Developing film


The Japan Photographers Mailing List folks organized an afternoon workshop on developing black and white film. It may have been one of the best documented workshops ever, as everyone was snapping away as James Luckett,, our fearless guide spoke. He made the process crystal clear and unintimidating.

The process goes like this:

  1. Beer
  2. Load the film into the reel (in the dark, of course)
  3. Pre-soak: clear water and a little agitation
  4. Developer: check the chart on your film or developer for timing. Agitate 10 seconds every minute--or whatever you think is good. Use a timer so you don't lose track of when to stop developing.
  5. Stop bath or water wash: to remove the developer.
  6. Fixer: for twice the "clear time" --the length of time it takes for a snippet of film to come clear in the fixer. Don't forget to agitate.
  7. Wash, wash, wash
  8. Wash with "photo flo" and hang to dry.
  9. Beer

I think film developing is much like cooking. You can carefully follow a recipe or you can wing it a bit. Either way you end up with a palatable finished product. Whether or not you can reproduce it depends on how many variables you introduced.

Do you know how the little numbers appear on the edge of the negatives? I assumed they were done somehow during processing but they're actually on the film as a latent image from the factory. You can use them to tell if you correctly developed your film. They should be black. Grey indicates underdevelopment. If they're black and fuzzy, you developed too much.

I put some of our photos from the workshop in our gallery, if you want to take a peek.


Beautiful! I like the snacks. :-)

I miss developing film. There's something really magical about the process, and also very clinical too.

I'd have to avoid the pre-beer step I think if I wanted anything to work correctly for me.

Kristen, it was nice to meet you on Saturday. Hopefully we can have a few more of these technical salons in the future as it worked out quite well.

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  • mark: Kristen, it was nice to meet you on Saturday. Hopefully read more
  • Jenny: Beautiful! I like the snacks. :-) I miss developing film. read more