How to Develop Film at Home


Black and white photography is making a comeback. After years of exploding color, there is something now considered “new” yet "classic" about a crisp black and white portrait. It can be considered a piece of artwork for the wall. With the resurgence in this type of photography, it is highly likely that more people will--once again--turn toward developing their own film at home. It isn’t difficult. It doesn’t take a lot of equipment or space. All it takes is a dark room, the right tools and a bit of patience.

Things You'll Need

  • Dark Room (a space in the home that can be blacked out)
  • Bottles (safe for storing reusable chemicals)
  • Developing Chemicals ( =including film developer, stop bath, clearing agent, and fixer)
  • Film Squeegee
  • Film Development Tank with Spool and Reel
  • Measuring Cup
  • Tool (to pop open film top)
  • Pop the top off a container of exposed roll of black and white film inside a totally dark room. Roll the film onto the film reel. This reel comes with the film tank. Be sure that the holes in the film connect within the teeth of the film reel. Once in place, slowly and carefully advance the film onto the reel until all of it is properly connected.

  • Put the film reel into the development tank, lining up the hole in the center of the reel with the spool in the center of the tank. Note: The tube is often removable from the tank so that it can be taken out. Slide it into the center of the reel before being put into the tank. Place the lid onto the film development tank.

  • Turn the room’s light on. Move into another lit room after the film is safely and securely locked within the tank.

  • Mix the developing chemicals--developer, stop bath, clearing agent, and fixer--according to the instructions given for chemical type and the brand of chemical purchased. Be sure to meet any and all required temperature settings before using the chemical.

  • Pour the appropriately measured amount of film developer into the development tank. Make sure it is at the appropriate temperature.

  • Move the tank backwards and forwards. Move the tank up and down and around in a washing machine agitation motion. It is essential to get film developer on each and every frame of the film inside the tank. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions with regard to the amount of time to leave the film in the developer. This will vary based on the type of film being developed. This will also vary based on the chemicals being used and the temperature of the product.

  • Repeat Step 6 above with the film’s stop bath and fixer.

  • Pour out the film developer when the time is up. If the product chosen is reusable, pour it into a bottle that is appropriate for storage of that type of chemical. If it must be disposed of, do that according to your state’s hazardous materials regulations (which can be found out through the state OSHA office). See the link in our Resources section to find the OSHA official website for your area.

  • Rinse the film for the amount of time recommended by manufacturer instructions. Do this while it is still inside the closed development tank.

  • Open the development tank. Take out the film reel. Remove the film from the reel and place in a sink or container of clearing agent. This rinses off any remaining residue.

  • Squeegee the film to remove any excess water, Hang the film up to dry.

  • Cut dried film into strips of six photos per strip. Now it is ready to use to make photographs.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you don't have a dark room or closet to use, make one by using black trash bags to close off windows and any other sources of light. Use tape that will make the bags easily removable once you are finished.
  • While it is possible to use a hand sponge to squeegee the film, an actual film squeegee will work better.
  • Don't over or under fill the film development tank.
  • Follow temperature guidelines carefully, or the film may be ruined.
  • Don't over or under agitate the film as it is in the development process. Too little agitation might result in ruined film. Too much agitation may result in overexposed film.

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