Monday, January 10, 2011

Developing Black & White Film at Home

This Way

Guest Blog by Darren "Pancho" Riley

Since there has been a bit of discussion about home developing on the Film Photography Podcast recently (episode 25 / January 1, 2011), I thought I'd share with everybody how I do it. This is mainly because when I started looking into it, everything seemed so complicated and I needed something simple.

Also, it's difficult to say in a few words on a podcast how to do it without making it sound either too simple or too difficult, so whilst I appreciate (FPP Co-Host) Duane Polcou's segment on the podcast and very much look forward to more, I thought I'd try to help out those who've never done it before.

Please feel free to add your own methods, this isn't just developing the Pancho way! I'm not gonna list all the gear you ned here, but it will pretty much all get mentioned within the text. Here we go;

Put the roll of film onto a spool and put it into a developing tank. There's a great video here telling you how to do it and what you'll need - - he's a funny, strange guy. Entertaining.

Right, you've got your film in the tank, it's ready to develop. Now you need your chemicals. Pre-mix some developing fluid, some stop fluid and some fixer. The instructions for diluting will be with the chemicals. For example, when using Ilfosol 3 I dilute it 1 part fluid to 9 parts water. Just read the labels, you can't go wrong. Put each chemical in a jug or reusable bottle and LABEL THEM! You can reuse the stop and the fixer but not the developer (not my way anyway).

Make sure your developing fluid is at around 20 degrees C. I just put the fluid in a jug and then put the jug in a bath of hot water from the kettle. Once the thermometer reaches 20 take it out and pour it into the tank (don't take the whole lid off, just the top part or open the access part of it - this will make sense when you've got a tank.

Start your stopwatch once you've fastened the lid back on, give it four turns upside down, tap it on the table and then leave it. Do this every minute for as long as it takes to develop.

"But how long does it take to develop?"

Easy. It'll probably tell you on the cardboard box your film came in. If it's Ilford it definitely will. It's as simple as that. If not, just use the Google!

Once you've reached the required time, pour the developer out - mine goes down the sink (if this isn't safe please do let me know!)

Now pour the stop in. This will only need around ten seconds but if it's longer it doesn't matter. Just give it at least ten seconds. Turn it upside down twice upon pouring it in and then ten seconds later, pour it back into your reusable bottle - NOT THE ORIGINAL CHEMICAL BOTTLE!

Now the fixer. This will need around 3 minutes, but like the stop, going over that won't harm it. Turn it upside down four times each minute. When done, pour the fixer back into it's reusable bottle. The film is now developed and can't be damaged by light. You're not quite done yet though.

Pour water into the tank and turn 5 times. Empty. Pour fresh water in and turn 10 times. Empty. Add more fresh water and turn 20 times. Keep this water in.

Add some wetting agent to the tank. I use Ilfotol but I hear washing up liquid is just as good. This helps the water run off the film without leaving stains.

Head to the bathroom, remove the film spool from the tank, remove the film from the spool and hang it over the bath. I use a couple of pegs and the cord from our venetian blinds. The cord is tied to the shower curtain rail and a peg hangs from that. I attach the film to that peg and the other peg to the bottom of the film to stop it curling back up. Give it around 4 hours to dry. 3 is sometimes enough and I've been known to give it just 2 and a blast of the hairdryer when I couldn't wait (that was more in the early days, I'm more patient now.)

Cut your film up, scan it and glory in the wonderful pictures you've created.

And that's it! I hope I've made it sound simple. If you're not sure there's a great video about the developing process here -

If you've got any tips to add or do it quite differently feel free to add and share the knowledge!

Pancho Ballard - Five Songs For Oscar
Gracias all,
Darren "Pancho" Riley

Launched in October of 2009, the Film Photography Podcast is a 90 minute, bi-weekly Internet radio program, exploring a wide range of topics relevant to the experienced and aspiring photographer using film as a medium. Hosts Michael Raso and Duane Polcou enthusiastically dissect and debate the pros-and-cons of film formats, do-it-yourself techniques, digital technologies, and vintage and contemporary cameras and accessories in a thorough, informative and casual manner. Regular features include Camera tests and reviews, “book of the month”, interviews, a listener-generated Q&A, and film-related giveaways.

Produced in the United States, the Film Photography Podcast is broadcast around the globe via iTunes and direct stream from

UPDATE 1/11/2011!

Film Photography Podcast listener "shakmati" recommends the follwing YouTube video from

UPDATE 1/12/2011

FPP listener Ed Engler writes:

I wanted to share with you my experience getting started in home developing. While searching around and gathering supplies I found a "how to" for Diafine 2 part Developer. What interested me the most was the simple process and the ability to reuse the chemicals over and over again. The whole process involves 3 jugs, Diafine part A, Diafine part B, Fixer of choice (I use an Arista Rapid Type). Diafine is also very forgiving of temperature and film type. The chemicals at room temperature give consistent results and different types of film can developed at the same time. The developing contact times are the same for all B&W films. One exception is Fuji Acros where you double the contact times.

This developer has been perfect for me. The freedom to Shoot, Develop, and Scan independently is incredibly rewarding. I will add the link to the instructions I follow for reference.

Thanks for your constant inspiration.

Ed Engler
Black Hills of South Dakota

Ed's link:
Blog by Wallace Billingham


  1. Fantastic information. For a beginner, I'd recommend a Paterson Super System 4 plastic tank and reel. Beginners will probably find it more user-friendly, especially for 120 film. It loads from the outside, rather than the inside.

  2. Fantastic Article!

    A couple tips:
    For development times, they have every film/developer combination at the Massive Dev Chart:

    Fixer: 3 min is the minimum time. I was always taught to do 5-10min to be sure that it completely fixed.

    Also, be careful about getting the chemicals on counter tops, it tends to leave white residue that can be very hard to get off. I always try to handle the chemicals over the sink...

    ---Alex Moore