Film photography in 2018: How

The part 1 of this blog tried to answer the question why shoot film in 2018. This part will tell you how to develop that film that you have shot on your camera. Because the color process brings some additional complications, I’m just going to describe developing black and white film here. There are more nuances to the process than what is written here, but I’m going over the basic process. I leave out some optional steps such as pre-wetting and a separate stop bath. After getting familiar with the basic process you can try out different developers like the instant coffee-based Kaffenol or experiment with the dilution and development times and see how they affect the process.

Canon film camera with Kodak slide film

For now we are going to use store-bought chemicals: Film developer and fixer. The other items you need are a developing tank, a stopwatch and a thermometer. You will also need to have access to a completely dark room and running water. Ilford ID-11 is an example of a popular film developer and Ilford Rapid Fixer a popular fixer. The following instructions are written assuming they are what you are using. For different chemicals check the manufacturer’s specific instructions.

Film camera with film developing accessories

Before popping that film cartridge open, make sure you know how to load the film in the developing tank in total darkness. So, get a sacrificial film roll and practice opening it and loading the film to the into the development tank until you can do this with your eyes closed.

First step is to prepare the developer and fixer. Use warm (around 40 C/104 F) water to dilute the developer to the desired dilution. Use tap water if it’s soft and clean, otherwise use distilled water. Dilute the fixer with one part fixer and four parts 20 C (68 F) water, but use separate cups and containers while mixing it. Let the developer cool to 20 C (68 F) before using it. Make note what development time the manufacturer recommends for your film.

When everything else is ready, go inside your darkroom and turn off the lights. Now open the film cartridge and roll the film to the coils of the development tank. Once the tank is properly closed with the film inside, you can turn on the light again.

Developing tank with film reels, photo film rolls and cassette

Now pour in the developer. Start the timer. Agitate the tank by turning it upside down, more frequently at first and then every once in a while after that so all air bubbles come loose. Once the time is up, pour out the developer and fill the tank with 20 C water, empty it and re-fill with 20 C water again. Keep agitating the tank for about one minute and then fill the tank with the fixer. Keep agitating the tank like before. Fixer should stay in for 2- 5 minutes. After the fixer has done its job, rinse the film with clear water. Now it’s safe to open the tank and hang your film to dry. Developer is one-time use only but the fixer can be re-used so don't throw it away.


After the film has dried you can cut it into strips and start thinking whether you want to develop your own prints. This will require some more tools such as an enlarger, photographic paper and paper developer, but you probably want the images in digital format too, so find a scanner somewhere and make the A/D conversion.

Photo credits: Corepics Vof, Natallia Khlapushyna, Klodvig.

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May 02, 2018


Wow.... reminded me of how I used to do this long back with the B

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