Film Development Process And Supplies


Introduction to Black & White Film Photography


Lesson Info

Film Development Process And Supplies

So, we're gonna take a look real quick. This is at a high level, everything that's happens in the development of the film. So, it looks like a lot, but it goes by really, really fast. It's pretty easy. We're gonna load the film, then we're gonna talk about a PreWash, we're gonna go into a developer, we're gonna do a Stop Bath, we're gonna go into a Fixer, we're gonna do a quick rinse, we're gonna go into a PermaWash, we're gonna go into a Final Rinse, then we're gonna do a PhotoFlo, which is a wetting agent. PhotoFlo is the Kodak brand name. We're gonna go into a wetting agent, and then the film will actually hang and dry. That's everything that's going to happen and it's cool. It's gonna happen pretty quick for that. So, we're gonna start unloading the film. If you're doing sheet film there's some different options for that. So, we're just dealing with roll film today. So, what you've got is a couple of options. I've got metal tanks and plastic tanks. And they each have their kind of ...

pros and cons and they each get loaded and treated a little bit differently. And people like one over the other. I am a metal tank guy. Doug, are you metal or plastic? Metal. Metal, a lot of people love plastic and I'm gonna explain why they love plastic. I found it easier to use the metal tanks when I got started than the plastic which is so funny, because the plastic is what everybody advertises is the easiest to load. But, I was like Frankenstein, monster, not good. The other thing with the metal is you can use metal when it's wet. The plastic has to be completely dry or your film won't load and it'll ruin the film. When I started, I was moving enough volume through and I didn't have enough reels and tanks purchased that I could just keep cycling through and so I ended up with metal so that I could kind of rinse them off, hot water, and immediately start loading again. So, I'm gonna go through kind of the little variations of loading the two different things and I've got a little sample of 120 film, and a little sample of 35mm film for the loading. Now, film is light sensitive. Meaning we have to do this all in the dark. So, you're gonna load the film into the tank in the complete darkness. So, at home in my darkroom, that's no problem. We turn off the lights, close the door. You can use a changing bag which is a little light-proof tent. Go in there and you can load the film. If you've got an interior bathroom or closet without a window, you basically just close the door and turn off the lights outside, stick a towel under the door and you can load the film that way. So, lots of different options, but you just need to be in a light-tight location. You also want dry hands. If your hands start to get wet and nervous, it's gonna make the film a little sticky and you're gonna leave fingerprints everywhere. You're also going to get nervous the first couple of time you're doing this and your hands are gonna get sweaty. So, how do we avoid that problem? Well, you need to practice ahead of time. So, you're gonna buy the sacrificial roll of film. So, if you picked Tri-X as your film, or you picked Acros, whatever you pick, you're gonna buy your pack of that and then you're just gonna look through the case and you're gonna be like expired, cheap film. And you're gonna pick the cheapest roll of film, because it's gonna be your practice roll. That's how you're gonna get familiar with this, because you have to load the film onto one of these in the complete dark. So, you can't be like how's that thing latch? So, is this thing this way? Like, none of that can happen because you can't see anything. If you can see it's not dark enough, okay? So, we'll start with the 35mm film. And you're gonna need a bottle opener. So, in the dark, you would use a bottle opener and you're gonna pop the bottom off. So, you basically just pick it up and this little metal tab is gonna peel off. Should end up with a little piece of the plastic and then the film is just gonna fall out into your hand. So, here's the roll of film and it's on a little spool. This can just go in the trash, if you've avoided my don't make a mess, you can just chuck it on the floor. Okay, then here's the leader that would had originally in the film. Starting right about here is where the film is actually gonna have exposures. So, you've got this little tail you can deal with. What you want to do is cut that tail but you want to try to cut it so that you don't have kind of a side cut, you don't want any of these little sprockets open. You're gonna have a pair of scissors in the dark, and then you're just gonna take that film and you're gonna cut a nice straight cut and leave yourself the sprockets like that. Now, I'm right-handed, so I put the film in my right hand and the film has a curve memory, but we wanna create a little bit of a bow in the film. These reels, like I'm gonna show you the metal reel and then I'm gonna show you the plastic. And I'm not gonna do the full loading so we can get through both. But, on the reels, there are two different kinds. This kind is what's called a Hewes Reel, it's the name of the brand. And there's two little pieces that stick up. You probably can't even see them, they're in there. But what happens is the film goes in there and it hooks onto those little teeth. And then you're gonna start to just slowly wind the film. Now, you can hook that teeth from either directions. If you hook it from the wrong direction, it literally just coils it in a really tight wind in the center of the spool. So, the way I remember that, is film's in my right hand, with my left hand, if I can feel that little notch, I know it's gonna coil the right way. So, then I was gonna come in, I make that little hook, and then the film, if it's in there right, is literally you're just gonna spin the reel and you're not on camera getting nervous and making sticky fingers. And then it's basically just gonna go around the reel like that. And then what you're gonna feel for is anywhere where the film may have come up and is not smooth. So I can feel the film pop a little bit there. That means there's a kink in the film. So, I just roll the film back a little bit and then come back forward again. If I roll all the way around and get all the way out, the film is just gonna slowly film the spindles and it'll be on this last outer roll. So it's just gonna go out and I'm just slowly going to roll the film. So, let's slowly go. Now, every time you start to get stuck, so I'm kind of getting kinked right there, you go nice and slow and steady. Because that little kink, if I keep going, is just gonna start to bend the film. And what I end up with is these little half moons and clinks in the film. So, I don't panic. I just slowly back that back out and then I start to roll it back again. So this is literally just a process of once you've done this about three or four or five thousand times. No, three, four, five, six times, it actually goes pretty easy. So, you're just gonna roll all the way around with that. If for some reason you get frustrated, and you're like I can't do this. You're just gonna pull the film back off. Now, slowly roll back up, you're upset. This is a light-tight container. Now, you can turn the lights on, you can throw your temper tantrum. Dry your hands off, two glasses of scotch. Come back in, lights off and start over. Okay, so don't completely like oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. So, the other piece is, I'll take these off so it's really easy to see. The way you practice this, you close your eyes. Cause now it's dark and then you have to feel like oh there's the edge, there's the little loop, get in there and get that hook, and then you start to wind that reel. If you can do it with your eyes closed, you can do it in the dark. The other tip that's weird and I don't know if this is you either. If I start to get frustrated, this is gonna sound dumb. Lights are off, but I close my eyes. Because I practiced with my eyes closed and there's a relaxation piece to kind of returning back to practice that works really well. It's a weird, it's a weird phenomenon, but it happens. Okay, so if you're using the plastic reels, you can see there's this little thing that sticks out. Little wedge on both sides. And then there's a little B-bead that sits inside those. So, basically all you're gonna do is thread the film in until it pulls over those B-Beads, and then this walks the film on. So, I'm gonna walk this film on. Okay, eventually the film walks all the way on, you can see I'm almost done. In the interest of saving some time, it's gonna pull out, and it's attached there, so it doesn't pull out. I'm just gonna cut the film again. You've got a couple of inches here at the end, where they don't have any exposures as well. They've accounted for that. So you don't have to completely panic and get right down to that edge. We're just gonna try to make a nice little snip there. And then you can finish rolling the film on and get off the end. Always hold your film. People get excited there, cause they think they're done. But, you kind of just want to rest your finger underneath there, so you don't get in there and get any kinks. That'll then roll in. Film goes in and we're rolled. So that's the 35mm, the 120, it's got this little tape. It says exposed, which is always kind of nice when you reach into your camera bag and you see there's this little exposed. They all have some level of that. And then I break that tape. As I start to unroll this, I have my thumb there because at some point I'm gonna catch. There you can see the film, it's right there. So, that's that paper-backing for the film. I'm now just gonna start to use my fingers and I'm gonna unroll, continue unroll. And then I hit the end and this is taped. I'm just gonna tear along the tape. I don't worry about the tape that's on here. It's not gonna affect the development, not gonna cause a problem. That, trash. For a medium format roll, same thing. Film in this hand, these don't have sprocket holes. There's no sprocket holes on that film. So, I'm basically gonna take, there's a little spring hinge here. So, you take that little spring hinge down, and the film just slides under that spring hinge. A little bit of a bow to it again, and then you're gonna put a little bit of a flex in there and then the same thing. It just rolls right around the reel. Close your eyes if you're having a problem. Film rolls rolls, and you can see it starts to get farther and farther out on the reel. And eventually it gets done, run your fingers across, make sure you don't feel your film sticking up. And you know you're good to go. What happens if you can feel them stick up there is the film will sometimes stick together. And you don't get the developer to flow. The reason these reels are designed this way is we need the developer to get as much contact with the film as evenly as possible. So, that spool is helping it stay so the film's apart so the developer can get easy access. Now, if you're using these plastic tanks, 35mm, they pull out and then you can resize them. Come on, you can do it, and now it's set for 120 film and it works the exact same way. So then you can just walk the film in. So, I'm not gonna walk it in on this one to save time. Now, once you have the film loaded, if you're using plastic tanks, there'll be a little plastic spindle, it goes into the film holder. That goes into the tank. That little piece just helps them come separate. And then, this plastic funnel goes on top. And then it twist, get it on straight. Don't panic, okay, there we go. And it spins and locks. Because of the shape of the funnel and that spindle that went in there, that's how it will make it light-tight. Cause light doesn't move and bend at a 90 degree. So, this at this point is now a light-tight container and the lights can come on. This lid will then go over the top. This lid then allows you to invert it for the chemistry. So, once the chemistry's gone in, the lid goes on and you're ready to develop. Patterson is the company that makes the main version of these tanks and this is two 35's, one 120, this thing comes, you can do eight rolls. They make them really tall so if you're developing a bunch of different ones, you just have a bigger or smaller tank. Plastic is great, some people worry about chemical build up over time, but the tanks of these I've used, I've used years and I've inherited them from other people without any problem. The metal tanks are the same way. So here's the tank we're gonna develop in. This would hold two 35mm rolls or one 120. It's got one 120 in it, or two 120's, four 35mm's. On the taller metal tanks though, they'll come with the little dipping rod and these just fall onto that. And then they allow it to slide in and that way you can easily pull the reels in and out. So you're just gonna basically load up your reels, anything goes wrong, deep breath. Like they'll get hooked like that sometimes, you just pull it back out. I usually load the reels if I can as best as possible before they go into the tank. So, I just find it a little bit easier to drop them into the tank once I have the reels attached. Then, this lid goes on and this is the pour cap. And I'm gonna develop with the metal tank, because I want to show you how to pour metal tank. It's a lot more challenging to pour the metal tanks, so that's why I chose it today. In addition to it being my normal one. That lid will go on in and then you can actually do the development. You can see that the chemistry is gonna pour a lot easier into this one, so if you're worried about the pour issue, the chemistry just dumps into here, lid goes on and you're good to go. Either system works fine and works great. Not gonna be a problem for that. So, bottle opener gun, film gun. Doug, can you take care of that stuff? And that can go away. Last thing I have is I just wanna from a safety standpoint, when I'm mixing up my dry chemicals, it's all water and the dry chemistry goes in, but I always wear I just got a chemical safety mask, I just got this at a hardware supply store. And they sell these pop on and off. And you can interchange these, so as they wear or whatever. I know people call me paranoid, but I've been in the dark room for a long time now and I have no allergies, no issues, and haven't killed myself or anybody else. So, a little breather, ventilation mask. So, anytime I'm mixing any form of dry chemistry I use this. You'll see some people use the drywall mask, how are the chemicals is they're thin, they're thinner, they're more fine powder sometimes than those masks are so I just prefer a true chemical mask.

Class Description

The world of black & white photography is more than just “black and white.” With film photography you can control and create dynamic and detailed images that are timeless. Photographer, artist and educator Daniel Gregory will demonstrate how black and white photography can allow you to be more creative with your work. He’ll show the different types of film and how to meter for black & white as well as how you can get into the development process. This class will be your introduction into truly creating a photo from capture through print in the most hands on way.

You’ll learn:

  • Types of Film and how they impact the overall look
  • Zone System Basics
  • Metering for Black & White Film
  • Film Chemistry and development techniques
  • Safety and Storage for working with chemicals
  • Scanning your own negatives
  • How to push and pull film
  • Advanced exposure techniques and utilizing the zone system
  • Get hands on with your photography by learning to shoot with black and white film and learn techniques that you can bring into your digital workflow that ultimately will make you a stronger and more confident photographer.



    I am really fond of Daniel Gregory as a teacher. He does a great job. To me, his enthousiasm, his passion for and his dedication to film photography are infectuous. It's great that CreativeLive makes place for film photography and for such a pro teaching it. It can never do so enough for me. Thanks. I am a fan.


    This is an excellent course and Daniel is a great teacher! I'm coming back to shooting film and darkroom work after 20 years away. I have some wonderful film cameras sitting in my cabinet and I decided I wanted to use them--so I have decided to shoot BW with film, and shoot color with my digital cameras. I will develop the BW film myself and scan and print digitally. This class is perfect for me!


    Daniel is on fire! He gets better as the day gets longer. This is like being read a book by the author all in one day. Almost zero wasted words. Really intense—way beyond an intro course—and I loved every bit of it. Thanks, Daniel, and thanks, CL!