How to process film

May 10, 2018
Two rolls of Ilford Delta 400
Two rolls of Ilford Delta 400

In this post I’ll tell you how I developed two rolls of film this afternoon.

A Paterson system tank, two reels, and two rolls of film.
A Paterson system tank, two reels, and two rolls of film.
Preparing the tank
Preparing the tank

Go to a pitch black, completely light-proof room, and switch the lights off. Grab a bottle opener, and pop the film roll open. Cut the leader of the film off to make the end approximately straight. Push a bit of the film onto the reel, and start swiveling the reel halves back and forth. This slowly advances the film from the roll onto the reel. When you feel the end of the roll, grab the scissors again to cut the end of the film off from the centerpole of the film cartridge. Repeat for the other roll and reel. Put the reels on the center tube of the tank, and place the combination within the tank. Add the funnel-shaped lid on top, and make sure to close it until you hear and feel it click into place. Hooray, you can switch on the lights again!

Chemistry
Chemistry

Get your measuring jugs out - one for the developer, another for the stopper, and a third for the fixer. Two rolls of 35mm film in a Paterson tank requires about 580ml of each. In the past I’ve only used Kodak D-76 developer at stock strength, but this time the lab was out of ready-made solution. I found a bag of “R09 One Shot”, with the text “Rodinal” written on it with a marker. Following the instructions on that bag and a film development chart, I ended up going for a 1+25 solution – 23ml of R09, add water up to the total of 580ml.

Pour the developer in the tank, close the rubber lid firmly, letting a bit of air to escape to make a better seal. Invert the tank upside down and back upright repeatedly for 30 seconds – no need to hurry. After that, invert about 3 times or 10 seconds at every minute of development. For this combination – Ilford Delta 400 and Rodinal-like developer at 1+25 dilution – the total development time was 9 minutes. Open the lid, pour the developer back to the jug, and pour in the stopping solution. Close the lid, and invert for 30–60 seconds. Pour the stopping solution back to its jug, and pour in the fixer. The fixer is inverted in a similar fashion as the developer, and used for at least 5 minutes. After fixing, pour the fixer back to its jug and you’re ready for rinsing.

Rinsing
Rinsing

Put the tank with the film reels under running water and rinse for approx. 15 minutes. This gives you time to clean up after yourself too. Pour the developer from the jug to a developer waste container to be properly disposed of later, pour the stopping solution back to its bottle, and the fixing solution back to its bottle. The stopping and fixing solutions can be used repeatedly for some time - be sure to check the instructions on your chemicals. Wash the jugs carefully, and put them to the side to dry off.

Let it dry
Let it dry

Carefully pull the film out of the reels and hang them to dry, with a clip attaching to the end of the film. If you want, use a pair of film squeegee tongs to quickly run through the strip, wiping most of the water out. Let the film dry thoroughly – it sticks really easily when moist.

Film strips
Film strips

When the film has dried, cut it into strips of 6 frames each and fit them into film holders. Inspect your creations on a light table.


Big thanks to Ylioppilaskamerat - the Helsinki University student photography association. They’ve taught me how to process film, and using their lab is very reasonably priced for the members.