Introduction: Film Processing

(For other film guidelines, look to my website:

After re-reading this, I realized how many spelling mistakes and how unclear some of my instructions were - hope this version is a bit better!

When I started photography in college I had never done anything remotely analog/film related, to tell the truth, all my dark room knowledge came from whatever I had seen in movies. After surviving my first semester, I've learnt a lot, and seeing as I found it all to be amazing and interesting, I thought I'd share it with ye :)

(This instructable is all about film processing, I'll write another one to do with developing/printing later)

*And technically the film in the top image is actually "film film", not "photography film", however, i didn't have any photography film that I could use without ruining it. It's the same size, 35mm, just 400ft long, as apposed to the 36frame film for photography.*

Step 1: What Is Processing?

Ok so processing is the, well “processing” of the film. This involves taking the film into a room, and in the dark, taking it out of the canister putting it through the different chemicals.
I didn’t actually know this before I started, but processing film is done completely in the dark. Pitch black. To time things we have a clock that glows in the dark. So before you start, I really recommend laying everything out in order on the counter or wherever you’re working.
Once you have locked yourself away form the light filled outside world, you pick up the film canister and, using a scissors, stick one blade into the slit that the film slides through while in the camera, and use that to bend open the canister. Peel back the metal (this can be kind of hard) so its easy for you to pull out the film. Pull it all out and cut it at the very end (be careful, I once thought I had pulled it all out and I lost half my roll of film). Its then time for spool winding! 

Step 2: Spools

With spools, there’s metal ones and plastic ones. And with the metal ones, there are two types (that I know of). There are ones with tongs/sprockets, and ones with little clips. For me, the sprocket one is harder. For these, you have to catch the little holes on the bottom and top of the film onto the sprockets, and then wind the film around, with it spaced evenly apart so the chemicals can get in everywhere. The other ones have a small metal clip that you catch the film onto and then wind on. (see photo)
The easiest ones by far though are the plastic ones as you simply feed the film into a grove at the beginning, and then by twisting the spool, it all winds itself on.
One thing you have to watch out for when using the metal ones, is to make sure none of the film is touching when you’re finished. I know I'm repeating myself, but it's important, and when this happens, the chemicals can’t react with the film properly and you end up with bits of your film unprocessed.

Ok, now that the film is on the spool, you put it into a cage (see end photos) and now onto the chemicals. 

Step 3: Chemicals

You use three chemicals – the developer (dev for short), the stop, and the fix. They’re pretty much as simple as they sound – the dev develops the film to show the images (to be technical, it reacts with the silver halides in the film), the “stop” stops the dev from reacting, and the “fix” fixes the images to the film.
The time you have the film in the dev for varies from film to film. I personally use 400TriX most of the time, which is a black and white film, and in the developer ID11, its takes 5 minutes. For the first full minute, you agitate the cage, meaning you slowly lift it up and down, nothing to vigorous or crazy. Then, every minute after that, you agitate for 10 seconds.
The stop is only two minutes, agitating for the first and letting it sit for the second. 
Lastly, the fix is five minutes, and the same with agitating, constant for a full minute, then 10 seconds after each one minute.
Once finished, you can turn on the light!

*chemicals get tired with use and become less effective, so make sure you keep track of how much its used (last photo)* 

Step 4: Wash and Dry

After processing, your film is then submerged in the spool in water. It is best to leave the water running so that it keeps moving and washes the chemicals off properly. Washing takes 20minutes officially, but if you’re stuck for time you can pull it out a little early. Some people now use wetting agent to further clean their film, I don’t, it’s up to you really. When using wetting agent, you place the film in a container with water, and using the lid of the wetting agent as a measurement device, add on lid-full. mix the water gently.

To dry, attach clip (or clothes peg) to the top of the film and hang it  – in college we have a dryer, which is like a large wardrobe that hot air swirls around in, so the film just hangs in it. With drip drying the film, there is a tendency to get water stains and streaks on the film, so a very soft moist cloth will be needed after to clean it off. In the dryer, it takes 20minutes to dry the film.

And congratulations, you have processes your film! Hold it up and look at your beautiful images! Or simply be happy to know how it all works now :)

I’d like to add that I’ve heard of canisters that you can process your film in that are light-tight, leaving you being able to stand in the sunshine. I’ve never used them so I can’t tell you how they work, but if I ever do I’ll be sure to include it!

* The photo is of a squeegee that you can use to help take the water off of the film after you wash it - you can use your fingers just as well, i prefer my fingers, no risk of scratching the film.*

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