Development Process: How I Develop 35mm Black and White Film


So, I have developed around 16 rolls of film this year and I thought I would add a how-to.  This is NOT an end all article to developing black and white…I am a just learning the process myself.  However, when I first started looking up how to develop I wanted as many resources as possible before I put together my list of items I needed to purchase to get started with developing.  I read as many articles I could find on the actual development process.  So, here is my attempt at yet another article on the development process.  I hope you find it useful.  I know I kept and keep looking for additional articles on the process myself.

When starting this years Roll A Week project I knew that a large part of expenditure would come in on the development process.  I figured I could save a lot of cash on processing my own film.  But, I also calculated that the first year…with all the gear purchased it could end up a wash.  But, year two and on will be drastically reduced compared to sending your negatives out to get professionally process.  As of this writing I have processed 16 rolls.  At $10 dollars a pop a my local camera store that is $160 dollars saved or rather reallocated to purchasing gear/chemicals for developing my own film.

Also, as of this writing I have spent close to $200-$250 dollars on gear as chemicals.  I purchased quite a bit of different chemicals over the course of the past couple of months.  Rodinal…I was a little intimidated with development and started my experiments with Rodinal stand development.  Early tests proved to be decent, but I wasn’t fully sold on the process.  I know, I barely gave it enough to time to learn the chemical, but I knew that all other rolls I shot turned out nicer when sent to the camera shop to develop my negatives in the past.  So, I did some more research and decided to mix my Kodak D-76 from powder.  By this time I had put a few rolls through the development process and felt a little less intimidated with film development and chemicals.  I realized that I needed more containers that I had available to store the chemicals.  After I mixed it I also realized that the shelf life is approximately 6 months and possible less if stored in a container that wasn’t completely full.  The rolls turned out nice and I was comfortable with the process.  But, at the stock 1:0 ratio or 1:1 ratio, I knew I would go through the this stuff pretty quick.  I didn’t want to mix every few weeks with the amount of film I was going to develop in the first few months of my film experimentations.  So, I looked at other solutions.  I found Kodak HC-110 and loved that fact that it is a long lasting syrup that can be used in small amounts per batch.  Perfect.  I wished I would have searched a little longer during my intitial research period. Oh well, this is a learning process.  But, this is also one of the reasons I’m writing this article.  I want you to be able to learn from my mistakes.  I have found this solution to be manageable and also one that I plan on getting to know a little better.  I intend to stick with this HC-110 and start to focus on tweaking my results as this year and my Roll A Week project progresses.  So, let’s beging with the list of items needed to get started.  This is my list and is all inclusive for the way I process my film…or, at least it’s meant to be…I hope I don’t forget anything.

What to buy:

Developing Gear

  • Changing Bag
  • Developing Tank with Spools (I use and like the Paterson Super System 4).
  • Church Key
  • Scissors
  • 500ml mixing container
  • 30ml mixing container
  • Thermometer
  • Funnel
  • Something to stir the chemicals
  • Clothes pins or film hangers
  • Film sleeves to store the film in after you develop your negatives


  • Kodak HC-110
  • Distilled Water
  • Photographers Formulary TF-5 Fixer

Optional (If you plan on scanning your photos):

  • Scanner

That’s It!

Now let’s start with the process.

I develop 1 film canister per batch even though the Patterson tank I use can hold two spools.  Here is my process for Kodak HC-110 mixed with the B ratio of 1:31.  I usually get my development times from The Massive Dev Chart (check it out).

  1. Put your Developing tank, scissors, church key, and film into your light tight changing bag.
  2. Cut the leader off.
  3. Roll film onto your spool
  4. Put the film into your developing tank after loading it onto the spool
  5. Make sure your developing tank is closed properly
  6. You can now remove your developing tank from the changing bag.

Get your chemicals ready.

While mixing my chemicals I do a pre-wash with sink water at 20 degrees Celsius.  I just fill my tank with the water and let it sit for 3-5 minutes.  This step helps your container and film get acclimated to the developing temperature.

Mixing the chemicals

  1. Pour 465ml of distilled water into your 500ml container.
  2. Add 15ml Kodak HC-110
  3. Mix
  4. Bring chemicals to 20 degrees Celsius.

Development Process

  1. Pre-wash in 20 degree Celsius sink water for 3-5 minutes
  2. Pour water out
  3. Add development chemicals at 20 degrees Celsius into your tank.  Pour the entire 480 ml of chemicals into the tank…I usually start my timer as I am pouring the chemicals into the container.  For development times check out the Massive Dev Chart to ensure you develop your particular film for the right amount of time
  4. Agitate for the first minute
  5. At the two minute mark agitate for 10 seconds
  6. At the three minute mark agitate for 10 seconds…At this point I let my film stand without further intervention on my part for the rest of the development cycle
  7. At the end of the development cycle as determined by the Massive Dev Chart I pour the chemicals out…This is a one shot mix and cannot be reused.
  8. Start a 30 second rinse with sink water at 20 degrees Celsius.
  9. Pour water out
  10. Add fixer…I used photographers formulary TF-5 that also acts as a stop bath.
  11. Agitate for 30 seconds
  12. At every minute mark agitate for 10 seconds
  13. At the end of 5 minutes pour the fixer back into the fixer container.  The TF-5 mixture can be used several times.  I plan on usin it for 10-15 rolls before tossing out and mixing a fresh batch.
  14. Rinse the film in 20 degree Celsius running sink water for 5 minutes minimum.
  15. Empty water from canister and rinse with approximately 300ml distilled water (just enough to cover the film) for 30-60 seconds.
  16. Remove film from spools and hang in a dust/lint free area.  I hang a string in my office and attach two clothes pins on top and two clothes pins on the bottom.
  17. Let the film dry for 2 hours minimum.

At this point to start my scanning process.  I have been using a Plustek 8100 with Vuescan software.  I am still learning the scanning process, but like the results and feel that I will get greater results and I tweak more settings

I hope you enjoyed the article.  If you feel I left anything out please let me know and I will update the process.  Again, this is my process and has giving me some pleasing results.  Drop me an email and let me know what you think.