How to Develop Black and White Film Without a Dark Room

Lately I have gained interest in film photography. On the online marketplaces I found a Canon EOS 650 that I bought and used to expose two rolls of Ilford HP5 Plus 400 black and white film. In this video I will explain to you and show you how to develop film so you can take your film photography to the next level. And no, you don’t need to construct a dark room, as I will demonstrate the black and white developing process using a film changing bag. The photographs that I show you at the end of the video are taken in my hometown Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

Video transcript:

Hello ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Tony Needs Hobbies.

Lately I got interested in analog or film photography. I did some research online and found out that Canon didn’t change their lens mount system much since the EOS introduction in the late eighties. Finding one of those early cameras would be very convenient since I am filming on a Canon EOS DSLR right now. That would mean I can use most of my lenses on the old film camera. So I strolled the online marketplaces and found this brand new looking Canon EOS 650 film camera. To check if it is light tight I bought a few rolls of black and white film and shot them in my hometown. Then brought them to the lab to find out that they only develop color film. The local lab does offer a service to send black and white film to another lab at additional cost. So I figured… I can develop the film myself… I bought materials, chemicals and in this video I will show you how to develop black and white film. If you stay until the end, I will show you the pictures and we will find out if this camera still performs well after 30 years and if it doesn’t leak light. Have fun watching!

To prepare the developer and other necessary chemicals, I use the following materials:

  • Measuring cups
  • Storage containers
  • A small graduated cylinder
  • A thermometer
  • Stirring rods
  • And of course, the chemicals

The developer that I will be using is based on the Agfa Rodinal process. The chemicals will be used in the following order:

  • Adonal developer
  • Adostop stop bath
  • Adofix Fixer
  • And Adoflo wetter

All the solutions for this process need to be at 20 degrees Celsius. That’s very convenient because that matches the room temperature in my living room. I will measure enough water at 20 degrees to mix up all the chemicals. The water where I live is very soft.

I will follow the exact instructions that came with the developing set that I ordered. I need to dilute 23mL of the developer to 600mL which is just enough for 2 rolls of film. For the stop bath 50mL will be diluted to a liter and 100mL of the fixer will be diluted to 800mL. When mixed, keep the chemicals at 20 degrees Celsius, which is the ideal processing temperature.

The chemicals are right there maintaining their room temperature so I finished the easy part. Now comes the difficult part which is transferring the film into a light sealed processing container without exposing it to light because then no image will be left on the film.

The film will be transferred into this Paterson container. I will also use scissors, a canister opener and of course two rolls of exposed film. To be specific: Ilford HP5 Plus 400 black and white film. First I will practice a little bit blindfolded and with disposable film to make sure that I am able to do this inside the changing bag, which is a practical tool if you don’t have a dark room, which I don’t. The Paterson tank is light sealed but liquids can be poured into and out of the tank. The film needs to be taken out of the cans to be transferred onto these spools using a ratcheting mechanism after cutting of the leader. Then the spools are placed on the center column and put into the tank so that it can be closed with the funnel shaped lid. Than it is safe again to turn on the light or take the tank out of the changing bag. Let’s practice once more and then do it for real, inside the changing bag.

Now that the film is transferred into the container, developing can begin. It’s not difficult but there are some things to take into account. I am going to develop for 6 minutes. I will start with 30 seconds of slow, gentle agitation, followed by knocking the tank on the counter top so air bubbles will be released from the film. Then I let it sit for 30 seconds. Then agitate for 10 seconds followed by letting it sit for 20 seconds. This 30 second cycle will be repeated until the 6 minutes are over. The developer will be poured out of the tank after which the stop bath is added, agitated for 10 seconds and poured out again. Then the fixer will be added in the same fashion as the developer: 30 seconds of agitation, 30 seconds waiting, and then repeating the 10 second agitation, 20 seconds waiting cycle until 8 minutes are over. After every agitation, the canister will be tapped on the counter to release bubbles, just to be sure that the chemicals are in contact with the film.

When this is done, the film will be rinsed with water. You cannot overdo this. It is already safe to open the canister and take a look if everything went well. I have rinsed for around 15 minutes in running tap water. The developer has to be disposed properly. The fixer and stop bath however can be reused many times. I keep them in opaque containers with a label keeping track how often the solutions have been used. During rinsing there is time to store these solutions and clean up a bit. After that I prepared some demineralized water by adding a few drops of wetting agent. This makes sure that water slides off of the film when it is hung up to dry. That prevents drying stains. In the end, I had a few of those, but they were easily removable with a microfiber cloth.

I know, this is not the best way to hang up film. When I ordered the kit, I forgot to include proper film drying clips so I had to improvise. The drying happened in the most dust-free area in the house, our shower. It took 4 hours before the film was completely dried. Then I brought the negatives to the lab for scanning as soon as possible, because I was really looking forward to seeing the results from this little experiment.

We have images on film and I am absolutely thrilled that I am able to develop black and white film myself. I got this camera for 30 euros which is about 35 dollars and that included the lens and a brand new battery. Let’s see if this camera doesn’t leak any light and if it is capable, in combination with myself, to produce nice images.

Absolutely beautiful. Alright, that concludes this video. If you have any suggestions for hobbies or crafts for me to try out, please let me know by dropping me a comment down below. The next video will be another leatherworking video. If you have liked watching this video, please let me know by hitting the like button and don’t forget to subscribe to this channel if you don’t want to miss any future videos.

That’s it for now. I would like to thank you for watching. Bye, bye!

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