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Developing Black & White Photo's at Home

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Nothing says "arty" quite like black & white photographs. In this instructable I'll be showing you how to develop black & white film in a relatively cheap way so you can get negatives to do with as you wish!

Why not develop it at a shop? why black and white? and why in god's name don't i just buy myself a digital camera??

Because i like to throw off the chains of digital imprisonment and make something REAL!......(this is a lie)

The reason i started developing b&w at home is i couldn't find any shop that would do it, and after speaking to some nice people in a camera shop i ended up buying all the stuff to do it myself ( for only about 20 pounds), and after my first film developed i got a bit hooked on it, also with practice you can have greater control over how you negatives turn out (i haven't really practised enough to do this).

B&W film is a hell of a lot easier to develop than colour (so I'm told) and i think it looks arty-er so pretty girls will want to hang around with me/make sweet love with me more (........yet to happen)

Also a film SLR can be bought really cheaply and you can get some cool looking results (i like cameras from USSR or east Germany, any camera that outlasted a nation has got to be good), and i also don't have the money for a decent digital camera.

Slight disclaimer- I don't claim to be an expert at this, this is just what worked for me and i was happy with the results, i realise there are other step you can take such as using a stopbath ect. that might produce better results so YMMV.
 
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jephey5 years ago
WARNING: It is dangerous and illegal to pour fixer down the drain! It contains silver which is dangerous to people and wildlife! If you have well water and a septic tank, this is a definite no-no as it can affect you and your loved ones!

What can I do?!
Pour your used fixer and developer into a container (with a lid) that can be easily transported by automobile. Take the container to a photo lab (or even a pharmacy with a one-hour lab) and ask the lab tech for it to be dumped in the Waste or Silver Recovery unit. Don't ask a cashier! If you can, call ahead and ask for the lab supervisor.

If they ask questions:
Say you do your film at home, that it should be safe to pour in, they can ask their supervisor, and it's more money for them because of the silver it contains. The people aren't giving you a hard time, there is often all sorts of warning signs about mixing chlorine/bleach containing chemicals, with another type of chemical, that is all Greek to them. Be patient and let them double check, it's worth it for the environment.

Why?
The unit at professional labs zaps the waste with electricity and using magnets collects the silver and the rest goes down the drain. Not only does the silver not make it into the water supply, it is saved in large canisters which are picked up for recycling!

In the United States: Both Federal and State government agencies regulate the handling and disposal of photographic chemicals. For more info on proper disposal of photographic chemicals, see here (PDF).

Additional Notes: Don't develop film in the kitchen where you eat! These chemicals are toxic. Also, don't eat during the process! Don't pour chemicals down the drain and don't let them make contact with older porcelain it WILL stain any porcelain the finish has worn off of. If this does happen you need to find "Farmers Reducer" and scrub it with a brush, it'll take some elbow grease (Powdered cleanser with bleach might work too).
Check with you local regulators but home use is often exempt from the effluent laws, the only darkroom chemical that is regulated at all is the fixer, and it's not the fix that is of concern it is the silver that is in the used fixer. Fixer is sodium thiosulfite also used to de-chlorinate swimming pools and as a soil ammendment, ditto for sodium sulfite--which is also used as a food preservative. Acetic acid stop bath--white vinegar. The various organic developer compounds are totally non-toxic at the exposure levels you see in a home darkroom. Some are Vitamin C derived, others chemically similar to acetominophen/paracetol. What I do is track the number of rolls/sheets of paper I run through a batch of fixer (it is reusable) and dispose of it in a five gallon pail when it is used up, the water (90% of fixer is water) evaporates, I take the dried chemicals to the hazardous disposal site. Note the MSDS for the developers you use, several "old school" developers are slightly hazardous at INDUSTRIAL exposure levels few are toxic at home lab exposure levels. Not to say I sit around the breakfast nook eating powdered developer on my oatmeal but treated with respect darkroom chemicals are low risk. Power tools, lead came for stained glass, gasoline/petrol/benzine all much more dangerous.

Yeah check with your local laws. My county states that *home* generated photographic chemicals can go down the sink. Our sewage is treated of course. That said I also plan to collect my spent fixer in a big jug and bring it down to the hazardous chemical waste collection anyway (commercial entities are required to do this). The silver is later recovered by other companies.

am putting in a darkroom in a bathroom that has to also look presentable, not like a lab. what impact do the photo chemicals have on slate (floor and countertop) and porcelain sinks? what surfaces are recommended? what surfaces are acceptable? paint for surfaces? so that we don't have a problem with staining? also, what chemicals have the least odor and least problems for the environment without sacrificing quality of the print? more info on coffee sepia would be great!
Hi, from my amateur experience in two houses I haven't noticed any staining of tub, tile, or sink. Just towels. You can't get away from fix odor, or stop bath. Save your used chemicals in old containers and take to toxic waste recycling (on that point I'm hypocritical). Peace
beehard443 years ago
there is a developing solution which is essentially coffee and vitamin C.
[http://content.photojojo.com/tutorials/coffee-caffenol-film-developing/]
stopmenow3 years ago
or what i do is wrap the canister between my thumb and index finger and push the nubed edge down on a hard surface and the end pops off allowing you to reuse the canister and save money by buying film in 100' rolls
alberta.4 years ago
this is really really helpful! but i was wondering, how do you get the different colours in your photos? like the black and white, and then the sepia. etc.? is that the film or something else?
You can "tone" images in Photoshop or tone real prints in the darkroom after making and washing prints. What I said in an earlier comment about film and paper development DOES NOT apply to most real toners. Toners use sulfide compounds and Selenium compounds--again not dangerously toxic but sulfides stink and can make you ill and selenium (like it's cousin on the Periodic table lead) is a heavy metal and needs to be treated with a great deal of respect. Selenium metal is very toxic but the selenium toner compounds are much less toxic. Never the less, wear rubber gloves or nitrile--not latex--and limit your exposure to both. And use in a well ventilated area.
}{itch (author)  alberta.4 years ago
The sepia colour was totally by chance. I usually take the negatives to a photo shop for scaning but for one roll i decided to have a go myself and do them on a flatbed scanner (which didn't work too well), anyways i took the same roll to a photo shop afterwards and it came out sepia. I think it must of been the bright light from the flatbed scanner altering the developed film.
alberta. }{itch4 years ago
ok, thats cool... with sepia film could you just develop it the same way as black and white?
I like this Instructable, I have done a lot of film processing and printing in my life (hence my moniker) I will say that 25 pounds for a developing kit seems a bit much but that may be the local pricing and tax structure. People know of my habit--err hobby--yeah it's just a hobby I can quit anytime, and give me stuff all the time. I have four enlargers, a complete roller transport paper processor, a film processor (needs a couple of parts) and a cool Polaroid MP-4 copy camera (with an accessory head that permits use of my digital Nikon). Ask around, schools and newspapers all over the country are going 100% digital and give this stuff away--I have so much I stopped taking "donations". Good film scanners come in two types, the dedicated 35mm types work better with color films and most flatbed scanners have available accessory lids with illumination for negatives and slides. I have both (of course) and used the flatbed rig to scan odd sizes of old negatives. I have a commercially printed 16x20 from a vintage 616 negative of my wife's family taken c.1938, very nice, we are making a CD album of all their old negatives. There's also quite a market in used camera kit and darkroom stuff at camera swap meets and flea markets. I just bought two fine Canon GIII rangefinder cameras for ten bucks US each last Sunday--I like 'em, own five of them, loan 'em to my friends--very high quality fixed lens rangefinder cameras--the poor man's Leica.
dacker6 years ago
I a photo-geek who always carried an SLR through four years of high school and four years of college, then worked for Eastman Kodak for 19 years, this brought back many memories. Ah, the sweet smell of D-76, stop bath, and fixer!

B&W film processing is very easy! Ektachrome slide film is similarly easy (Kodachrome cannot be done at home.)

I used a bottle opener to open film cartridges; there is no need for anything special.

If you plan to stick with processing your own film, you can buy bulk rolls of film, a film loader, and reusable film cartridges. It saves a lot of money. I still have mine, though I have not used it in almost 30 years.

For those without an absolutely pitch-black room to open a film cartridge and roll it onto a reel, a "change bag" is the usual alternative. It is a black fabric bag with hand holes on each end -- kind of like the fur muff used by women to keep their hands warm in winter 100+ years ago. The hand holes have two elastic baffles to seal the bag against tour arms.

If your water has a high mineral content, a final bath in a wetting agent called "Photo Flo" can be used to reduce the chances of water spots on the film.
And dilute the Photo-flo with distilled water!
}{itch (author)  dacker6 years ago
hi thanks alot for the tip about the bottle opener, just loaded a reel of film using that method, made things way more straight forward than fiddling around with the film extractor. Since taking up B&W photography my SLR has lived in my satchel, and goes pretty much everywhere i do, it's getting kinda addictive :)
04mewm4 years ago
Great Instructable. Just a thought about scanning, you really need a scanner that emits light on both top and bottom. So the light shines through the negative. You can buy these, i'm also thinking about making one from an old normal scanner. (just stick a light on top of it).
4strinbass5 years ago
what kind of film where you developing?
rustlabs5 years ago
awesome instructable man. i am going to have to try this, much appreciated.
I worked at a BW lab. I used a bottle opener. No time to be fiddling around with coins and tools when you need to run 200 rolls a day by hand.
have you ever tried sepia toning with coffee. its a pretty effective method. and saves you the cost of the toner let alone playing with the poisinous selenium crap.
}{itch (author)  grenades_and_ham6 years ago
hi! thanks for the tip, at what point in the process do you use the coffee? is it after the films been developed and fixed? I'm not sure why some of my photo's came out sepia coloured, I didn't do any photoshop gubbins to them , it's just how they came back when the got scanned at the pharmacist. The only thing i can think is that it seems to be the one's i tried scanning with my flatbed scanner that have turned most sepia, so maybe it was the bright light from the scanner doing something to the negatives.
usually when you scan black and white negatives you have to greyscale them because most software is used to accepting color negatives
another good trick i use is a can opener for film catridges. as for sepia toning i put them in coffee after the final print is made good to make the print a little lighter or darker to bring out the subtle details on it. makes it old fashioned you know what i mean, i really dont like photoshop i think the best rule is take it right the first time and relish in the fact your not good enough and keep taking pictures thats what drives me. as for experimenting something you might like to try is cross processing developing color film in black and white chemicals d76. lends unique tones. but have the lab make color prints from them i just develope the color film at home and ask the pharmacy to print them in color. its really neat look up cross process online and at images. experiment enjoy and keep shooting. and last but not least take your camera everywhere you never know what you might see
Another easy way to pop the can open is to use a large coin, force it into the gap, and pry the metal cannister back -- all while in complete darkness! So, be sure not to drop your coin (or have extras handy), otherwise you're SOL.
zjharva6 years ago
I love these photos!!!! You could probably sell them and make a good bit of money. If you would take some of old cars, i would probably buy one of them!
First off, thanks for the linkage =]

Secondly, when you're cutting your film, consider cutting it in lengths of 5 frames. That's the standard size, and makes it easier to store/handle them. If you buy plastic archival sheets to store it in, you'll notice that they're sized for 5 frame strips. It's also easier to use them if you ever decide to print them yourself.

Nice job!
}{itch (author)  Weissensteinburg6 years ago
Thanks for the tip!, I've been meaning to get some archival sheets, at the moment i keep my negatives in envelopes scattered about my room :D Your instructable was most awesome, i think i may have to have a go at doing my own prints soon, my step dad has all the stuff which he doesn't use any more after going digital so i may have procure it.