technical: developing black and white film

Developing a black and white film

What you need

  • Developing tank, with reels, light tight lid and water tight lid
  • Darkroom or changing bag
  • Implement to open film cassette (a bottle opener will do)
  • Scissors
  • Measuring jugs
  • Thermometer
  • Developer, stop and fix, ready to use
  • Clock that shows seconds, or timer
  • Water supply and sink
  • Negative dryer or other dust free place to dry film.

Loading the tank - in complete darkness...

A changing bag is useful; this is a light proof bag in which you can put your hands, the film, dev tank and scissors and load up the tank while keeping the room lights on.

In the dark, open your film canister by squeezing the sides of the cassette while prising the top off with your thumb / purpose made tool / bottle opener. Pull out the spool with the film on it, and hold on to the end of the film, letting everything else drop.

Trim the end of the film in between film perforations so that there are no jagged edges. This will help the film load onto the reel smoothly.

picture showing how to trim the end of film before loading it into a spiral

Holding the reel firmly in one hand, place your thumb on the entry slot of the reel, and feed the film in, pulling it approximately half way around the reel before you place your other thumb onto the other side of the entry slot. By rotating each half of the reel alternatively, as shown the film is pulled on to the spiral. When the reel is loaded place in the tank, and put on the light tight lid.

animation: how to load film onto a self-loading spiral

Tip: Practice with an old film in daylight first, so that you know what you are trying to do. Take your time and don't panic. If the film gets stuck, don't force it on, take it gently off the reel and start again.