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James Tarry's photography blog. Ramblings from a photographers over active mind. Email now or call +44 (0)7855 742 633.

Developing Film: A "how to" of sorts

I've wanted to write this since developing my 'first film in 20 years' the other month, not because I claim to be an expert in this but mostly because when I was Googling advice, I felt barraged with over the top instructions and commentators seemingly trying to out intellect each other. I didn't find many posts particularly helpful, in fact I found that they made it seem difficult and to be feared. Well, it's not. 

This is a basic "how I did it" or a "cheat sheet" if you like, a very simple guide to what I did that first time to achieve basic development of B&W. I am sure many will point out things that I have done "incorrectly" by those "rules" of photography, but this is about showing just how easy it can be and trying to encourage more of you to try. 

There are a number of things you need: a film tank to develop in, measuring jugs, thermometer and of course the chemicals. I purchased all my chemicals from Silverprint who offered great advice, and subsequently did again when I enquired about colour developing (more on that another time). Ok, lets presume you have all these, lets go! 

Step 1: 

Your developer, stop and fix need to be diluted down with water. Each bottle has a label and on that label are the instructions. It might state for example "for a 500ml tank, 1 part solution, 4 parts water". For the chemicals I used (see photos above) it worked out like so: 

Developer: 100ml + 400ml of water 

Stop: 25ml + 475ml of water

Fix: 100ml + 400ml of water

Note: I had to double all amounts as I use a 1 litre tank. 

After they were mixed, I was ready to go... except for one small problem. The chemicals are ideally used at a certain temperature which you will need to measure with a thermometer. Well, the thermometer I had didn't work so, confession, I made an educated guess based on testing the water in a bath with my elbow! (ha) I filled my bath with cold water and let the chemicals rest......Fair to say after all the scare stories I was hesitant this was going to mess everything up, however, it never has yet! BUT if you are doing this, best use a thermometer-just to be sure! 

Step 2: Let's start developing. 

Each stage needs to be in the tank for a certain time, and agitated at certain intervals. All this information can be found on various websites and PDFs of the companies products you are using.... I found it all a bit of a headache to be frank. 

The simplest way I found on how to work all this out was to buy an app! It is brilliant, simple and will save you aggro of working out developing times, when to agitate, etc. That app is called: Massive Dev it costs £5 but it honestly saved me time and most of all, it helped calm me down! 

It works a little like this: 

Step 1: Select your film format

Step 1: Select your film format

Step 3: Select the developer you are using.

Step 3: Select the developer you are using.

Step 2: Select the film speed it was shot at

Step 2: Select the film speed it was shot at

Step 4: V oilà, your stop watch. Just press start

Step 4: Voilà, your stop watch. Just press start

As you can see, my 4x5 sheet films had to be in 'Developer' for 12mins, 'Stop' for 1min and 'Fix' for 5mins. That little canister in the bottom right, that tells you when you have to agitate. After each step has been counted down and completed, you will need to wash (pop under a running tap) and then hang to dry till at least next morning. And thats it, congrats! 

Like I had said at the start, this is not a comprehensive "how to", its not full of rules, guidelines and technical mumbo jumbo. I want to show (with the help of a handy app) that developing your own negatives with chemicals is not scary. I've since developed 19 more 4x5 slides using this app and every one has come out crystal clear and perfect. The best thing about all this? The money I've saved getting someone else to do it, the smell from the chemicals and the satisfaction of pulling those negatives out of the final wash and seeing them hanging there in all their glory.

So go, try..... 30 mins to do a batch, I think you'll be hooked! 

* Ideally don't use wooden pegs as they can stain*

* Ideally don't use wooden pegs as they can stain*

P.S: Thought I would throw this video in from Ted Forbes over at the Art of Photography: