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How to Develop Black and White 35-Millimeter Film

Learn to develop black and white film yourself and take control of your photos.


  • Step 1: Remove the seal and pour out the developer just as the timer goes off. Then, add the stop bath, agitate according to the instructions, usually about 10 seconds, and drain the tank. Repeat the process with the fixer, usually about 3 minutes.
  • TIP: Tap the bottom of the developing tank after adding liquids to dislodge air bubbles.
  • Step 2: Remove the developing tank lid, fill the tank with 68-degree water, and invert it 5 times. Drain the water, refill the tank, and invert it another 10 times. Pour out the water, refill it once more, invert the tank 20 times, and drain.
  • Step 3: Open the tank, place a film clip on the end of the negatives, and pull them off the reel. Hang the strip by the clip over a developing tray in a dust-free room and squeegee it. Then, place a clip on the bottom to prevent curling, and leave it overnight; when the strip's totally dry, you're ready to print your photos!
  • FACT: The first commercially built camera was constructed in 1839.
  • Step 4: Remove the developing tank's sealing cap and pour in the developer quickly. Then, fit on the sealing cap and agitate the tank by inverting it for the amount of time indicated for your film and chemical brand, usually 5 to 15 minutes. The frequency of agitation will slow as the process goes on; use a timer to ensure accuracy.
  • Step 5: Prepare a rubber tub of water that's about 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Stand the mixing jugs in the bath and use the thermometer to ensure each solution reaches 68 degrees. Rinse the thermometer thoroughly between each use.
  • Step 6: From inside the bag, open the developing tank and remove the reel. Position the black and white, 35-millimeter strip on it and spool the film, taking care not to create kinks. Then, cut off the film canister and reassemble the developing tank. Seal the tank tightly, and remove it from the changing bag.
  • Step 7: Cut off the leader; then, place the film, scissors, and developing tank in the changing bag, seal the top of the bag, and slide your arms through the side holes.
  • TIP: Practice spooling old film outside of the bag before trying the process in the changing bag.
  • Step 8: Check the chemical manufacturer's instructions for the ratio of developer, stop bath, and fixer to water. Pour each chemical into graduated cylinders to measure. Combine each with the designated amount of water in separate mixing jugs, stirring the solutions with separate rods.
  • TIP: Label each mixing jug and always use the same jug for each chemical.
  • Step 9: Remove the canister of black and white, 35-millimeter film from your camera. Use a leader retriever to gently extract the film's leader.

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