How I process B&W film (Part 1 of 3).

I’m often asked how I process my black-and-white film, so I thought I’d answer the question in a three-part post.

Part 1 (today’s article) lists and illustrates the Equipment I use.

Part 2 will discuss how I prepare the Developing, Fixing, and (final) Washing solutions.

Part 3 will provide Step-by-Step Instructions on how I process B&W film.

So, without further ado…

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Part 1:

Equipment Required.

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Changing bag (replaces an entire darkroom!):

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Film cassette opener:

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Kodak HC-110 (develops the film):

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10 cc syringe (for measuring the HC-110 developer):

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Ilford Rapid Fixer (used after the developer):

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Ilford Ilfotol (helps film dry after the final wash; avoids water spots):

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Paterson 35mm System (where it all happens):

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3 Tupperware containers (for the developer, fixer, and distilled water):

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Thermometer (the recommended temperature for all of the liquids is 20℃):

Thermometer

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Stopwatch (for timing the developing and fixing stages):

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Scissors (for cutting the film lead off before spooling onto film reel):

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Film clips (for hanging the film strip when drying):

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Tap water (used for all washing steps except last one):

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Distilled Water (for final wash):

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A beaker, or suitably marked container.

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Note #1:  By using a changing bag (listed above), there is no need for a darkroom.  The film is blindly (by feel) loaded into the film reel inside the changing bag.  The film reel is then placed in the tank, and then the funnel top is placed on with a slight twist and — voila! — you can now safely remove your tank from the changing bag and begin developing.

Note #2:  I don’t use a rubber squeegee to remove excess water off the film (after the final rinse) because I’ve found that no matter how carefully I squeegee, the film inevitably gets scratched; instead, I use the Ilford Ilfotol wetting agent (listed above) which helps dry the water off the film without leaving water spots.

Note #3:  Distilled water (listed above) is used only for the final rinse.  Up until the final rinse, I wash using tap water (I’m not too crazy about buying jugs of distilled water for developing so I save it for when it counts – the last step!).

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[Please click here for Part 2: Preparing the Solutions.]

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—Peter.

23 thoughts on “How I process B&W film (Part 1 of 3).

  1. jasonehowe says:

    Hi Peter

    It’s always interesting to compare equipment and process….

    As you know I removed the changing bag and Patterson Tank from my process by replacing with the Rondinax 35U although from time to time I still revert to these if I inadvertantly rewind the film fully in to the canister…..does still happen!!

    I am using Ilford ID-11 Developer, Ilfostop, Rapid Fixer and Wetting Agent. I notice you don’t bother with the “Stop” and I have been thinking about dropping this as its not essential.

    The rubber squeegee I ditched a long time ago, after maybe my third or fourth film, it always scratches. The Wetting Agent (Ilfotol) I have found to be superb.

    I’ve been a little lazy with the water if I’m honest so I will give the distilled a go for that final rinse.

    Last night I loaded my first roll of T MAX 100 in to one of the OM-1’s I recently bought so we’ll experiment with that roll.

    All the best.

    Jason

    • Prosophos says:

      Hi Jason… always nice to receive a comment from you.

      Yes I do remember your use of the Rondinax 35U (great device) – but other than the occasional hair-pulling moment with the P film reel, I’m actually OK with it, so I haven’t searched for a Rondinax.

      And yes, I don’t use a “stop” bath and haven’t had any issues. I should take a look at the Ilford ID-11 developer though, but honestly I’ve had so much success with the Kodak HC-110 that I would only consider switching to something else if they discontinue it.

      May you enjoy your “new” OM-1’s – would like to see some of your work with them (keep me posted).

      Regards,

      Peter.

      • Karl says:

        The stop bath will extend the life of your fixer. Also the developer is “stopped” when the stop bath is used. the developing may go on for a little longer, lenght really never know, if you do not use the stop bath. Just came on your blog. Also the temp. of all the baths should be close to the same. Distilled water for me was a must in mixing in baths. A water filter may also help in the rinse. These can save unwanted stuff from the water on the negs. Final distilled bath and photo-flow a good idea. I am getting on in years and live in an apartment, my film days may well be behind me, it is nice to see the art will not be lost.

  2. Mark says:

    This is a great article Peter. I am going to start trying to assemble the equipment. Any tips on where I might find a changing bag? Can you recommend any online retailers that ship the chemicals cheaply?

    Anyway, I thought you were going to go with some ads? I was looking forward to clicking them for you!

    All the best,
    -M.

    • Prosophos says:

      Thanks Mark! And thank you so much for your donation to the site, really appreciate it!!!

      In answer to your question, I *was* going to allow ads but it would have meant changing the template of this site… I didn’t want to do that because I like the clean look. If they can figure out a way to allow the ads without changing the look, then I’ll allow it.

      As for the equipment, I just default to using B&H. If you buy large volumes of the liquids, shipping to Canada can get pricey, but it really does make for one-stop shopping and the costs involved are minimal compared to lens and camera purchases! This stuff is actually relatively quite cheap. You probably could find chemicals at local places like Vistek or Henry’s, but I haven’t checked.

      I should mention that you also need a stopwatch (I use my iPhone) and 3 containers for the solutions (one for the developer, one for the fixer, and one for the distilled water wash). I’ve sacrificed 3 cheap Tupperware containers for this purpose and have labelled them permanently for each solution.

      I’m celebrating a birthday today, so I won’t have time to update the site, but at some point I’ll add those items to the equipment list in the post above.

      Thanks again for your contribution to the site Mark!

      Peter

      [Addendum: I made the additions.]

  3. [...] Q&A: How I develop film (Part 1). (prosophos.com) Share this: Pin ItShareEmailPrintMoreDiggShare on TumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. « What Makes a Photograph #5 [...]

  4. Jeroen says:

    That’s wonderful news, no ads! I really like the clean (and quite) look of your blog. It is inspiring to see that you be commited to yourself/vision and that the commercial are secondary! A big thank you for that and please keep on posting/sharing your images and teaching point:-)!!

  5. [...] Part 1: Equipment Required, please click [...]

  6. [...] of my generous readers, Mark, upon reading Part 1 of my How I develop B&W film series, decided to take the dive into home [...]

  7. [...] all together, and I will list my step-by-step instructions on how to use the equipment discussed in Part 1 with the solutions prepared in Part [...]

  8. [...] Part 1: Equipment Required, please click [...]

  9. Jimmy says:

    I use 16oz (480ml) stainless steel development tank. It can hold 500ml without any problems.

    I use the 500ml drinking water bottle to store fixer/stop bath/wetting agents for reuse purpose.

    I use a small cup that comes with Mortrain/Tylenol for kids when you buy from grocery store. It has marks for 5ml, 7.5ml, 10ml, 12.5ml, 15ml. This works perfect for HC-110 and 16oz development tank. Here is the math:

    . Dilution E: 10ml -> 480ml, 1.5x development time of Dilution B
    . Dilution D: 12.5ml -> 500ml, 1.25x development time of Dilution B
    . Dilution H: 7.5ml -> 500ml, 2x development time of Dilution B
    . Dilution B: 15ml -> 500ml

    • Jimmy says:

      A bit correction:

      Dilution E: 10ml -> 480ml
      Dilution D: 12.5ml -> 500ml
      Dilution H: 7.5ml -> 480ml
      Dilution B: 15ml -> 480ml

  10. [...] Q&A: How I develop film (Part 1). (prosophos.com) [...]

  11. Pau says:

    Thank you Peter, for this great article. It’s very useful for a film beginner like me. I’ve managed to assemble all the equipment you mention, except for the cassette opener. Is there another way I can open it? I’m gonna make my first try in developing film today or tomorrow :) ..although dont have a scanner yet.

    Regards,

    Pau

    • Prosophos says:

      Dear Pau, you are welcome!

      You may use a standard kitchen bottle cap opener instead of the cassette opener.

      The scanner I use is the Plustek 7600… it is inexpensive and does a great job, and is small. But it will only manually scan one frame at a time (no problem for me), and will only accommodate 35mm film (this year, Plustek is supposed to be releasing a similar but larger model that scans medium format film).

      Good luck with your first try at developing and let me know how it goes!

    • Arbib says:

      You can always leave a a bit of leader out when you rewind your film, and then load the trimmed leader in daylight about 1/2 way around the plastic real.. Then load the rest in the changing bag. You may want to shoot off 3 or 4 blanks instead of 2 blanks..
      Although Temp is not too “critical”, if you too hot or too cold, by over 5 degrees, you may you may want to add of subtract 2m to the developing time. always good to try to get to 20c or 68 degrees F, or close.

  12. [...] it sure is addictive!  If you haven’t yet, you really should read his series on “How I Process Film“.  I hope to post a series of my recent B&W photos in the days to come.  Now as for [...]

  13. [...] First one, by Peter and his website Prosophos, shows what equipment you need and explains very clearly and step by step what you need to do. I bought exactly the same equipment he mentions there and still use the same method. It works. Here’s the link: Prosophos [...]

  14. […] inspire others to take the plunge, and keep the art alive.  I wouldn’t have done it without Peter’s inspiration.  (Incidentally, he has since stopped shooting film, and a kitten had no milk as a […]

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