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Home Developing B&W Film – 7 Tips To Do It Well

Internet is full of tutorials on how to develop your black and white film but few highlight the important parts that make it work, or show you how to make savings and/or improve quality.

These tips are based on a classic development with 3 baths + rinse:

  • Development bath

  • Stop bath

  • Fixing bath

1 – Being Thrifty With The Developer

Today, there is a large bunch of developers on the market and they can be very different from each other. The important thing is to know what you can really do with the one you have chosen. It’s the most critical bath.

Do I need to dilute it? If so, what ratio? What will it change?

For example:

To illustrate things better, I will use one example. Recently, I’ve worked a lot with Kodak Xtol. This developer can be used as stock or diluted (1+1). Depending on the number of rolls I had to develop, I would use one or the other, whichever was the most cost effective.

Diluted, this developer can be used only once, whereas when used as stock it can be used several times.

So, when I had only one roll (120) to develop, I used it diluted (1+1). This way, I used only 250ml of Xtol for a tank of 500ml.

But when I had 4 or 5 rolls, I used it as stock and I could develop all my rolls one after the other in the same 500ml of product. Of course, I had to apply a development time increase for rolls 3, 4 and 5 but it is very cost effective and just as efficient!

Some people do not even know that Xtol as stock can do more than one roll, and can end up using up to 2.5l for 5 rolls. Or they may try to be cost effective by diluting it (1+1), but they still use 1.25l where they could have used only 0.5l.

Now, if you develop only 4 films per year, let’s be honest, it’s not a big deal and it’s even better not to be economical because once opened, the developer does not last that long. But if you are developing more than 100 rolls, or you are part of a shared darkroom, it will make a huge difference and will be much appreciated by other users!

Note: I do not reuse a developer from one session to another even if I only developed 3 films. I always start a session with a fresh batch.

2 – Getting To Know Your Developer

As I was saying, due to thanks to the wide diversity of the market, you might need some time to find a combo dev + film you like.

Personally, I really like: – Xtol + Acros 100 (Grain? Where?)