How to Develop Film - B&C Camera

Many people prefer digital photography over classic film, and it is quick and timely. However, you are missing out on timeless photos if you overlook the elegance of film photography. Do not hesitate to run out and grab equipment for this satisfying hobby.


Understanding Film Photography

Film photography is an undeniable art. Not only is it an art, but it is also science! Film strips are comprised of different chemicals on transparent plastic, and one of the sides has a gelatin emulsion and silver halide crystals.


So...uhh...what are silver halide crystals? I got you! These crystals are sensitive to light, and the more light they see, they become bright (this is where contrast steps in). When they see more light, detail can get lost.


The More You Know

You know what they say - the more you know, the less you know. Before you jump into this hobby, there are a few things that you need to know and what you will need to buy.


Black & White or Color: It is easier to develop and process black and white film, and color film can be tricky. Experiment with black and white until you are comfortable and confident with your results.

Developing Tank: This is a light-tight container that keeps your film and chemicals safe.

• Film Reels: Getting a plastic film reel is a great starter. Film reels carry your film and allow the chemicals in the tank to graze every inch of your film. 

• Changing Bag: Most people aren't equipped with dark rooms in their homes. If you are one of these people, you will want to invest in a changing bag to carry your film around while en route to the developing tank.

• Chemicals: Developer, Stop Bath & Fixer: These three chemicals are crucial in developing your photographs. They are all available in liquid or powder forms.

• Measuring Containers: Graduated cylinders work great to measure and mix your chemicals. Or, you can purchase beakers. 

• Storage Containers: You will want some sort of container or bottle to retain any leftover chemicals (waste not, want not!).

• Thermometer: Any thermometer will do! You will need to measure the temperatures of all liquids.

• Distilled Water: Tap water is usually fine, but if your water has high levels of minerals, you will need distilled water on hand. 

• Film Clips: Similar to clothespins, these will fasten your photographs to something to help them dry efficiently.

• Scissors: Of course, you will need to cut your film!


How to Develop Film

This is the fun part! Experiment and have fun with your changing bag since you won't see what you are doing since the light can't enter.

  1. Use your changing bag to carry all of your essentials.
  2. Your next step is to very carefully remove the film from the canister. Only touch the edges! Use your scissors and cut the extra film on the roll (the film leader).
  3. Reach for your reel and try to feel for the entry point. The entry point will feel almost like two nubs. Once you have found this, insert your film two inches or so into the reel. Now, twist the sides of the film reel until all of the film is in the film reel. Use your scissors again to cut the spool off. Twist the film reel again until the film is entirely inside the film reel.
  4. Now, put your reel in the developing tank. Click your cap into place, and now you can finally remove it from your bag!
  5. Get out your measuring containers and dilute all three of your chemicals (separately). Each of your chemicals should come with dilution instructions. The water you use should be at a set temperature. Usually, the suggested temperature is 68°F. To prevent mineral spots, try to use distilled water.
  6. First, pour your developer into the tank and tap the bottom to get rid of air bubbles. Second, agitate your tank for 30 seconds and then turn the tank upside down for 10 seconds and flip it back. Continue doing this step every minute until the time is up. Every developer is different. Check your instructions for the total time. Unless you have a developer you can recycle, pour it down a nearby drain.
  7. Now it is your stop bath's turn! Again, after you pour it into the tank, agitate for 30 seconds and then let it rest for another 30 seconds. Now pour it out. Your stop bath does what the name says - it stops! Your developer has now officially stopped.
  8. Pour your fixer in and agitate for 30 seconds and then flip your tank over. Similarly to your developer, repeat this every minute until you have reached five minutes. Your fixer can be recycled up to three times. Pour it out into a container you can close.
  9. Ta-da! Your film is now developed! Use tap water to wash your film for about five minutes. 
  10. Avoid water spots by pouring a wetting agent into the tank after the tap water is gone.
  11. Now, you can open the tank up and carefully remove the film from the reel. Use a film squeegee to get rid of extra water.
  12. Hang your negatives to dry with a string and film clips. Allow about three hours for the negatives to dry.
  13. Cut your strip by every 5 photos to create smaller strips, and they are ready to print! 


It Is Printing Time!

Look for a local printing service to send your film and patiently wait for your photos to arrive. You may also be wondering what the going price is for this. Typically, the turnaround time for a 35mm roll is between two to three weeks, and you are looking at spending anywhere from $10 to $15 (amount varies with the number of exposures).


Use these tips and guides to properly develop your film! Tell us how this guide helped you! Want more how-tos? Check out our other blogs with helpful photography tips!


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