Black&White film Processing

This article will talk through the method of processing a black and white film as well as the equipment and chemicals needed. I will describe in detail at the end of the article the exact chemicals and times I will use to process a roll of HP5 PLUS 400 film.

All quite self explanatory but here's some info about each one anyway...

- develops the film
- is most important to have this chemical at the correct temperature and time in the tank
- temp and time can be altered for 'Push Processing'
- this chemical must be poured away after each session

- stops the developing process
- if not used results may be inconsistent between films
- can be reused (approx. 15 films per litre)

- fixes the chemical process
- lengthens the life of the film, if not used film may fade over time
- can be reused (approx. 24 films per litre)

Wetting agent
- helps the film dry evenly

Step-by-step process

First of all you need a darkroom, this literally just needs to be a light sealed space. The process can take place in light for most of the time apart from the beginning where it is imperative there is no light source otherwise the film will be ruined.

The equipment you need is: 

 developing tank and spiral
• film cap remover
• film leader retriever
• plastic measuring cylinder
• plastic beakers
• plastic storage bottles
• funnels
• stirring rod
• thermometer
• stop clock/watch
• film clips or pegs
• scissors
• negative storage bags
• squeegee 
• and of course your chemicals… 

I will be using Ilford Ilfotec LC29 Developer in a 1/29 ratio mix with water at 20ºC, Ilford Ilfostop in a 1/19 ratio mix with water (this is a little more lenient on temperature, I'm going for anything between 18-24ºC), Ilford Rapid fixer in a 1/4 mix with water (again anything between 18-24ºC in temp) and finally Ilford Ilfotol wetting agent at a 5ml/litre mix with water. 
(Try and say the word Ilford any more times in the same paragraph)

Once you're set up with your equipment, a space to work in and of course an unprocessed black and white film you're good to go. 
As I mentioned earlier I am basing these steps on developing an Ilford HP5 Plus 400 film with Ilford LC29, there is a very useful chart you can use to get the correct times and temps depending on your film and chemical of choice, and here it is!

1 Have your chemicals ready mixed and labeled in the quantities and temperatures you require. It is a good idea to have the bottles sitting in a tray of water slightly warmer than the necessary chemical temperature, to keep them getting too cold before they come to be used
2 Make sure the equipment you need is somewhere you can find it in the dark and placed in the order you will need it
3 Turn off the lights
4 Open the film canister using the cap remover and film leader retriever (I'd practise using these on a dead film beforehand as it can be quite tricky)
5 Cut the leader end so it leaves a flat edge
6 Wind the film onto the spool (Again, can be tricky, if possible also try this out before in the light with a dead film)
7 Cut off at the other end and place the spool into the tank, make sure the lid is on properly so no light can enter the tank
8 Turn on the lights
9 Pour in Developing solution so it covers the spool and start the timer for 9 minutes
10 Agitate a few times for the first 10 seconds of every minute, tap onto a surface after each agitation to ensure there are no bubbles
11 Pour the developer down the sink after 9 minutes, you can start pouring just before the 9 minute mark to ensure the chemicals are not in for too long
12 Pour in the Stop solution and leave for at least 10 seconds, agitate slightly. It doesn't matter if you go over this time, then pour back into the stop bottle
13 Pour in the Fix solution and leave for at least 3 minutes, agitating for the first 10 seconds of every minute as before, then pour back into the fix bottle
14 Your film is now developed so it can be exposed to light. Remove the tank lid and fill with water, shake well 10 times, then pour away and fill again to shake 20 times, pour away and again fill and shake 30 times. Alternatively leave the film under running water, either way you choose the film needs to be very well rinsed to ensure no chemicals remain
15 Add wetting agent solution to your last rinse to help the drying process 
16 Lift the spool out of the tank
17 Attach one end of the film to a clip and carefully unravel from the spool 
18 Use a squeegee to remove excess water from the film
19 Attach a weighted clip to the other end of the film and hang somewhere clean, dust free and not too hot to dry

Success! You have processed a film!

Next step is enlarging it to make prints, which requires a whole lot of extra kit. Stay tuned for more.


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