Developing/Processing a Black and White Film

Posted on Posted in How to

This week I had a workshop on how to process and develop film from a previous workshop. Using Plymouth Universities faculties and with the help of staff in pairs we had to process, develop and print our pictures.

The hardest part of the whole process was to transfer the film into a spiral and then in a light-tight developing tank. I found it really fiddly in practice and so had no hope of doing it in complete darkness.

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Others in our group also struggled to do it in complete darkness, it takes a lot of practice. We also had to make sure all the equipment was clearly laid out. For this part we had to put the film on a spiral then through a black tube then in the light-tight developing tank. Although we had two films to develop we could only manage to get one in the tank without messing up.

Once the film was light-tight we could then escape the horrible cubicle of darkness and start with the chemical developing.

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The next steps were pretty easy, it was a matter of simply following instructions and making sure we has the correct measurements.

To start the process we had to measure 600ml of water at 20 degrees (all these measurements are specific to the film we used). We then tipped some out till we had 550ml so we could put 50ml of developing solution in which then got poured into the tank. We had to then turn it every minute for 9 minutes to make sure all the film was covered.

We then filled it with water and turned it five times tipped it out then again for 10, then for 15 and 20. After this we tipped it out for a final time then added bath solution and water for 30 seconds. Finally we washed it again with a couple drops of fixer.


The film needed to be dried in a special cabinet for 30 minutes, after the complex process the film was developed. We now had to learn the printing process.

(All measurements included are from my memory please don’t use them as instructions as they are only roughly correct)

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To choose the right picture and the right exposure we had to create a contact sheet, using the universities dry dark room.


Before putting the light-sensitive paper anywhere near the enlarger it is good practice to make sure that the light is in the right place and that the timer is working. Now to decide what exposure is the best, we had to exposure sections of a tester sheet for various lengths of time. By only exposing a section for 5 seconds whilst the rest is covered and the exposing the previous section and a bit more for another 5 second until you have four sections that have different exposures.  In this case around 10-15 was the perfect exposure. It then went through the ilfolab 2150rc table top processor which automatically develops the paper. We could then make a contact sheet by placing the negatives and light-sensitive paper between foam and glass so that the negatives don’t move, exposing it and then processing it just like the tester.

Once we had the right exposure and the best picture we decided to enlarge it as a bigger print.


To print you have to put the film in the film carrier and project the image on an easel. This will allow you to resize and refocus the image as you wish, before putting the paper on it. Using the enlarging easel to hold the paper you expose the image to the suitable time. We had to then put the paper through the processing machine and our print was done.


Although the final print is quite abstract and not perfect it is not a bad image for a first attempt. It was clear who had done it before as some of the images came out the whole process perfect. It is a very time-consuming and costly process but rewarding at the end. I would love to retry the process and get a better result. However I feel that I won’t be carrying it on for any projects just yet.


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