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Tools for Developing Black & White Film

Part of the magic of photography is developing your own photos. It is a science that takes some practice, but well worth the effort. Learning to develop your film is the first step in creating your own darkroom. Start out with black and white film. Color is a more advanced process that should be attempted once you master black and white.

Equipment You Will Need


Daylight tank
Bottle opener
Hanger
Binder clips
Glass thermometer
Scissors
Strip of film to practice with
Measuring cup (used solely for chemicals-do not share with your kitchen)
Plastic funnel (used solely for chemicals-do not share with your kitchen)
Plastic spoon (used solely for chemicals-do not share with your kitchen)
Chemicals for developing your film:
Developer
Stop bath
Fixer
Gallon of distilled water
Timer
Changing bag or a completely dark room: must not have any light leaking in from window cracks or under doors. Any light at all will ruin your negatives.


Most of the equipment can be found pretty cheap. Go to a dollar store for measuring cup, funnel and spoon that you can use only for developing. If there is a college nearby that offers photography classes, check for fliers or second hand stores for used equipment. Be sure to check tanks for cracks or damage. Never buy chemicals used, they get weaker with age.

If you are buying a new tank, go into a camera store with a strip of ruined film that you can practice with. If you don't have a strip of ruined film, you can open a new roll you haven't shot with. You open the canister by popping the plastic end of with a bottle opener, exactly like you would open a bottle of beer or soda. The second the light hits the film, it will be ruined.

Get the hang of loading several different kinds of tanks, then close your eyes to load them. You will be loading your film into this tank either in a completely dark room or in a changing bag where you will not be able to see what you are doing. You will want to buy a tank that you are comfortable using. If there are no stores available for you to try them out in, I recommend ordering a Paterson system and practicing until you can load the film (with your eyes closed) without fumbling.

Changing bags are not required, but are nice to have. They allow you to load your film into your tank in complete darkness without needing to be in the dark. If you don't want to put out money for a changing bag, find a room with no windows (bathroom or closet) and find a way to block any light around the door.

There are many different chemicals to choose from, and choosing can be confusing. Many stores carry Kodak brand black and white chemicals and these are easy to use. Be sure to follow directions on the packaging exactly for measurements, temperatures and times to use each.

Many commercial film processors don't handle black and white film. Developing your own film opens the door for you to experiment with another art form. In my next article I will explain the steps of how to develop your film. Until then, go out and shoot some black and white film!

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