The Guide to B&W Film Development: Part 2 – Preparing for Development

Welcome to Part 2 of my Guide to B&W Film Development.

Part 1 had a look at the jargon, the process and what exactly we are dealing with when it comes to film and B&W film development. Part 2 will look at how to prepare for development. This is infact the biggest part of the process and the one that generally takes the longest. What? No? Surely the development process is the longest part?! Actually once you are setup the Development process takes the least amount of time.. it all comes down to proper preparation. The 5 x P’s comes to mind when thinking about this … (Proper Preparation Prevents Pisspoor Performance).

So where do I start? Well I will break this up into two main sections.. The Chemicals and The Equipement (Essential & Optional). The Chemicals and The Essential Equipment are things that you must buy/source useable items to successfully develop your own film.

The Chemicals

This was discussed in part 1 but at this point in time it is best to pre-prepare all of the chemicals you need for your development.

  • Developer – There are many choices here but to start with lets look at what is generally easily available. Two that spring to mind straight away is Ilford ID-11 which is the first developer I ever used and Kodak XTOL. Both of these developers are available at Australian based stores such as Vanbar. Unfortunately the amount if ID-11 I had available to mix was 5L and I didnt have the right equipment (yeah yeah.. harp on about preparation and dont do so myself!), so for the purpose of this Guide I used a highly concentrated developed called Rodinal (R09 One Shot) which is a single use developer which you mix right before usage and discard at the end of the process.
    However please keep note that other Developers (such as ID-11 and XTOL) come in powder form and require you to throughly mix the powders in water to create the developer (I will include this info later in this post).
  • Stop – Stop is what stops the developer and is an integral part of the process. This has a decent shelf life so purchasing a concentrated amount which you then dilute further allows you to have enough prepared for multiple rolls in advance. I use Ilford ILFOSTOP and as above.. can be sourced from stores such as Vanbar. This chemical is of single use so at the end of each development cycle you simply throw it away.
  • Fixer – This fixes the final negative.. and like with the others comes in a concentrated liquid. I use Ilford Rapix Fixer and like with some developer this can be reused (but becomes more dilluted) so I generally reuse fixer 3 – 4 times before discarding and mixing a new amount. You can test to see it’s effectiveness but I dont find it expensive enough to warrant doing this yet (due to the volume I develop) but for beginners I dont think this is something to worry about.
  • Negative Cleaner – I have referred to this as Photoflo as this is the type of negative cleaner I have and use and it is created by Kodak. This comes as a super concentrate but ill include the basic details of how to mix these later in this post.

The Equipment

This will entail all useful equipment you can use to complete the process.. the vital photography related equipment but also the optional choices you can make (in terms of budget) of measuring devices, mixing bowls, stirrers, bottles, pegs, funnels, trays and more. This is really just a guide so take it as you will. You can even just mix up what you are going to use each roll and discard, it really is up to you.

Essential

  • Developing Tank – This is where you develop your film.. it comes with reels and everything you need to load your film and develop your film. I have 5 of these now with multiple reels for 35mm and 120 film.
  • Changing Bag – This is where you take the film out of the cannister, load it onto the reels and load up the tank.. all in a light tight environment.
  • Thermometer – For measuring temps when mixing the chemicals and for the development process.
  • Measuring Flask – Great for measuring small amounts of chemicals and is very handy especially for things like Photoflo which is a 100+1 dilution.
  • Measuring Jug – Great for larger amounts.
  • Pegs – Useful when pegging up your negatives once you have developed them.
  • Airtight/Lighttight Bottle(s) – Bottles such as these are great for storing the chemicals you mix for future use, or storing the chemicals you have used to reuse later. Using proper bottles for the chems is a great way to ensure they will work when you use them at a later date.
  • Stirring Rod – I use old chop sticks.. to mix chemicals together or to stir mixes.
  • Bottle Opener – For opening your film cannister in the change bag.
  • Scissors – For opening packets and cutting film.

Optional

  • Funnel – If using bottles or bowls without spouts this is very useful to reduce splashes
  • Beaker – Useful for heating/cooling chemicals
  • Ice Cube Tray – Ice cubes are very good in being able to reduce your developer temperature at the development stage
  • Bowls – Large/Small are great for distributing different chemicals. I like to use small plastic bowls where I have measured out the exact levels I need of what chemical for easy use.
  • Plastic Storage Box(s) – Something you can keep everything in and tucked away in the garage in. This is important as you might only use the concentrate mixes every couple of months.
  • Stop watch – I just use the timer on my phone for this, but a stop watch would also be very handy.
  • Bottles – I keep a plethora of plastic bottles around for small mixes

Now I think that is everything covered.. not a bad list! If you are looking for a place to pickup some science type glassware for mixing, measuring and pouring then you can checkout www.wiltronics.com.au as they have a great range of products. So once you have all the equipment needed you need to prepare your chemicals. As I mentioned under each one all chemicals either come in a powder form which requires mixing, or they come in a concentrated form which requires dilution with water. Each product is different so ill ask you to refer to the instructions provided with each. For demonstration purposes however ill put down the instructions for Ilford ID-11 Developer, Ilford ILFOSTOP and Ilford Rapid Fixer.

Ilford ID-11 Developer

I am grabbing these instructions straight off the original box. It doesnt take long, requires a little bit of elbow grease just make sure you have enough storage to put the mixed developer into! This is for the powder pack which mixes to form 1L of developer and making a 1+0 dilution mix.

  1. Heat 750ml of water to 40°c
  2. Add the contents of Sachet A and Stir until mixed
  3. Add the contents of Sachet B and stir until mixed
  4. Add 250ml of water (to bring the total to 1L) and stir thoroughly.

Easy eh?

This developer is also able to be used multiple times.. which is very handy (but also requires extra storage). This might seem strange, as in.. why would you need so much if you can just reuse? Well it sort of works like cordial. If you mix a cordial with water and make a drink and then drink half and top it up.. the cordial further dillutes and the flavour becomes weaker. Developer works in a similar way in that after developing a roll of film it becomes less potent. How less? Well if you mix it right in the first place it should be measurable in terms of time. So for example on the second use of the developer you increase by X amount of time (the time the developer is in the tank) so that it is able to develop the film as required. Ilford recommends the following based on developing 35mm film 36 exposure rolls (X + % where X = Use Number).

  • 2 + 10% added time
  • 3 + 20% added time
  • 4 + 30% added time
  • 5 + 40% added time
  • ..
  • 10 + 90% added time

The time value is dependent on the type of film you are using and how it matches up with the developer. I will explain more about how to calculate the developing time based on the film used later in the guide.

I would recommend for beginners that you dont do this however, and you simply use a fresh batch each time you develop. However if you wish you can store the old developer in a bottle like one below (I have actually linked this above too).

 

Ilford ILFO Stop

As with the ID-11 these are the instructions straight off the box. The stop is single use only, so always discard after using during the development stage.
Dilution is 1 + 19 parts water. So for mixing 2L of stop (which at 310ml per roll gives you approx 6 rolls of stop)
  • Bring 1900ml of water to 20°c (place bowl into fridge or floating in another bowl of icy water)
  • Add 100ml of ILFOSTOP and mix well.
  • Bottle (as in photo above) for use.
  • Use 310ml per roll as required and discard once finished.

Getting easier :)

Ilford Rapid Fixer

You can actually see it in the very first photo in this post but the label peels away revealing the mixing instructions. Much like the ILFOSTOP the Rapid Fixer is much easier to mix than the Developer. The dilution for the Rapid Fixer is not as weak as the ILFO Stop.
Dilution is 1 + 4 parts water.. meaning from the 500ml/1L bottle you will get a total of 2.5L/5L of Fixer (on the bottle there is two dilution values.. one is 1 + 4 and the other is 1 + 9, from my reading the 1 + 9 is for photographic paper so please dont dilute to that value!)

Below is for mixing 300ml of fixer which is about the amount we would want for one roll of 35mm film.

  • Bring 240ml of water to 20°c (place bowl into fridge or floating in another bowl of icy water)
  • Add 60ml of Ilford Rapid Fixer and mix well.
  • Place to the side ready for you to develop with OR place in a clearly marked label ready for your next developing session.
  • Use the 300ml (or mix more, 330ml with 66ml of fixer if wanting extra) during the development process.
  • If reusing the same mix of fixer.. allow for extra time in tank.. I generally double the time to be sure (testing fixer ill discuss another time).

Rodinal R09 One Shot

Just going on a short tangent.. for this guide I actually mixed and used Rodinal as I had too much ID-11 powder to mix and not enough bottles! For those interested it is currently unavailable but will be available again in the next few months. This is a single use only developer and actually goes off in a very short period of time after mixing! It dilutes heavily however and this is advantageous as a 500ml bottle ends up making 12.5L of developer! So for those interested the process for R09 is as below.
  • Bring 297 ml of water to 20°c (place bowl into fridge or floating in another bowl of icy water)
  • Add 3ml (yes just 3 ml)
  • Mix well and use within a few hours of mixing.
  • DO NOT MIX MORE AND STORE! I learnt the hard way by developing a roll which then didn’t develop!

Kodak Photoflo

This like R09 dilutes a long way at the same mix of 1 + 100. It more like a soapy bath so there is no need to bring the water to a certain temperature before mixing. I simply work out the bottle size and divide by 100 and add 99 parts water and 1 part Photflo. It mixes so well and is so cheap there is no point in keeping or reusing this so just discard after use.

Here is one I prepared earlier (I figured using a bottle that is easy to identify as not being anything else bar Photoflo was the way to go!).

Well.. now that you have absorbed that massive amount of information I think it is time for me (and you) to rest until tomorrow. That pretty much covers the BASICS of getting everything prepared to develop. My number 1 tip would be to find some containers and mark on them the levels where you need chemicals for completing 1 roll or 2 rolls at once (the big tanks are able to develop 2 rolls at once). This way you can have premixed amounts or simply add the chemical you need and dilute with water up to that level. The biggest time consuming effort is the ongoing preparation. Once you have all the chemicals ready at your disposal you can develop a roll whenever you feel like it, in under 30 mins.

Part 3 I will go into detail about film.. how to open the cannister, how to practice outside of the change back and how to load the film onto the reel by touch.

Till tomorrow..

Click through to Part 3 – Preparing the Film

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