Develop your own Black and White film

The first step to working in a darkroom is learning to develop your own black and white film. Sure, you can bring your exposed film to a shop to be developed, but you loose a lot of control – and it is very expensive. The chemistry costs about a dollar or a euro for each roll of film, you get to try out lots of things, and its fun. Working in the darkroom is sometimes like cooking and sometimes like baking, but it is always like being in the kitchen, except the lights are a bit dimmer.

The main piece of equipment you’ll need to develop your own black and white film is a development tank. You can get one from Fotoimpex in Germany or Adorama in the U.S., for $30. You can also buy larger or more expensive film tanks from Jobo or Paterson, for hand development I like the cheaper version because it is often easier to get the film on. A thermometer is needed too, because the chemistry should be quite close to 20C/68F. Then you need a developer (ID-11 or Rodinal are good for getting started), a stop bath, and a fixer.

The most important thing in developing your own film in the darkroom is consistency. For example: it is OK if your developer is half a degree warm, as long as it is always half a degree warm. Your negatives would be more contrasty than “normal”, but you could reduce the time instead, or print differently. Also, you have to load the film in complete darkness. Red light will destroy undeveloped film, too.

If you are going to shoot film, learning to develop your own film is a joy, economical, and gives artistic control.

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