Where all the magic happens.
Apart from needing to know this for study I always was interested in how this part works.
Furthermore, after one lab after the other shutting down and the quality of the remaining labs starts to degrade you are really out of options but to develop your film yourself.
Anyhow, this is actually nothing to be afraid of. I had/have some really awesome hours in the darkroom. Nothing can compare to develop your own films and open the developing can for the first time after the firnal rinse.
To begin with, what do you need?
- developing can
- bottle opener
- developing chemicals
- a really dark room (or a changing bag, but I am lucky and have a room which i completely darkened)
- water bath (kinda optional, though you will have a much easier go)
- Film: Agfa APX 100 BW
- Developer: Champion Promicrol B&W Film Developer
- Fixer: Ilford Rapid Fixer
- LFN: Weting Agent
Loading the Film
First offYou will need to load your film into the developing can. Therefore you already need the dark room. And I mean dark. If you do this step for the first time just darken your room and stand in there for a couple of minutes. After this time your eyes should have adapted to the darkness. When you start to see shapes, some lines of light or anything at all ... your dark room, isn't.
Before you actually make the room dark you should prepare all the things you need in this step. Namely, bottle opener, scissors, developing can and your film.
When you prepare your setup memorize where you put things. You will have to handle them in absolute darkness. This sounds troublesome but get hold of it quite soon. (It makes no difference but I always ask myself if I am the only one who keeps his eyes closed all the time in this room.)
Of course just in case, all these steps just apply if you use a dark room, but I have no reference for a changing bag. Honestly, I do not trust it do be all dark and I need the space for these tasks.
Open the film capsuleBasically there are two possiblties to open the capsule. First of, you can use special tools to fiddle the start of the encased film through the intial opening and tear it out this way. But using this way you roll the entire film of the lips of the capsule again and you loose some of the film due to fixation of the film inside the capsule. Based on my experience you only get more scratches onto the film and you are missing out on film which you need to hang your film afterwards. Furthermore, this method is neither faster nor simpler than the other method, rather the opposite.Which leads to the second method. Just pull off one cap with a bottle opener. Once you got rid of the caps you can pull out the film from the capsule. Taste for the beginning of the film and cut about 3-4 cm from the film. Try to also make a round shape on the beginning of the remaining film for this will help you tremendously afterwards at loading the reel.
Loading the reelNow take the rolled film in one hand and try to hold the begin of the film between a finger and the thumb with the roll resting in your palm. Grab the reel with the other hand and taste for the entry point for the film. Lead the beginning into the reel. After some centimeter of fiddeling the film into the reel you can let your finger slide to the side of the reel and hold it counterwise while twisting the reel. How to actually roll the film onto the reel is a really subjective sensation. It helps to do some dry runs in daylight with an old roll but this will take nearly no practice at all. It gets funnier when you try to line up two 120 on one reel. Just play around. Anyway, nearing the end of the film you take the scissors and cut the film of the end of the plastic tube on which the film was mounted while in the capsule. Naturally this end tends to roll up quite heavily. Just wind it couple of times against the direction it wants to role and then roll the end onto the reel. (The winding of the end in opposite direction of the natural curl ist optional. It just helps that the end does not ends up in contact with the previous round of film laying beneath.)
CompletionAfter you rolled the entire film onto the reel you grab the remaining parts of the developing can and close it up. The can is at this point already light proof and you can turn on the lights again. Just to be extra save you can also place the lid on the can. In case you did not enjoy this part, the part in the dark is now over.After finishing those steps you should something similar in front of you:
- Empty capsule
- empty plastic tube
- caps of the film capsule
- bottle opener
- developing can filled with your film onto the reel
- piece of the beginning of the film.
(Do not throw the small piece of film away. If this is your first try you want to use it to verify the chemicals later on.)
- kind of funnel
- weting agent
- developing can
- piece of undeveloped film
- water with fix temperature (temperature depending from developing method and chemicals)
According to my film (Agfa APX 100 BW) and the developer Champion Promicrol and a water temperature of 20°C and chosen 7 minutes of developing results in a mixture ratio of 1+9.
Time to get things started and mixed up.
As you need water anyway you can take a big container full with water and heat/cool it to 20°C.
To be sure that my chemicals are the same temperature I do mix up all the chemicals beforehand and let them rest in the water bath.
For a normal 35mm film you will need approximately 300ml of solution. This can of course vary due to your developing can.
Initiual just water the film couple of times. To clean the film a bit, to get a fluid to every part of the film and to get the film itself to the 20°C.
Therefore just fill the developing can with water and tilt the can a couple of time and let it rest. Rinse and repeat as you like.
After watering pour in the developer and take the time.
From now on the 7 minutes chosen before begin to tick. In the first minute keep the can in motion and tilt it all the time. Refrain from shaking it as it might build bubbles which make spots on the film which get not developed as much as the rest of the film. In my case I can skip the tilting of the can as i have a spindle with which i can rotate the reel inside. After this initial minute of constant movement of the developer or the reel let it rest.
For the rest of the time at each full minute tilt the can for about 10 seconds and let it rest again. After the 7 mins have passed pour out the developer in an container.
The developer cannot be used again and has to be disposed of according to your local laws.
The 7 minutes are basically a very good timing. After quite some experience with developing and knowing my cameras, film and how I take photos I tend to let it develop for 7:30 minutes. This way I like the outcome more. Furthermore you can adjust to the temperature of the water by using different developing times. Also you can “pull” and “push” the film if you like and if the film you chose is capable of such thing.
WateringOr better said, stop bath. There are couple of stopper chemicals out there. And no, I do not use them. Just watering is plenty enough. Just do it thorougly and often enough.
For how to do it… Just repeat the step you did at first but at least three times.
To stabilize the film you need to fix it.
As fixer I use an Ilford Rapid Fixer which is the universal fixer for black & white film as well as photo paper. It needs to be mixed with an ratio 1+4. As with the developer I have a 300ml bottle of it ready. Fixer can be used again, though I had none left over as for the last one was getting too old.
First pour the fixer into an open container and test it if still “works”. You remember the piece of beginning of your film roll? Yeap, throw it in there.
Still, take the time.
At the time the film is transparent you can take the piece of film out again and note the time.
As shown on the picture, the fixer is usable. As time I noted 45 seconds.
To get the actual time fixing take for this fixer I just multiply it by 2 and get 1:30 minutes for fixing my film. Knowing this duration you can go ahead and fix the film. Same as with developing, pour the fixer in the developing can. Just tilt the can a couple of time to distribute the fixer on the film then let it rest. My personal preference is to move it again once at half time and once before i pour the fixer out.
When emptying the can remember that it is usable again, so keep it in an airtight and light tight bottle for later use.
Let the reel rest another 30 seconds in the open can.
Then you can take the reel out of the can.
Best now is just to remove the open cover of the reel and hang the film to dry.
It really is this easy.
Though the film still needs another ~8 hours to hang there and dry. You could use a lip and get rid of the water on the film. Chances are that you just put scratches on the film, so i do not advise you to do so. Just hang it somewhere to dry. Preferable where there is no dust nor wind.
Now stand in front of the film and smile.
It really is this easy.