Before processing, the film must be removed from the camera and from its cassette, spool or holder in a light-proof room or container.
Chromogenic materials use dye couplers to form colour images. Modern colour negative film is developed with the C-41 process and colour negative print materials with the RA-4 process. These processes are very similar, with differences in the first chemical developer.
† In modern automatic processing machines, the stop bath is replaced by mechanical squeegee or pinching rollers. These treatments remove much of the carried-over alkaline developer, and the acid, when used, neutralizes the alkalinity to reduce the contamination of the fixing bath with the developer.
This guide focuses on the chemistry you can use for processing film. We also have a guide to processing film a…
We only sell one stop bath, ILFOSTOP. This is suitable for all our films and papers and, as it is a liquid concentrate, it is ideal for beginners.
When preparing chemistry always check the labels on the bottle and refer to the technical data sheets for each product which can be found on this website. Each chemistry item needs to be diluted as per the instructions on the bottle and the developing tank you use will advise on the quantity you need to make.
Chemistry should be handled where there is adequate ventilation and always avoid surfaces where food is kept/prepared. It is well worth taking a few minutes to read our Health and Safety section which gives advice and guidance on the safe use and disposal of chemistry.
1 Common processes 1.1 Black and white negative processing 1.2 Black and white reversal processing 1.3 Colour processing 2 Further processing 3 Processing apparatus 3.1 Small scale processing 3.2 Commercial processing 4 See also 5 References 6 External links
Black and white negative processing is the chemical means by which photographic film and paper is treated after photographic exposure to produce a negative or positive image. Photographic processing transforms the latent image into a visible image, makes this permanent and renders it insensitive to light.
The film developer, stop bath and fixer we recommend for beginners are all liquid concentrate chemistry and as such are easy to prepare. However, we still advise wearing protective glasses and suitable protective clothing.
Developing black and white film will vary depending on the processing chemicals you use for black and white film photography, but it largely remains the same. Black and white film requires a constant temperature, but is much more flexible than color print film during the C-41 process or color reversal film during the E-6 process. Additionally, water temperature does not need to be kept as warm as the color film types, as the ideal temperature is around 68-72° F instead of 100° F – making black and white film development a simpler process. However, different black and white film types have different development times and different film speeds have different development times.
Film may be rinsed in a dilute solution of a non-ionic wetting agent to assist uniform drying, which eliminates drying marks caused by hard water. (In very hard water areas, a pre-rinse in distilled water may be required – otherwise the final rinse wetting agent can cause residual ionic calcium on the film to drop out of solution, causing spotting on the negative.
) Film is then dried in a dust-free environment, cut and placed into protective sleeves.
While trying it for the first time might be a daunting prospect, fear not. Below is our guide on what equipment, chemistry and method would be suitable for anyone new to processing films. For more detail, you can download our full pdf guide to processing your first film and watch this short animation.
Start the development by pouring the ILFOTEC DD–X developer solution smoothly, but as quickly as possible, into the tank. The tank should stand in a development dish or tray to collect drips. Start your timer when you finish pouring.
Fit the sealing cap and turn the tank upside down four times during the first 10 seconds and again for 10 seconds (that is four inversions) at the start of every further minute to agitate the developer.
Each time you invert the tank tap it on the bench to dislodge any air bubbles which may have formed on the film. Make sure you have checked the development times needed for each film. For example DELTA PROFESSIONAL 100 film needs 12 minutes in ILFOTEC DD–X (1+4) at 20°C/68ºF.
Therefore, 15 seconds before the 12-minute mark is reached, start to pour the developer out of the tank. The timer should come to 12 minutes just as you finish pouring. Pour the ILFOSTOP stop bath solution into the tank.
Agitate by turning the tank upside down twice. After 10 seconds, pour it out. The time in the stop bath is not critical but it must be at least 10 seconds. Next pour in the ILFORD RAPID FIXER solution.
Start the clock as you finish pouring, then agitate, as you did during development, until fixation is complete. This will take 3 minutes. Once again, the time is not critical provided it is over 3 minutes.
You can pour the fixer into a storage bottle as this can be reused. Now the film is fixed you can remove the tank lid. Wash the film in running water (20C/68F) for about 5-10 minutes. Alternatively fill the tank with water at the same temperature as the processing solution and invert it 5 times.
Drain the water away and refill then invert the tank 10 times. Finally, drain and refill the tank again then invert it twenty times before draining. Finally do a last rinse adding a few drops of ILFOTOL wetting agent added to the water.
This is not essential but does help the film dries quickly and evenly. Drying
Count the negatives: a 36-exposure film may give 37 or 38 pictures. The best way to store them is in filing sheets which take six or seven strips of six negatives, so try to cut them up in this way. (You may be able to drop a blank shot or bad exposure to do this.) Date and label the filing sheet straight away, and they are ready for making prints.
Beginners Guide to Processing Film Posted On 30th March 2017 To Beginner Series & Film
In commercial processing, the film is removed automatically or by an operator handling the film in a light proof bag from which it is fed into the processing machine. The processing machinery is generally run on a continuous basis with films spliced together in a continuous line. All the processing steps are carried out within a single processing machine with automatically controlled time, temperature and solution replenishment rate. The film or prints emerge washed and dry and ready to be cut by hand. Some modern machines also cut films and prints automatically, sometimes resulting in negatives cut across the middle of the frame where the space between frames is very thin or the frame edge is indistinct, as in an image taken in low light.
The following black and white film development guide is a general outline and you should consult the instructions from the chemicals you purchase for specific development times. Be sure your black and white film is not C-41 process film as it will not work for standard black and white film processing. Please also note that the chemicals are diluted with water, typically using a 1:9 or 1:8 chemical to water ratio. Again, please consult the chemical manufacturer for the proper dilution.
Transparency films, except Kodachrome, are developed using the E-6 process, which has the following stages:
External links Kodak Processing manuals The Massive Dev Chart – film development times The Comprehensive Development Times Chart – Manufacturer’s film development times database Ilford guide to processing black & white film
Sheet films can be processed in trays, in hangers (which are used in deep tanks), or rotary processing drums. Each sheet can be developed individually for special requirements. Stand development, long development in dilute developer without agitation, is occasionally used.
Photographic processing or development is the chemical means by which photographic film or paper is treated after photographic exposure to produce a negative or positive image. Photographic processing transforms the latent image into a visible image, makes this permanent and renders it insensitive to light.
For our recommendations on which chemistry to use and how to prepare them please read our Beginners Guide to Choosing Chemistry for Processing Films.
The negative may now be printed; the negative is placed in an enlarger and projected onto a sheet of photographic paper. Many different techniques can be used during the enlargement process. Two examples of enlargement techniques are dodging and burning.
Once the loaded film is in the tank and the tank’s protective lids have been applied you can carry out the remainder of the process in the light. You will need to check the development, stop bath and fixer times for that particular film and developer which can be found in the technical data sheets.
3 medium size plastic or glass measuring jugs (ideally, they need to measure from 10ml to 1L) Thermometer Timer Plastic or glass bottle with a cap Development tank Bottle opener (or film cap remover) Chemistry as detailed below Stirring spoon (plastic or metal – with a long handle) Scissors Pegs for hanging the film to dry
Developer time varies upon water temperature, film type, and film speed. The ideal temperature is 68-72° F and development times will run anywhere from four minutes to 20 minutes. ISO 100 is different than ISO 400.
Kodak ISO 100 is also different than Ilford ISO 100. Water rinse for one minute at 68-72° F to stop and remove developer. Fixer for five minutes at 68-72° F to remove silver and eliminate light sensitivity of the film.
Fixer remover for two minutes at 68-72° F to remove last of any remaining soluble silver and fixer. Water rinse for 10 minutes at 68-72° F to remove any remaining chemicals. Final rinse in photo-flo for one minute for consistent and even drying.
Dry in dust-free environment.
Alternatively (or as well), the negative may be scanned for digital printing or web viewing after adjustment, retouching, and/or manipulation.
Unwind the film out of the grooves of the spiral and remove any excess water by carefully running squeegee tongs or a clean piece of chamois cloth down the length of the film. (Take care as any grit caught up here will scratch the whole film).
In some old processes, the film emulsion was hardened during the process, typically before the bleach. Such a hardening bath often used aldehydes, such as formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde. In modern processing, these hardening steps are unnecessary because the film emulsion is sufficiently hardened to withstand the processing chemicals.
If colour negative film is processed in conventional black and white developer, and fixed and then bleached with a bath containing hydrochloric acid and potassium dichromate solution, the resultant film, once exposed to light, can be redeveloped in colour developer to produce an unusual pastel colour effect.
When dry, examine the negatives. The film edges (rebates) should be clear, with legible frame numbers along the bottom. A correctly exposed and processed negative should have a full range of tones, with some parts almost clear (like the rebates) and other parts so dense you can only just read print through them. Handle your negatives by the edges only.
Well done you have processed a film and are now ready to print!
A black and white developer develops the silver in each image layer. Development is stopped with a rinse or a stop bath. The film is fogged in the reversal step. The fogged silver halides are developed and oxidized developing agents couple with the dye couplers in each layer.
The film is bleached, fixed, stabilised and dried as described above.
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In the RA-4 process, the bleach and fix are combined. This is optional, and reduces the number of processing steps.
The key difference between them is that HYPAM is compatible with a hardener while RAPID FIXER is not. As our films are all sufficiently robust, hardeners are typically not required but some people still prefer to use them.
Details on the other developers and their best/special characteristics can be seen in the table below. We also have technical information sheets for all our chemistry on their product pages.
As you get more experienced at processing, you may want to switch to a powder concentrate as they can be more economical. Powder developers are initially made up as ‘stock solution’ which can last up to 6-months. As a result, they can be made in advance of them needing to be used and then used as stock or further diluted (1+1 or 1+3) within the 6-month period.
Once the chemistry has been prepared (which you can do in the light) you will need to take your film out of its cartridge and load it onto a spiral/reel before placing it into a developing tank. This stage needs to be done in complete darkness and so we have pulled together some tips to help you master this.
With the chemistry solutions all made up to their correct working dilutions and volumes, a timer at the ready, the loaded film can now be processed.
Attach a weighted film clip to the bottom end of the film with a developing tray under it for drips. Leave it to dry in a still, dust-free atmosphere. Drying can be speeded up by using a hair-dryer on a low setting, kept moving and about 30cm/1ft away from the shiny side of the film.
Following the stop bath, the film is bleached to remove the developed negative image. The film then contains a latent positive image formed from unexposed and undeveloped silver halide salts. The film is fogged, either chemically or by exposure to light.
The remaining silver halide salts are developed in the second developer, converting them into a positive image. Finally, the film is fixed, washed, dried and cut. Colour processing
In amateur processing, the film is removed from the camera and wound onto a reel in complete darkness (usually inside a darkroom with the safelight turned off or a lightproof bag with arm holes). The reel holds the film in a spiral shape, with space between each successive loop so the chemicals may flow freely across the film’s surfaces. The reel is placed in a specially designed light-proof tank (called daylight processing tank or a light-trap tank) where it is retained until final washing is complete.
Key stages in production of Ag-based photographs. Two silver halide particles, one of which is impinged with light (hν) resulting in the formation of a latent image (step 1). The latent image is amplified using photographic developers, converting the silver halide crystal to an opaque particle of silver metal (step 2).
Finally, the remaining silver halide is removed by fixing (step 3).
See also List of photographic processes Fogging Darkroom Cross processing Caffenol References
You now need to prepare the film for drying. Lift the film spiral out of the tank and pull the end of the film out of the spiral. Securely attach a wooden or plastic film clip to it (to get a tight grip you may have to double over the end of the film) and then hang the film from a hook or nail which should be at least 2 meters / 6ft 6in off the ground.
We have two options for fixers, RAPID FIXER and HYPAM. We advise beginners to use RAPID FIXER although both options are liquid concentrates and compatible with all ILFORD films and papers so either will work perfectly well.
Developers come in powder concentrate and liquid concentrate form. For beginners, liquid concentrate developers such as ILFOTEC DD-X are initially easier to prepare and use.
For an explanation on how to dilute our recommended chemicals see our beginners guide.
We have a range of film developers suitable for tank processing including: 3 powder developers (ID-11, MICROPHEN and PERCEPTOL) and 5 liquid developers (ILFOTEC DD-X, ILFOSOL 3, ILFOTEC LC29, ILFOTEC HC, and PHENISOL).
The film may be soaked in water to swell the gelatin layer, facilitating the action of the subsequent chemical treatments. The developer converts the latent image to macroscopic particles of metallic silver.
 A stop bath,† typically a dilute solution of acetic acid or citric acid, halts the action of the developer. A rinse with clean water may be substituted. The fixer makes the image permanent and light-resistant by dissolving remaining silver halide.
A common fixer is hypo, specifically ammonium thiosulfate. Washing in clean water removes any remaining fixer. Residual fixer can corrode the silver image, leading to discolouration, staining and fading.
A cut-away illustration of a typical light-trap tank used in small scale developing.
Black and white emulsions both negative and positive, may be further processed. The image silver may be reacted with elements such as selenium or sulphur to increase image permanence and for aesthetic reasons. This process is known as toning.
The washing time can be reduced and the fixer more completely removed if a hypo clearing agent is used after the fixer.
Choosing Photo Chemicals We have a range of photo chemistry compatible for printing/processing all of our resi…
Whether you are new to film photography or picking it up again after a number of years, it is very easy to get…
We would recommend the following equipment to get you started.
Processing your own film can speed up your workflow and give you quicker access to your negatives. It is also typically more cost effective and best of all there is nothing like the sense of satisfaction you will gain by taking control over the full end-to-end process of your photography.
Once the film is processed, it is then referred to as a negative.
Wall, E.J. (1890). Dictionary of Photography. London: Hassel, Watson and Viney Ltd. The British Journal (1956). Photographic Almanac. London: Henry Greenwood and Co Ltd.
All processes based upon the gelatin-silver process are similar, regardless of the film or paper’s manufacturer. Exceptional variations include instant films such as those made by Polaroid and thermally developed films. Kodachrome required Kodak’s proprietary K-14 process. Kodachrome film production ceased in 2009, and K-14 processing is no longer available as of December 30, 2010. Ilfochrome materials use the dye destruction process.
All photographic processing use a series of chemical baths. Processing, especially the development stages, requires very close control of temperature, agitation and time.
While each chemistry has its own features and attributes, for beginners, we recommend ILFOTEC DD-X as this will give you the ‘best overall performance’ with all our films and if you prefer to use a powder concentrate, then we would suggest ID-11.
The colour developer develops the silver negative image, and byproducts activate the dye couplers to form the colour dyes in each emulsion layer. A rehalogenising bleach converts the developed silver image into silver halides.
A fixer removes the silver salts. The film is washed, stabilised, dried and cut.
In selenium toning, the image silver is changed to silver selenide; in sepia toning, the image is converted to silver sulphide. These chemicals are more resistant to atmospheric oxidising agents than silver.
Always ensure the chemistry is mixed well when adding the water for dilutions using a stirring spoon. The added water should be as close as possible to the processing temperature to be used – typically this will be 20C (68F).
We would also advise protective gloves / glasses / clothing.
We offer a range of photo chemistry from paper and film developers to stop bath, fixers, washaid, and toners. However, to process a film you will only need a film developer, stop bath and fixer.