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Rookie Questions

Discussion in 'Everything Film' started by Zou, Sep 13, 2007.

  1. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Pondering whether or not it'd be worthwhile developing my own B/W - but everything I've read seems aimed at people with more darkroom knowledge than I have (which is precisely none), so please humour me with some basic questions.

    1) What's the absolute minimum of gear I need to develop my own B/W films? (I'm guessing: dark place to put film into a reel/developing tank, said reel and tank, chemicals, water, thermometer, clips to hang up film when developed)

    2) Is the water/chemical temperature really important? (I've a funny set of taps here, either stone cold or boiling)

    3) How many films will it probably take before I get it right? (because if I get it wrong, the pics will be next to unuseable, right?)
  2. Gordon_McGeachie

    Gordon_McGeachie In the Stop Bath

    Some form of drying cabinet would be good to keep the dust off the film when drying.

    You may be lucky and get it right first time, it all depends on which technique you develop ( no pun intended here), you may find that you will try many ways of getting your developer temp right and keeping it there.

    Its just practice I`m affraid, and maybe, lots of film. May be worth buying it in bulk and load it yourself in shirt lengths of say 12 frames to minimise waste.
  3. The Circle Of Confusion

    The Circle Of Confusion Well-Known Member

    Ilford have an excellent guide to processing B&W

    If you get a dark bag you can load your reels at at the kitchen table which saves having to black-out an entire room.

    Pick up a couple of cheap rolls (maybe some expired stuff, you often see it in the bargain bins) and practise the mechanics of opening the film can and loading the reels. Do this in daylight until you've got the knack.

    You can hang your films up to dry anywhere but it should be dust free and not draughty. Over the bath is ideal!

    The temperature of the chemicals is important but it's not ultra critical. If you fill the sink with water at about 20-22 degrees C and keep your chemical containers in there then you won't go far wrong. I'd recommend a digital thermometer as they are easier to use, I use a kitchen thermometer as it has a long thin sensor needle which is great for fitting into narrow measuring cylinders.

    Once you've dev'ed a couple of rolls you should have the hang of it. Then you can start to get clever and worry about developer choices, compensation, pushing and pulling...

    It really is very very easy to do.
  4. Gaspipe58

    Gaspipe58 Member

    Temp is quite important but a degree either way isn't the end of the world. The good thing is you can adjust the time according to temperature. Ilford used to include a graph with the instructions - I guess they still do. To make things really easy adjust the dev temp to match room temp (you're helping to save the planet by having your heating close to 20C aren't you?).

    Chances are you'll get useable negs first time. Be warned - it is addictive ;)

  5. Mojo_66

    Mojo_66 Well-Known Member

    It's very easy to dev a B&W film, and very enjoyable. All I can add to CofC's excellent reply is that you can use clothes pegs instead of clips, there's plenty of leader available to do this. Depending on your water hardness you may need a wetting agent in the last rinse, washing up liquid works well for this, but be sparing! You'll need to use scissors to cut the corners of the film leader as it's easier to load this way. You might need a film opener to get the film out of its cannister, although you can quite easily shove your thumb into the film opening and prise it open with most films. Airtight bottles are handy to store stuff in but not essential. The first film I ever did was very contrasty, to this day I've no idea why but it was still very printable in a darkroom. You have more leeway with Photoshop. Good luck!
  6. domroberts

    domroberts Well-Known Member

    And not to mention immensely satisfying to see your own images emerge from the spiral.
  7. skellum

    skellum Well-Known Member

    Hi Zou. The actual MINIMUM kit needed to process black and white film is small. You'll need a tank, measuring cylinders, thermometer, timer, scissors and clips to hang the film. If you're being good, buy new and support Paterson. If you just want to experiment cheaply, ebay is full of top quality kit for PENNIES.
    Use liquid concentrates to start with- easy to mix and cheap. Something like Ilfosol, or Acutol.
    Also, a 36 exposure 35mm film is five feet long. For your first eperiments try 24 exp films- they're much more managable for size when you're inexperienced.
    The only 'skill' part is loading the spiral. Sacrifice one (outdated?) roll and practice loading until you feel confident. This is the only part of the process which MUST be done in darkness. Since you have no darkroom, a changing bag is a good investment.Again, ebay is full of them just now.
  8. Richard Sibley

    Richard Sibley AP Deputy Editor

    I used everything you mentioned and a changing bag for years. You can reuse the diluted chemicals a few times too. Make sure you don't use the diluted dev more than a few times, and add an extra few seconds to the development times accordingly.

    It may not give you the results of a pro lab, but it cuts down on the amount of chemicals you have to buy. make sure you store them in an airtight (preferably air free container) in a cool dark place.

    Yes and no. If you are a degree of two either way you will still have a usable film (if you have exposed corectly). If you go any more than that your film will be useless. Get the water to the correct temperature in a different container first, before adding the undiluted developer.

    I always used to use the stop bath and fix at room temperature. Unless you live in a particularly hot or cold room it will be fine. Dramatic and sudden temperature changes prior to fully fixing can cause a kind of 'clumping' of the grain and other weird crackling effects.

    Depends how wrong you get it. I think we've all fogged a film or two by accident. But generally after a couple of films you know what your doing... particularly if you tend to shoot on the same film. After a while you'll develop a feel for it and can adjust development times for your own particular needs .
  9. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Thanks for all the advice. I've been looking at places where I could do a course in the basics of the darkroom arts - so far (in Edinburgh) I've come up with Stills, but they aren't cheap, and not much else. Anyone know somewhere I could get a bit of practice in this area?
  10. ermintrude

    ermintrude Hinkypuff

    Surely there ust be some night/weekend classes at the college/uni?
  11. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    With my working hours, evening classes are pretty much impossible. :(
  12. ermintrude

    ermintrude Hinkypuff

    Aww bummer :( Are your hours fixed or variable?
  13. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Different every day/week - so I never know more than a week ahead what days/hours I'll be working. That's why a 'walk in' type of place would be perfect.
  14. RonM

    RonM Alpha Napper

    It might be worth contacting Edinburgh Photographic Society who may be able to help or even put you in the right direction, the other option would be to PM Alan Wilson AlanW of your neck of the woods as he tends to be up to speed with what is happening photographically speaking in Edinburgh
  15. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    I'm very tempted to give it a crack - Calumet are listing a changing bag for £17ish. I'm going to see what I can beg/borrow/steal from others (tank/reel/tubes etc).

    Who knows, I might even get started by Christmas!

    Ooh! Another idea. Photographic paper - can you just dump it in tanks (load in dark bag, then do chemistry etc in daylight as per film), or does it need something flat (trays) to do it properly? Just wondering, as I'm thinking about building a LF pinhole and paper is WAY cheaper than film :cool:
  16. pewtu

    pewtu Member

    The abolute minimum.
    1- The 'have a go' mind
    2 - Developing tank
    3 - at night under the bed clothes to load the film
    4 - chemicals , developer, wash water, fixer, wetting solution for final rinse.
    5 - good thermometer
    6 - watch with second hands
    7 - water
    8 - pegs to hang film up with

    The temperature is reasnably important, but untill you get to be a perfectionist then it will work if you are a couple of 'C out

    You can get it right FIRST time. Follow the instructions.

    If you do not try, you will never get it right. The above comments are how I sarted 39 years ago. Yes I have progresed and have, in my time, processed colour slide (both singularly and 12 rolls at a time), colour print and printed black and white and colour neg and reversal. I learnt by reading but most importantly doing it. Do not be put off by complicated comments on how it can all go wrong and a vast amount of equipement needed.
  17. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Well-Known Member

    Don't worry about the temperature of the tap water, as long as you have hot and cold. You just mix the two until it's right. It's easy as anything, and yes it is worth while, especially once you progress past the basics. Darkroom work can look a bit like black magic to some, but it gives you so much more control.
  18. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Well I now have everything I need. I'm giving myself a few days more to practice loading the reel, and have an old expired film to use to practice 'start to finish' in the changing bag. Once I'm happy with that, I've some proper films to load/develop.

    I've seen lots of contradictory 'advice' about manufacturers' times, but I've decided to stick to Ilford's script for the first few rolls and take it from there. I have to say I'm quite excited, and looking for more opportunities to shoot B/W film, often leaving the digi box at home. :D
  19. Mojo_66

    Mojo_66 Well-Known Member

    Apparently you should use the times on Ilford's website, rather than the ones recommended on the box, as they're more up to date.
  20. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member


    (PS. I'm not Alan Partidge)

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