
Developed with Ilford ID-11 for 13 minutes
black and white film photography train bolts
Pentax ME Super | Ilford HP5
Developed with Ilford ID-11 for 13 minutes
Trypophobia black and white photography
Pentax ME Super | Ilford HP5
Developed with Ilford ID-11 for 13 minutes
Pentax ME Super | Ilford HP5
Developed with Ilford ID-11 for 13 minutes

Photo Services that I use

Darkroom: Bristol Folk House (Bristol, UK)
Negative Scanning: Photographique (Bristol, UK)
Film Stock: Analogue Wonderland (worldwide) – if you use my link here to purchase any film you will receive Free Kodak ColorPlus 36exp Film 35mm Colour ISO 200


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