Developing Black and White Film at Home, Part 2: Process, Chemicals, Workflow

In part 1 of this series, we covered the equipment necessary for developing black and white film at home. In this article, we’ll delve into the process itself, including what chemicals to get, how to determine the proper development time for any black-and-white film, and which apps can help guide you through the process.


The three primary chemicals required for developing black and white film at home are developer, stop bath, and fixer. Let’s take a closer look at each of these chemicals.


The developer is the most important chemical in the development process as it converts the light-exposed silver halides in the film into metallic silver, producing the visible image. The developer must be mixed with water to the correct dilution before use. There are many different types of developers available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

  • Ilford ID-11: This is a versatile and widely used developer that produces sharp and contrasty images. It is easy to mix and use and provides consistent results.
  • Kodak D-76: Another popular choice, this developer is known for producing high-quality images with good detail and tonality. It is a relatively fast developer, making it a good choice for push processing.
  • Rodinal: This is a highly concentrated developer that can produce unique and interesting results, particularly with fine-grain films. However, it can be more challenging to use and requires careful mixing and precise agitation.

Stop Bath

The stop bath neutralizes the developer, preventing further development. This step is important to ensure consistent and predictable results. Stop bath can be as simple as plain water or a solution of acetic acid. Acetic acid-based stop baths are more effective at neutralizing the developer and are recommended for consistent results.


The fixer removes the remaining silver halides, making the image stable and light-fast. 

Common fixers include:

  • Ilford Rapid Fixer: This is a fast-acting fixer that is well-suited for a film with high silver content.
  • Kodak Fixer: This is a reliable fixer that provides consistent results and is a good choice for general use.
  • Sodium Thiosulfate: This is an ordinary fixer that is widely used and provides good results. It is also less toxic than other fixers, making it a safer choice for home use.


To develop your film at home, you’ll need to follow a specific process, which typically includes these steps:

  • Load film onto the developing reel in total darkness: To avoid exposing your film to light, you should load the film onto the developing reel in total darkness. This can be achieved by working in a light-tight changing bag or darkroom. Ensure that the film is loaded onto the reel properly and in a tight spiral to avoid tangles.
  • Immerse the film in the developer for a specific time, regularly agitating: Immerse the film in the developer and agitate it at regular intervals, such as every 30 seconds, to ensure even development. The exact time will depend on the film and developer being used, as well as personal preference. This information can be found on the film’s data sheet or through online resources like the Massive Dev Chart, which provides development times for hundreds of film and developer combinations.
  • Transfer the film to the stop bath for 1 minute: Once the desired development time has passed, transfer the film to the stop bath for 1 minute. This helps to neutralize the developer and stop further development.
  • Immerse the film in the fixer for the recommended time: The fixer removes the remaining silver halides, making the image stable and light-fast. The recommended time for a fixer will vary depending on the type of fixer being used and the film, but it is typically between 5 to 15 minutes. Regular agitation is recommended for the first minute and then every 2–3 minutes thereafter.
  • Wash the film in running water for 10–15 minutes: After the recommended fixer time, the film should be washed in running water for 10–15 minutes. This removes any residual fixer and helps to ensure the stability of the image.
  • Hang the film to dry: Once the film has been washed, it should be hung to dry in a dust-free environment. Avoid touching the film or exposing it to light during this process.

Apps to Help with Development

There are several apps available that can help guide you through the development process and provide useful information, such as recommended development times and tips for getting the best results. Some popular options include:

  • Massive Dev Chart: This app provides development times and other information for hundreds of film and developer combinations, making it a valuable resource for film photographers.
  • Darkroom: This app provides a step-by-step guide to the development process, including detailed instructions, a timer and tracking of your progress.
  • Enfoque: This app provides a range of tools for film photographers, including a development calculator, film simulator, and light meter.

In conclusion, developing black-and-white film at home requires careful attention to the process and the use of the right chemicals. With the right tools and knowledge, however, you can achieve excellent results and gain a deeper appreciation for the art of film photography.