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Unveiling the Mysteries: A Step-by-Step Guide to Developing Black and White Film at Home

In the realm of photography, few experiences rival the satisfaction of developing your own black-and-white film.

Delving into the alchemy of darkroom processes allows photographers to have full control over the creative journey from start to finish. In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through the step-by-step process of developing black-and-white film in the comfort of your own home.


Step 1: Prepare Your "Darkroom"

Before you begin, ensure that your darkroom is light-tight to prevent any unwanted exposure to your film. Gather all the necessary equipment and chemicals:

  • Developing tank

  • Film reels

  • Developer, stop bath, and fixer solutions

  • Thermometer

  • Timer

  • Scissors

  • Film clips or clothespins for hanging

When I say "darkroom" this is a loose term as it's not a necessity as you can develop in a well-lit room as long as you have a dark bag at hand to transfer the film to the reels and then into the tank.

developing black and white film at home- a step by step guide












Step 2: Load Your Film onto Reels

In complete darkness, either in a fully blacked-out room or in a dark bag, load your exposed film onto the film reels.

With 35mm film you'll need a tool to open the top of the canister if your film is fully rewound

With 120 you just need to unravel the backing paper until you feel the start of the film and then keep unravelling.

When you reach the end of either your 120 or 35mm film, simply grab your scissors and cut it.

You don't necessarily need to cut 120 film as it just peels away from the backing paper, I just find it easier to cut the bit of tape that holds it on.

This process requires patience and practice.

Make sure the film is securely loaded onto the reels to avoid any tangling or uneven development.

This is probably the most complicated step in the entire development process.


developing black and white film at home- a step by step guide
developing black and white film at home- a step by step guide






developing black and white film at home- a step by step guide



developing black and white film at home- a step by step guide



Step 3: Mix Your Chemicals

Prepare your developer, stop bath, and fixer solutions according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you're not sure about the amounts that you'll need, a good source to check is the Massive Dev Chart here:

this will tell you the amount of chemicals that are needed as well as how long your development time is.

You can also check your ratios here:

This will tell you exactly how much chemical and water that you need for the tank that you're using.


Use a thermometer to ensure that the solutions are at the correct temperature, as temperature variations can affect development. For B&W film 20 degrees is usually ideal.


Step 4: Develop Your Film

  1. With your film safely loaded into your tank and your chemicals mixed, pour the developer solution into the developing tank and agitate gently for the first minute to ensure even development.

developing black and white film at home- a step by step guide



Follow the recommended development time for your specific film and developer combination. Agitate the tank at regular intervals throughout the development process, usually for 10 seconds each minute.





Step 5: Stop Your Film

  1. Once the development time is complete, pour out the developer solution and pour in your stop bath for around a minute, keep agitating until the stop has finished. If you don't want to buy stop bath, you can use plain water. 2. Once finished pour it out into a jug or direct into an air-tight container (This can be re-used) Step 7: Fix Your Film 1. Pour the fixer solution into the developing tank and agitate gently for around 5 minutes, again, agitate for 1 minute and then for 10 seconds every minute. The fixer removes any remaining undeveloped silver halides from the film. Step 8: Rinse Your Film 1. After fixing, rinse your film thoroughly with water to remove any traces of chemicals. The film should be rinsed for at least five minutes to ensure that all fixer is removed. You can also use a small amount of wash aid, this helps stop your film from streaking with water marks etc Step 9: Hang Your Film to Dry Use film clips or clothespins to hang your film in a dust-free area to dry. Be careful not to touch the emulsion side of the film to avoid leaving fingerprints.

developing black and white film at home- a step by step guide











Step 10: Cut and Store Your Negatives

  1. Once your film is completely dry, use scissors to cut it into individual frames. Store your negatives in archival sleeves or negative binders to protect them from damage. Congratulations! You've successfully developed your black-and-white film at home. Embrace the satisfaction of seeing your images come to life through the magic of darkroom processes. With practice and experimentation, you'll continue to refine your skills and unlock new creative possibilities in your photography journey.

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