Black & White Film Developing

Lack of access to a darkroom is not the only reason many people avoid trying their own black and white film developing. The other is the process itself, which to the unitiated often seems complicated and dangerous.

Well, the process itself could hardly be simpler. And with just a modicum of care, it need not be dangerous.

Basically, all you're doing is exposing the film to the developer for a set period of time, at a set temperature; then you expose the film to a "stop bath" which quickly halts any further development; then you run it through fixer; then you wash it. That's pretty much it.

My process:




  • Tri-X @400 / Xtol 1:1
    • 68 degrees: 8 3/4 minutes
    • 70 degrees: 8 1/4 minutes
  • Initial agitation for 5 cycles (15-20 seconds)
  • Subsequently agitate for 2 cycles (5 seconds), at 30 second intervals

Stop Bath:

  • Pour in; agitate for 30 seconds


  • 5-7 minutes
  • Agitate continuously for first 30 seconds
  • Subsequently agitate for 10 seconds, every minute


  • 30 seconds under running water

Hypo Clearing Agent:

  • 1-2 minutes
  • Agitate continuously for first 30 seconds; then at 30 second intervals

Water Wash:

  • 5 minutes under running water

Photo Flo:

  • 30 Seconds
  • Agitate gently for 5 seconds


The process above describes how I go about developing a roll of film, once everything is set up to do that. But left unsaid is that those chemicals need to be prepared. For me that's easily the most onerous part of doing one's own film development.

I usually mix a single batch of Xtol, to last a year. Once the 5-liter batch is mixed up, I pour it into 36 125ml brown glass bottles, each filled to the very brim before I tightly cap them. That gives me enough ready mix to develop 36 rolls of film - more than I typically do in a year. Mixing it and separating it into all those little bottles is a bit of a pain - it takes an hour or so - but then I don't generally have to do it but once a year.

Kodak Hypo Clear likewise comes as a powder. That gets mixed up every 3-6 months, the stock solution stored in a 1-gallon plastic brown bottle. That stock solution then gets mixed into a ready-to-use working solution, and stored in a 1/2 gallon plastic brown bottle in my darkroom box, every half-dozen rolls or so.

Kodak Stop Bath comes as a liquid, so it's much easier to deal with than a powder. I prepare a working solution from the stock bottle every half-dozen rolls or so, storing that in a 1/2 gallon brown plastic bottle in my darkroom box.

Kodafix, the fixer I use, likewise comes in a liquid. I prepare a working solution from the stock bottle every half-dozen rolls or so, storing that in a 1/2 gallon brown plastic bottle in my darkroom box.

And similarly, Photo Flo comes in a small bottle and is pretty easy to deal with. I mix a working solution every half-dozen rolls or so and, likewise, store it in a 1/2 gallon brown plastic bottle inside my darkroom box.



Late 2008 Update...

I love film. I expect I'll always love it. But acknowledging that digital brings enormous speed advantages to photography, I'm only being honest in suggesting that I'll not soon be developing a lot of rolls of film. At least as long as I'm working a full-time job and commuting long hours, as I've been in recent years.

And so that prompted me to think of ways I might simplify my wet darkroom process. As I write this in December 2008 I am still exploring things, but my initial results are promising enough that I can talk about them:

I think I've found what I'm looking for in HC110.

One less chemical to deal with.

(I'm aware I could also stop using Hypo Clear, simply extending the washing interval at the end. But that would take quite a bit more water and - especially with our house being on a well - that's not something I would consider).