How To Develop Black And White Film

If you love photography, learn how to develop black and white film. Make sure you practice how to load the film into a light-tight film developing tank. Practice loading the film into the center of the reel with a waste strip of film in a lighted area until you can do it in the dark.

How to Develop Black and White Film: Tools Needed

  • Film processing tank

  • Thermometer

  • Clock or timer

  • Scissors

  • Measuring jugs

  • Film developer

  • Stop bath

  • Fixer

  • Wetting agent


  1. Load good film in a darkroom. To test a room for total darkness, stay in it for ten minutes to let your eyes completely adjust to the dark. Look for white light leaks entering through windows or doors. Fix any light leaks by securing a blanket around openings or put black tape around edges of the door or window. If light is escaping from the enlarger, place matte black cloth on the wall behind it
  2. Order the parts of your tank so it is easy to locate them as you are loading the film. When the tongue of the film is wound in, pull it out with a film picker. Cut the film's end through the sprockets. Put the film's leader between the reel's guides and curve the film a bit on each side to straighten it. Turn the light off. Load the film onto the reel by slowly rotating the reel. Locate the tape holding the film to the spool and remove and cut the film close to the film's end. Place the film into the tank.

  3. Put the tank's lid on and turn the lights on. Check the developer or film instructions for development time, it will also give the correct temperature. Mix all of your chemicals. Pour the film developer into the tank. Replace the lid. Tap the tank on the table to remove air bubbles from the emulsion. Agitate the film, by turning the tank over and back to the original position. Do this for 30 seconds. The developer must move across the tank and back to wash the film thoroughly.

  4. Check the tank's temperature three times while developing the film. Let the reading stabilize each time and replace the lid. Agitate the tank at 30 second intervals about four times during this process and tap on the table to displaced the bubbles.

  5. Average the temperatures. The developer, wash, and fixer need to be the same temperature. Big differences in temperature will make the grain increase. This is an important point in knowing how to develop black and white film.

  6. When the developing has finished, empty the tank and wash under running water to clean away excess developer. Empty the tank two or three times to insure all traces of the developer are gone. Or drain the tank pour in the stop bath and agitate continuously for 30 seconds. Empty the tank.

  7. Pour the fixer into the tank. Agitate it for 30 seconds. Then agitate every 30 seconds. It takes 2-4 minutes using a liquid concentrate fixer and 5-10 minutes using a powder fixer. In about 3 minutes check to see if the film is fixed. If you see milkiness, replace the film and continue developing for a few minutes. When the developing time is finished, check for pink stains on film, which indicate that the film didn't develop long enough or the fixer is about shot.

  8. Leave the film in the tank and wash under running water for 30 seconds.

  9. Pour in hypo-cleaning agent and leave it in tank for 1-2 minutes. Agitate the tank for 30 seconds and repeat every 30 seconds.

  10. Wash for five minutes, if the hypo-cleaning agent was used. If not, rinse for 20 minutes.

  11. Don't empty the tank. Squirt some wetting agent into the tank. Gently, agitate for 5 seconds and let set for 30 seconds.

  12. Take the film from the reel, hang it up and let it dry.

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