The Guide to B&W Film Development: Part 4 – The Development Process

Welcome to Part 4 of my Guide to B&W Film Development.

Parts 1. 2 and 3 were all designed to get you ready for this point. Part 4.. the development process! Here I will go through a step by step look at how to develop your own film .. but I will refer to some previous steps and assume that you have completed things such as .. mixing your chemicals and preparing to do the development first. I will break the process up into different stages, the process itself doesnt take very long at all (say.. 15minutes) however having everything ready before hand will make life much easier.

Let us recap.. by this stage you have obtained all of equipment you need. This includes chemicals, measuring items, bowls, jugs, a change bag, a developing tank and I suppose a camera and some film :) You have also mixed the chemicals together making the developer, diluting the stop and the fixer and mixed up a batch of photoflo to use. By this point you may have already loaded your film onto your reel and put it inside the developing tank (all within your change bag), if so just skip that stage in the post below. I find it good practice to go over everything and make sure you have it within reach or easy to get, just incase you get stuck or have missed something along the way. So let’s get started.

Determining the Developing Time

This is written on the inside of the box the film comes in, however is a generalised time based on popular developers. A genius has come up with the idea of an online database, which does all the hard work for you. Now for the purpose of this guide I am developing a roll of Lucky SHD100 35mm film with Rodinal as a developer (Although I will include the information for Ilford ID-11 as well for continuity). Head over to The Massive Dev Chart and plot in the film type and the developer type to get all the info you need. The site will display the time and temperature your developer needs (based on the dilution you have used) and any other relevant information you need to develop the roll of film. So let’s look at what it gives us for our combination above.

Lucky SHD100 with Rodinal (1+25 dilution)

Development Time: 6min 30 seconds
Temperature: 20°c

Lucky SHD100 with Ilford ID11 (stock dilution)

Development Time: 5min – 7min
Temperature: 20°

So you have similarities here, I have infact developed SHD100 with ID-11 before and I used 6mins and 30 seconds successfully. So what is development time? Development time is the amount of time the developer is to reside in the tank for. You vary this time based on the temperature of the developer (if you use a higher/lower temperature than matched) and if you want to push/pull the development of the film (will touch on this another time). Development temperature is the time based on the developer being that temp. Yes this means you have to either cool or heat your developer based on the ambient room temperature. If I need to heat the developer I will fill a bowl with hot water and float the developer in a plastic jug in the bowl until the temperature rises. If i have to cool the developer I will either do the same with icy water, or put an ice cube or two in the developer to bring the temperature down.

Getting the Tank Ready

Now is the time to put our film loading practice into action. Load up the bottom of your change bag with the developing tank (open), your film reel, your unopened film cannister, your scissors and your bottle opener. Get in a comfortable position with the bag having enough room to dangle beneath you (I usually sit on the edge of a couch). Make sure you have everything you need in the bag and then zip up the bottom, insert your arms into the top of the bag and begin.

  1. Using the bottle opener open the film cannister and retrieve the film.
  2. Cut off the film leader and grab the square edge you have just created on the film.
  3. Pickup your film reel as you have practiced and find the hooks (ensuring they are facing you).
  4. Feed the film in through the hooks, up past the balls and onto the reel.
  5. Walk your film on until you get to the end of the roll.
  6. Cut off the end of the roll and walk the rest of the film on (making sure there is nothing protruding from the edge).
  7. Once you have all of the film on the reel, if you havent fed through the plastic tube ensure you do so now and attach the plastic clip to hold the reel in place.
  8. Place the reel into the tank with the long end of the tube extending upwards and the film reel sitting at the bottom of the tank.
  9. Place the lid on the tank and rotate anti clockwise until it slots into the groove.
  10. Screw the lid clockwise into the lid locks tight. Ensure this has screwed on straight, to prevent any light leaks.
  11. Run your finger along the bottom edge of the lid to make sure it is sitting on correctly.
  12. Remove your arms and open up the bottom of the tank, you have now loaded your film successfully.

Getting the Chemicals Ready

I find it good practice to have everything on hand, so generally have 3 different sized jugs with the chemical level marked for the amount of developer, stop and fixer I need. I also have a separate bowl set to the side as I almost always have to either heat or cool the developer to get it to the correct temperature to develop. I use a small measuring flask to get the finer measurements, otherwise I use a detailed measuring cup to do the large amounts of liquid (300ml in the measuring cup and then 30ml in the measuring flask). If you have not yet mixed your chemicals yet, refer back to Part 2 of this guide for instructions, or follow the instructions on the inside labels of the chemical bottles/boxes you have purchased.

Measure out 310ml (or 330ml if you want to ensure all of the reel is covered in the tank) of your developer, fixer and stop (in 3 separate containers).

Develop your Film

Yahoo the fun part! The most important part of this process is the amount of time the developer is in the tank. If you have the developer not in long enough, the negatives will be under exposed.. and if you have the developer in too long they will become overexposed…Simple as that.

  1. Get your stop watch/timer and set the time to your development time. In this case it is 6min and 30 seconds. Set this down next to the development tank.
  2. With your developer measured to the right amount and in a bowl put in a thermometer to get the current temp.
  3. Either float the developer in it’s container in a bowl of hot water/icy water to bring the temperature to 20°c (in my case it was icy water).

  4. Keep an eye on the temperature and remove the plastic white cap on the tank (do not unscrew the tank lid!). Get your swizzle stick ready as you will need this for agitation.
  5. Once your developer hits that magical 20°c mark start pouring it into your tank and hit your timer at the same time.

  6. Once all of the developer is in the tank (and I mean all, not 90%.. not 95% but all) insert your black swizzle stick to begin agitating the developer. I agitate non stop for the first minute, spinning the reel 5 turns each way and then in random directions. This is to ensure that developer full coats all of the film in the tank. I think agitate for 30 secs of every minute up until 5mins and then non stop for the final 90 seconds. If you want to be extra zealous just agitate for the full development time. This is a very important step and whilst some people put the top cap on the tank and turn it upside down, I mainly use the swizzle stick to really make sure the film is sloshing around/spun around in there. If you do not do this stage correctly it may effect your whole roll of film. With some areas coming out patchy or undeveloped.

  7. Once your counter gets low.. get ready to pour your developer out (into a container is fine). Grab your STOP and get ready to pour it in.

  8. Once your timer goes off, empty out the developer into a container and pour the STOP in straight away. The STOP will stop the developer.. from developing :) So agitate it non stop for around 1 – 2 minutes. Spin it around lots and from side to side (dont tip the actual tank upside down tho!)

  9. At this time I usually set my timer to 3 minutes and then discard the STOP. **Shock horror yes the ILFOSTOP is yellow!**
  10. Pour in the Fixer and agitate for 30 seconds each minute until you reach 3 minutes.

  11. After 3 minutes, pour the Fixer into a container (because you can reuse). I havent reused much yet, but from what I have read you can keep using it (and testing it strength) but at least just add 1 minute per use to the amount of time it spends in the tank.
  12. Get the Kodak Photoflo ready at this point (or another negative cleaner if you have one) and pour it into the tank. I dont have a rule I just agitate it for a couple of minutes before pouring it out.

  13. Discard the Photoflo and get ready to unveil your hard work! Carefully take the lid off the tank and you will see the reel sitting in the bottom of the tank.

  14. Carefully remove the reel from the tank and you will see the developed negative still in place on the reel.

  15. I generally pinch the edges ever so slightly to easily pull the film off the reel. It is no longer sensitive so feel free to look at the images.
  16. Grab your peg and find a nice spot to peg it up, preferably in a non dusty area. I generally peg mine up in the bathroom off the shower rail until the majority of the drying is done. I think pop it in a wardrobe that is tall enough/large enough it wont be damaged until it is properly dry. You can actually see for this roll I didnt cut off the film leader at the start.. it was a pain to roll the film on because of that mistake!

  17. Let your negative dry for a few hours before attempting to cut and scan. This will help prevent scratching and any such problems.

Sit Back and Relax

Annnnnnnnnd there we have it.. all that time and preparation for a relatively quick and easy process! I was very happy once I finished my first roll.. the unveiling of the negative when you pull it out of the tank was such a great feeling. Once you have done it a couple of times it becomes like riding a bike.. and then you start thinking about doing C41 and Slide development.. but that will have to wait for another time and place.

So where too now? Well Part 5 will cover the scanning aspect of getting your negatives into a digital format. I might put up some other tips and tricks I have found around on the net.. and link some of my favourite film photographers. I do hope you are enjoying the guide thus far.. it hasnt been easy to write.. getting everything correctly and being as thorough as possible has it’s draw backs!

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