You are still not quite ready to start developing! First, think ahead to where you are going to hang the films to dry. You need somewhere with at least 1.5m clearance from the ground that you can hang your negative clips from. When the films come out of the tank after development, make sure you know where they are going to go. I use a pair of metal kebab skewers pushed under stuff on top of a wardrobe. This gives me two rings on which I can hang the two negatives clips that result from developing two rolls of film in one go. It pays to think ahead at this stage.
Secondly, are your premixed reusable chemicals in bottle at approximately the right temperature? I store mine in a place that is well below room temperature during the winter. I move them to somewhere that is at room temperature several hours before I start developing and leave them there for a few hours. This allows them to get up the the right temperature. Room temperature is good enough. Only the dev solution needs to be at a more accurate temperature. The stopbath and fixer can be +/- 5oC of your dev solution.
The black and white process
The development process is simply a series of liquids poured into your dev tank at timed intervals, and replaced with other liquids until done. These intervals are short and once you are ready, the entire process is over in less than 20 minutes. Assemble everything you need in one place…
- Your three pre-mixed 1 litre HDPE chemical bottles (stopbath, fixer, wetting).
- Your three measuring jugs, stopbath, fixer and dev. The dev jug will already have your one-shot developer solution ready to use.
- The timer.
- The funnel. Make sure it is clean.
- The negative hanging clips.
- Your development tank loaded with films you are going to develop now.
Pour the stopbath and fixer from their bottles into their jugs. You should now have all three jugs filled with the correct chemicals ready to use immediately. Leave the bottles for stopbath and fixer nearby, as you will be refilling them from the tank shortly. I put my funnel in the mouth of the stopbath bottle in preparation, since that is when it is first used.
There are many articles and videos on the internet that show you how to perform the actual dev process. I will just provide a brief yet complete guide here. This process is a standard black and white development process and is the same for most readily available chemistry.
- Wash the films - Fill your loaded tank up with pitcher water and put the lid on. Gently invert four times and leave for 1 min. While waiting, set your timer to the required dev time. When time is up, pour water away down the sink.
- Developer - Fill the tank with your dev solution from your ‘DEV’ measuring jug and then immediately start your timer and put the lid on. Gently invert the tank four times, then tap it a few times on your surface to dislodge any bubbles, then wait for 1 min. Once every further minute, do the same four inversions and tap until your timer goes off. When the timer goes off, pour the dev away and immediately go to the next step without delay.
- Stopbath - Immediately after you empty your tank of dev, pour in the stopbath from the ‘STOPBATH’ measuring jug and put the lid on. Invert the tank once and tap it. Set 4 minutes onto your timer, but don’t start it. Without waiting, pour the stopbath back into its bottle using the funnel. This was a short step. Now go to the next step.
- Fixer - Fill the tank with the fixer from your ‘FIXER’ measuring jug. Put the lid on and start your timer. Same inversion process as dev: Do four inversions and tap once a minute until your timer goes off. While waiting, rinse out your funnel. When time is up, pour the fixer back into its bottle using your funnel. Go to the next step.
- Wash - You will do a three stage wash known as the ‘Ilford Archival Wash’. Fill the tank with pitcher water and invert 5 times. Empty and refill. 10 inversions. Empty and refill. 20 inversions. Don’t skip this washing process. It is important that you get all the fixer out of the film to ensure the negatives will last a long time without degrading. Empty the third wash water out and go to the next step.
- Wetting - Pour in your wetting solution from your bottle marked ‘WETTING’. There is no need to invert or wait here. Simply rinse your funnel and then pour the wetting solution back into its bottle.
After the wetting agent, that’s it, your films are developed! You can open the dev tank and have a look. This is always the exciting part, no matter how many film you develop! Has it worked? Any great photos? It is much more satisfying than simply copying files off a digital camera memory card. Here you have a real little picture, captured by the magic of silver and chemistry.
The C41 colour process
I owe my successful colour processing to the R&D done by intrepid film photography explorers and published here, here and here. Without this stand development process, I would not have felt confident enough to try it. Although it takes longer, this stand development process is easier to do than regular black and white processing. I only show the process for a two-bath kit such as Tetenal C41 ‘Colortec’.
Before starting this process is is important that your chemistry is at the same temperature as your room. If you keep your chemistry in a colder place such as a garage, be sure to move them to your intended development location a few hours before your start to allow them to equalize in temperature to your room. 20oC give or take 2oC is ideal.
- Soak the films - Fill the tank with room temperature water. Invert four times and tap it a few times on our surface to dislodge any bubbles. Let it stand for 3 mins. When time is up, pour water away down the sink. You may notice some discolouration in the water. This is normal.
- Developer - Fill the tank with your developer. There is no need to measure accurately. Just make sure the tank is full up. Agitate gently for 1 minute. Tap to dislodge bubbles. Leave for 45 minutes. When time is up pour the developer back into the appropriate bottle. Do NOT discard as you would for one-shot black and white.
- Wash - You will do a three stage wash known as the ‘Ilford Archival Wash’. Fill the tank with pitcher water and invert 5 times. Empty and refill. 10 inversions. Empty and refill. 20 inversions. Empty the third wash water out and go to the next step.
- Blix - Fill the tank with your blix. There is no need to measure accurately. Just make sure the tank is full up. Agitate gently for 1 minute. Tap to dislodge bubbles. Leave for 60 minutes. When time is up pour the blix back into the appropriate bottle.
- Wash again - Do another archival wash. Fill the tank with pitcher water and invert 5 times. Empty and refill. 10 inversions. Empty and refill. 20 inversions. Empty the third wash water out and go to the next step.
- Stabilizer - Fill the tank with your stabilizer. There is no need to measure accurately. Just make sure the tank is full up. Tap to dislodge bubbles. Leave for 1 minute. When time is up pour the stabilizer back into the appropriate bottle.
After the stabilizer, you are done and the films can be removed. This unofficial stand development process for colour is so effective and easy that I wonder why the manufacturers of these C41 kits don’t research it more and formalise into an official process. Surely they would sell a lot more kits were they to do so.
Dry the negatives
Before you take the film out of the reel, make sure you have your negative hanging clips nearby and your hanging area where the film will dry is ready to receive it.
To take the film out of the reels, simply hold the reel with your hand in the same place as you did when loading it. This time, twist it onto its side, so that your right hand is on the bottom. Twist your right hand clockwise, keeping your left still. This is similar to how you loaded the film. Push past the end stop. The reel will click open. Carefully separate the two halves of the reel. The film will want to straighten out, but don’t let it until you have put the left part of the reel down and have got hold of the outside leading edge of the negatives. When you have it, you can pull the edge upwards away from the reel and simultaneously pull the reel downwards.
Find the non-black end of the negative strip and hang it on the clips. Try not to damage the sprockets or touch the negatives. Holding it by the clip and the edges of the film, take it to your hanging place and hang it up.
If you have black and white films, you are now going to wipe the excess water off your negatives using using your microfibre cloth. This cloth must be absolutely clean. Gently wrap it around your neative stip at the top so that it covers both sides. With gentle pressure, pull it slowly all the way down the strip to remove the excess water. Do this again with the cloth folded a different way to get dry sides on the negatives. This is enough.
Now fold over the black end of the film strip at the bottom and clip your weight onto it. This will help stop it curling while it is drying. Leave the film to dry overnight. Don’t attempt to cut and store wet negatives. They are more delicate when wet and easily damaged.
Once done, remember to clean everything up. Wash your tank, measuring jugs, funnel and anything else that was involved in the process. I don’t use any soap or washing up liquid for this, I just rinse with tap water and wipe with a dedicated microfibre cloth (not the one used for drying negatives, of course).
previous: Mixing the Chemicals
next: Scanning Your Negatives