Photography: Developing Black & White Film 1

Developing Black and White Film Part 1: The Things You’ll Need


Things you’ll need:

  • access to water and a sink / drain
  • measuring cylinders that you won’t ever use for food. 3 that measure at least 300ml would be a good start
  • chemicals (see below)
  • developing tank
  • thermometer
  • scissors
  • bottle opener (or a proper film opener if you want to be posh about it but I use the same opener I use for my Peroni)
  • light-tight changing bag
  • timer or stopwatch (I use my phone)
  • about half an hour in time
  • patience of a saint to get the film onto the reel
  • disposable gloves

Things that might be useful:

  • accordion bottles to store chemicals for reuse
  • funnel
  • film hanging clip (useful to hang film up but a peg will do for that)
  • negative sleeves to store your films when they’re dry
  • calming background music
  • a copy of The Darkroom Handbook by Michael Langford

The Chemicals you’ll need:

  • developer – I use Ilfosol 3
  • stop – I use Ilfostop
  • fix – I use Rapid Fixer 
  • wetting agent if you live in a hard water area (I have hard water so I always do this to stop marks forming on the film as the water dries)

I’d suggest that if you’re buying all of these chemicals at once then get them from Ilford or Student Photo Store rather than Amazon; they’re much cheaper. Student Photo Store do a set with all of the chemicals you’ll need but they charge £6.99 delivery even on an order that came to £97. If you spend a certain amount at Ilford – I haven’t worked out how much but I suspect it’s about £50 – you get free shipping. But do check and shop around; I have found that the price difference can be large.

If you’re just starting out at this it’s worth buying a film developing kit that comes with  most of the things you’ll need rather than getting all the bits separately. Just be aware that if you get the more expensive kit to develop paper and film I’ve found that the trays are quite small – about A4 size (or 8×10 inch) and the changing bag that came with mine is small for the size of the tank.

Things you won’t need to develop film:

  • a darkroom
  • no really, you won’t need a darkroom for this

What you need to find out about your film and where to find it:

I use Ilford films and chemicals which keeps everything nice and simple for me. This is the link to the Ilford Film Processing Chart  that I’m going to use in the next post to demonstrate how this works. You only need this chart if, like me, you throw away the paper box to the film. If you keep that box, all the information you need to know to develop the film is printed on the inside. I’ll explain these later.





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Inside the box to the Ilford HP5 Plus 400 film
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Inside the box to the Ilford Delta 400 Professional 120 film



The Darkroom Handbook by Michael Langford gives a lot of information about the different types of developer and fixer you can use. It’s not something I’ve ever been worried by as my options on the developer I could buy were always very limited.

Your Tank

To work out how much of each chemical you’ll need, you first have to know how much liquid your tank needs to develop a film. Mine is printed on the bottom ‘1x35mm = 290ml’ i.e. One 35mm film needs 290ml of liquid. I round this up to 300ml to make the maths simpler. We’ll cover working out all of this in the next post, but it’s something you need to find out before you start.

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Note: I’m primarily writing this as a reminder for myself but I hope it’s helpful. I had developed film in the past and had forgotten how, so if it comes across as simple, that’s what I’m going for because I couldn’t find simple anywhere when I needed it!

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