How to Develop Your Own Black and White Film at Home: No Darkroom Needed

Shooting film is a lot of fun, but part of what pushes photographers away from it is the cost, a lot of which is tied up in developing. This awesome video will show you how to develop your own black and white film in your bathroom with a minimal kit and much lower costs than sending it out.

I still love shooting film, both for the nostalgia factor and for the different process and approach to image-making it requires. The problem, of course, is that it's not terribly cost-efficient these days, and a few rolls of 120 film can very quickly put a sizable hole in my wallet in development costs, which is a problem, because I love shooting 120 film. Thankfully, as this helpful video fromĀ James Stevenson Photography shows, it's not particularly hard or costly to develop your own film at home. Here's everything you'll need that's used in the video:

Keep in mind these supplies will last you for quite a while. Also, if you're interested in scanning your negativesĀ to really complete the process, I recommend the Epson V-Series scanners.

[via ISO 1200]

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29 Comments

I don't know if it is me or the video but that roll of film looks fogged or overprocessed.

Kirk Darling's picture

They look flat and thin to me, and yes, foggy between frames. I think his area is not light-tight. One needs to sit for a the length of five or six songs in the darkened room, then look carefully for light leaks.

Anonymous's picture

Great video for beginners, but I hate Ilfosol-3 so much...

Anonymous's picture

A combination of the fact that I don't like the look, it isn't exactly cheap, and it has a pretty bad shelf life. In general, with a few exceptions (primarily Rodinal and HC-110), I tend not to be really fond of liquid developers for some reason, so that probably plays into it a bit as well.

Most recently, I've taken to using Xtol as my primary developer, which I use replenished 80ml per roll as "seasoned" stock. Its shelf life isn't all that great either, but if it does die for some reason, I can mix up a new batch (super easy since it mixes at room temperature) and use the exhausted developer as a base to accelerate the "seasoning" of the stock solution.

Anonymous's picture

I've been using both Rodinal and HC-110 (the unofficial Dilution B as a one shot) almost exclusively for a few years now. Started with Ilfosol 3 as well and never liked the results. Oddly enough, I find Ilford HP5 Plus works lovely with HC-110, much better than Ilfosol 3, especially in 120.

Kirk Darling's picture

HC-110. Lovely syrup, good as honey for darned near everything if you didn't need super high acutance.

Anonymous's picture

Agreed. With a low dilution like B and 120 film I've not seen an issue with acutance.

Kirk Darling's picture

No, there is not a "problem" with HC-110 dil B, but there are developers that can achieve a bit higher acutance in conjunction with super high-acutance (very thin emulsion) films.

Rodinal is one of them, and I caveated my statement only because Rodinal had already been mentioned.

Anonymous's picture

Oh no doubt there are developers that achieve higher acutance. I meant it hasn't been an issue for my personal taste.

I've only developed Rodinal with 200 or lower speed films. Do you know if acutance would suffer with faster emulsions?

Kirk Darling's picture

Rodinal with faster films will tend to block up the highlights more than necessary.

Anonymous's picture

I see. Appreciate the insight.

James Stevenson's picture

I use a couple of different developers, Ilfosol 3 is one of the most widely available and I think a good, easy to use one-shot developer that is cost effective. My favourite is actually Rodinal - not a developer that everyone likes as it can accentuate film grain rather than smooth it as Ilfosol 3 does a little, so it definitely has more 'bite'. There are so many though, the nice thing is you can choose from hundreds.

Home developing is so easy. I have two 35mm rolls of black and white film hanging right now over my bath. Honestly, if you can cook a half decent meal, you can develop film. All you really need (unless you are a dab hand with a changing bag, which I am not) is a room you can make light-tight for extracting and spooling the film. Beyond that, as the video points out, the equipment is minimal and it's done in the light, in my case in the kitchen sink. Since I picked up a temperature controlled water bath, I do color too. I have developed literally hundreds of rolls since I got into film developing in 2014, and almost all of of them came out just fine. I've probably lost an equivalent proportion of digital images through bad cards, formatting mistakes etc. as I have with film developing errors. And it really does save a ton of cash, as well as giving an enormous amount of pleasure in the process. Agree with the Epson scanning recommendation, although I use the fine Plustek Optic Film 8200i AI for my 35mm film and get good results.

Kirk Darling's picture

Well, that takes me back to 1968.

If you want to do BW, be sure to check out https://www.freestylephoto.biz/

Freestyle has been doing a quirky business devoted to BW since at least 1968. And they're still doing it.

Bob Harris's picture

As a British "old timer", who used to undertake lots of B&W film processing, I have never heard anyone in the photographic industry pronounce "Paterson" as 'pay-terson'. It's "PAT-ERSON"
Even our American cousins pronounce Paterson correctly.
Take a look (listen) at this:
https://youtu.be/GpeVja_xIQw

Anonymous's picture

"Our American Cousin" was the play Lincoln was watching when he was shot. Is your post a thinly veiled attack on America?!?!!? :)

And you're absolutely right on the pronunciation of Paterson. "Aluminum", however, is another story.

Bob Harris's picture

No attack on the Americans, but the pronunciation video uses an American voice. :-)
And don't get me started on how they pronounce 'Aubergine' :-)

Alex Cooke's picture

You say "Paterson;" I say "that tank thing over there."

He's missed an important step, or maybe I didn't hear his disclaimer, but when one exposes a 35 mm roll of film and rewinds it, there is no leader sticking out of the cartridge. You need a church key or a can opener and you must open the 35 mm film cartridge in order to get to the film. Then you can snip the leader and spool the film.

Never tried any of that and all my film cameras were and are completely manual. I guess I was too afraid of misjudging where the leader was when I was rewinding to take the chance of not rewinding all the way. Yes, neat little tricks.

Didn't mean to offend with "little tricks." It's just a saying I use.

I'm sure the electronic film cameras were wonderful. I learned on manual and kept that camera for over 30 years, still using it today. I'm just a little slow to upgrade. ;-)

James Stevenson's picture

Hi there! This is one way of removing the film, if the leader is all the way into the canister. However I've never liked that extra step, and always propose leaving the leader sticking out when you rewind the film or even using a retriever to pull it back out again if it's all the way in. I just find having the whole roll of film loose and having to prize the top of the canister an extra complication in the dark.

I understand lots of people like to work that way though, so it's all good either way! The ilford site shows this step and it's a commonly used one, so if you prefer to it's fine to work that way too.

I've been shooting film since I can remember, but always used manual cameras so I never knew some cameras left a bit of leader out when rewinding. Then, recently, I rewound a roll of film only to be disappointed in finding it never advanced while shooting. I looked up if there was a way to retrieve the leader and found one so I stand corrected on my first comment. It's a very good example of always learning something new. :)

Hans Rosemond's picture

Reason #439b to skip 35mm. Haha. JK. Sort of. ;)

Haha...I recently moved to medium format film, but still shoot 35 mm. I definitely don't regret moving to 120.

I know im late with this comment but where does one find weight clips? I know where to find the hanging clips for the tub but not the weights. Thx

James Stevenson's picture

Hi Vanessa, when you by the paterson ones, they look almost identical but one has more weight (bought in pairs). Also most good photo shops should have the weighted clips too, hope this is helpful!

James Stevenson's picture

Sorry for the late responses on here, I genuinely just saw that this was published on fstoppers which was a nice surprise. Missed it last year somehow! Happy film shooting everyone, hope the viceo was helpful :)