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Developing Black & White Film

Guest Author - Janina Webb

Before you are ready to develop your film, mix your chemicals following the directions on the package. The measurements and temperatures need to be accurate. Use your thermometer to be sure of the temperature of the water you are adding to your mixtures. Also, be sure that the mixtures are completely mixed, especially if you are using powder chemicals. Store your chemicals in an airtight container in a dark area, that stays at a steady temperature between 65 and 75 degrees.

When you have finished practicing loading film onto your reels and you feel confident that you can load in the dark, then gather the items you will need. Place you scissors, bottle opener, daylight tank, reels, and your unopened film canister in your changing bag or room with no light. If you are not using a changing bag, then sit in the dark for several minutes to let your eyes adjust to be sure there are no light leaks anywhere. Touch all of your items in the dark and be sure they are arranged so that you can find them easily.

Use your bottle opener to pry the flattest end off of your film canister. Carefully remove your roll of film from the canister, touching only the edges of the film. Load your film onto the reel, taking care that it's natural curve goes with the curve of the reel. When you get to the plastic end on the strip of film, use your scissors to cut it off and finish loading the film. Place your reel in your daylight tank and screw the lid on. Once you are sure your lid is on securely, your tank is lightproof and you can turn the lights on or open your changing bag. Now you are ready to add your chemicals. Check that all of your chemicals are at the recommended temperatures. If they need warmed or cooled, place the container in a bowl and pour warmer or cooler water around it until proper temperature is reached.

Place your tank in your sink so that any chemical spills will be able to run down your drain. Open the pour spout only. Do not open the main part of the tank or light will ruin your film.

Fill your tank up with room temperature water and close the spout. Agitate your tank by tipping the tank upside down and then right side up several times to be sure that all of the film is wet. Open the pour spout and tip your tank upside down to let the water pour out of your tank and into your sink.

Pour the developer into your tank and start your timer for the time the directions list for the temperature your developer is at and close the spout. Once a minute, agitate your tank by tipping it upside down for a few seconds, then tipping it back. Once right side up again, tap your tank lightly on the edge of the sink. This will remove air bubbles trapped on your film that cause spots on your negatives.

When the time is up, pour out the developer down the drain with water running. As soon as the developer is out of the tank, pour the stop bath into the tank and agitate continuously for the time stated on the directions. When the time is up, pour down the drain with the water running. When the stop bath is out, pour the fixer in and agitate for 30 seconds. Pour the fixer down the drain with running water.

Now, you can open the tank and set it under the running water to rinse for a couple of minutes. Turn the water off and pour all water out and fill the tank up with distilled water for one last rinse. Pop the reel of film gently in and out of the distilled water for another half a minute to help rinse all chemicals and sink water off of the negatives.

Remove the negatives from the reel, being careful to only touch the edges of the negatives. You need to hang the negatives in a dust free area where heaters and fans will not being blowing on them. I use blinder clips to hang them from a hanger, and then hang them in a closet. Be sure to place a binder clip at the bottom of the negative so that it hangs straight down. Let the negatives hang until completely dry. You can purchase a film squeegee to speed the drying time, but this isn't necessary.

When they are dry, cut them into strips of no smaller than 4 negatives. Be sure to take care you cut straight and store them in a dry area either in sleeves or separated by paper to keep them from sticking together.

You can take your negatives to a lab to be printed unless if you have a darkroom and the necessary equipment to print your own. If you are taking them to a lab, check with different photographers and see which lab they are happiest with. Be sure the lab knows they are black and white negatives.

Expanding your photography to include developing your own film is an exciting step in your art. Not only will you have the control of quality of your negatives, but it is cheaper than using a lab. You will be able to pick which negatives you want printed, saving on printing costs as well.

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Content copyright © 2014 by Janina Webb. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Janina Webb. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Ewa Sapinska for details.

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