How to develop film at home.

Developing film is easy. In this article I will show you how you can develop film at home. Specifically we will develop Kodak Tri-X 400 film using Ilford Ilfosol 3 developer. You should be able to get started with a basic kit for around £70. Enough preamble, here is the process.

The Video

If you’re not into reading the process I have shot a video running through the process you can see that below:

Shopping List to Develop Film

To get started you’ll need to pick up some items. I have broken these into two categories, hardware and chemicals.

Hardware:

  • Paterson Tank – £20-£25
  • Measuring Jugs (0.5-1L in volume) – £3 each
  • Thermometer – £5
  • Film Changing Bag – £20
  • Film Clips – £5-10
  • Timer – (use your phone)
  • Pocket Knife – (use a bottle opener and a pair of scissors if you don’t have one)

Chemicals:

  • Ilford ILFOSOL 3 developer – £8
  • Ilford Stop Bath (reusable) – £5
  • Ilford Rapid Fixer – £14
  • Antistatic – £3 (you can also use dish washing detergent)

If you are starting from scratch you can expend to spend under £70 on Amazon to get started in the world of developing. Black and white film is running around £5 per roll at present. Therefore, the cost per shot is down around 20p as opposed to developing elsewhere.

Also, developing your own film removes the separation of yourself and the film. You do not have to hand it to a lab and wait a week for the results. You can shoot the film, get home and have it developed in under 30 min. This is a fun exercise

The Recipe to Develop Film

The recipe that I am using is as follows

  • Kodak Tri-X 400 shot at 400
  • Ilfosol 3 at a dilution of 1 + 9
  • Developed for 7.5 minutes at 20ºC
  • Agitations every minute for 10 seconds.

If you want to push/pull process your film (change the ASA dial of your camera to get a faster or slower shutter speed) you can use the recipes below:

Pull

  • Kodak Tri-X 400 shot at 200 = 5.5 minutes at 20ºC

Push

  • Kodak Tri-X 400 shot at 800 = 10.5 minutes at 20ºC
  • Kodak Tri-X 400 shot at 1600 = 14 minutes at 20ºC

Remember that you will end up with a slightly grainier image that has much more contrast than if you use the native ASA.

The Process to Develop Film

The following is a summary of the steps as illustrated in the video at the beginning of the post. I recommend you watch this in tandem with reading the steps below:

Preparation work

  1. Check the temperature of the water and fill all jugs with 20ºC
  2. While the temperature is being read go to your film changing bag
  3. Open both zips on the change bag and place inside, the film, your pocket knife, the spiral and tank.
  4. Place arms inside the change bag and remove the film from the canister.
  5. Place the film onto the runway until you hear/feel a click.
  6. Ratchet the film into the spiral.
  7. Place the spiral (on the central stem) back into the tank and close the lid.
  8. Remove tank from the change bag and prepare to develop.

How to develop film

  1. Ensure water temperature is at 20ºC in all three of the jugs
  2. For one roll of film I have found 500ml to be plenty of water fill all jugs to this level.
  3. Check the labels on all developers to find the correct ratio for each mixture.
  4. Mix chemicals by removing water from the 500ml jug and replace with correct amount of chemical.
  5. Ensure phone screen is configured never to go to sleep so you can use it as a timer.
  6. Start timer as you pour the developer into the Paterson tank.
  7. Slowly invert and revert the tank for 10 seconds and finish by tapping it to remove any bubbles.
  8. Let the tank sit for 1 minute before repeating 10 seconds of inversions and tapping.
  9. Repeat this process throughout the 7.5 minute development time.
  10. Before 7.5 minutes prepare to drain the tank (you need to finish pouring the chemicals out at the 7.5 minute mark).
  11. Pour out the developer at 7.5 min. You won’t need this anymore so dispose of it safely (Ilford developer is safer than other developers so can be disposed of down the drain as long as it is flushed with plenty of water)
  12. Immediately pour in the stop bath and perform continuous agitations for 15 seconds.
  13. Pour the stop bath back into the jug (you can reuse this).
  14. Start the timer a second time and pour in the fixer.
  15. Agitate the tank for 10 seconds and tap it to remove bubbles.
  16. Repeat this process at the beginning of each minute until you reach 3 minutes.
  17. At the 3 minute mark pour the fixer back into the jug (you can reuse this)
  18. Begin washing the film by filling the tank 5-6 times with fresh (cool) water.
  19. Mix 5-10 drops of antistatic in the empty jug with around 500ml of water and pour into the tank for the final wash.
  20. Invert for 10-20 seconds to evenly coat the film.
  21. Remove the film from the tank and smile proudly as you see the images.
  22. Use the film clips to hang the film (weighted clip at bottom) and leave it to dry in a dust free location for around an hour.
  23. Once dry (not tacky to the touch) cut the film into strips of 6 and store them somewhere flat to prevent curling.
  24. Celebrate good times, c’mon!

The Results

Here are some of the results from my first roll of film through the Olympus OM-1. You can see the full video of the shoot here.