The Camera House Blog

Black & White Film Processing

Published On: 17 Sep, 2018 11:21 AM

A Beginners Guide

What equipment do I need to process my own 35mm Black & White Film?

 And how do I go about developing it?

We would suggest the following equipment as a minimum to get you started.

 3 x 1 Litre plastic or glass measuring cylinders/jugs



Plastic or glass bottle with a cap

Developing tank / Spiral

Bottle opener


Stirring spoon (plastic or metal - with a long handle)


Pegs for hanging the film up to dry


The Process

Prepare your chemistry, as per the manufactures instructions, I would recommend liquid chemistry, as these are easier to dilute and use. The chemistry should always be handled where there is good ventilation and always avoid surfaces where food is kept/prepared.

Developer. Dilute accurately and obtain the correct temperature, typically 20C (68F).

Stop Bath. This stops the film from developing further, once poured into the tank, you can also use water instead to save costs.

Fixer. Dissolves the unexposed silver halide crystals on the film, so stabilising the images on the film.

Photo-Flo. Water can be also used, but Photo-Flo will reduce water streaks on the film when it is drying.

You will need to find a pitch-black room, any room, but remember to board up the window, seal the door especially the bottom, and remember to switch you mobile off! If you get a call in the middle of loading your film onto a spiral it will be ruined. You can purchase a changing bag for this purpose, making life much easier.

Take your film, Developing tank, spiral, scissors and a bottle opener into the dark, a plastic developing tank and auto load spiral will be much easier to load, making sure that the spiral is bone dry to avoid the film jamming. Use the bottle opener to pry open the film canister, remove the film, carefully cut the tail off the film leader and offer the film into the spiral, the film will be secured onto a spool which you will need to remove by tearing tape that is securing it, once the film is on the spiral, place the spiral into the tank, secure the lid onto the tank and now you can carry on with the lights on. It would be beneficial for you to practise loading the spiral with an old film *(See Below) in daylight before you attempt it in the dark.

With the chemistry made up to their correct dilutions/volumes and temperature, a timer on hand, the loaded film can now be developed.


Start the development by pouring the developer smoothly, but as quickly as possible, into the tank. The developing tank should be standing in a sink or tray to collect any spillage. And start your timer.

Fit the cap onto the tank and turn upside down four times during the first 10 seconds and again for 10 seconds (4 inversions) at the start of every further minute to agitate the developer. Each time you invert the tank tap it on the bench to dislodge any air bubbles which may have formed on the film emulsion.

Make sure you have checked the development times required for your particular film stock, after the required time pour your developer into a storage bottle or discard.

Stop Bath

Pour the stop bath solution into the tank. Agitate by turning the tank upside down twice. After 10 seconds, pour it out. The time in the stop bath is not critical but it must be at least 10 seconds.

Or, fill the tank with water, Agitate by turning the tank upside down twice, repeat this process 3 or 4 times


Now pour in the fixer. And start the timer; agitate, as you did during developing stage, until fixation is completed as per the chemistry instructions. Pour the fixer solution into a storage bottle as this can be reused at a later time.


Now remove the tank lid and wash the film in running water (20C/68F) for about 5-10 minutes. Or you can fill the tank with water at approx (20C/68F), invert it five or six times. Pour the water away repeat and invert the tank ten times. Finally, pour and refill the tank again then invert it twenty times. Finally do a last rinse adding a few drops of Photo-Flo/wetting agent added to the water. This is not a requirement but helps the film to dry quickly, evenly and without watermarks on the film.


Now you need to dry the film. Remove the film from the spiral; attach a film clip (wooden or plastic) to it. Remove any excess water by very gently running a film squeegee or a clean piece of chamois cloth down the film. (Great care must be taken, as any debris/grit will scratch the whole of the film).

Attach a weighted film clip to the bottom end of the film with a tray under it for drips. Leave it to dry in a still, dust-free atmosphere. Drying can be speeded up by using a hair-dryer on a very low setting, kept moving and about 30cm/1ft away from the film.


When dry, do not touch the images, handle your film by the edges only. It would be advisable to cut and store your negatives in filing sheets to avoid damaging them.

Once you have developed your film, you can enlarge them with an enlarger, Contact Print them or Scan then to a computer.

 *Anyone purchasing a developing tank from can receive a test 35mm film to practise loading a spiral, please note that this film is for only for practising. Please claim your film during checkout.


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