Easing into Home Development

Well it’s happening, I’m now fully down the rabbit hole of B&W film development. It was inevitable really, as I continued to take more photos on film and especially on B&W, that I couldn’t resist trying out development for myself. I think firstly I have to say a massive thank you to Dave Beatty from North West Film Photo (@northwestfilmphoto) who literally took me into his home to show me how to self-develop my film, and thanks to the whole NWFP community on Discord for helping me get started. Let’s have a look at a few things I’ve been using to start my journey:

It started with Adox FX-39ii. This high acutance developer produces sharp, clear images, and is especially good for low ISO films or box speed development. I loved it! It is so easy to use, and produces results that I really like. This was proved by that fact that my inexperienced Dad developed two rolls of Ilford FP4+ in it, having shot a film SLR for the first time in decades!

Orwo NP55 (from Northern Film Lab) developed in Adox FX-39ii
Ilford Delta 400 developed in Adox FX-39ii
Ilford FP4+ shot and developed by my Dad with Adox FX-39ii

Then I tried Adox XT-3. This all rounder is an update to the classic XTOL developer, and it is fantastic for getting the best out of any film (it is also exceptional for push processing apparently!) It is a two-part developer, meaning that you have to mix two bags of chemicals together, one after another. I used the 1L kit so I could keep it compact in a concertina bottle, as there isn’t much room in my flat.

Ilford Delta 100 developed in Adox XT-3
Ilford Delta 400 developed in Adox XT-3.
Kentmere 100 developed in Adox XT-3.

Alongside those two developers, I have been using the Adofix P-II fixer, and their wetting agent too, all brought together with the AP Universal developing tank. I’m sure to be writing more about my journey of film development, as I try and find my own favourite combinations for my photos.

I can tell you that if you are thinking of trying B&W development for yourself, that there is nothing to be scared of! There is a LOT of information on the manufacturer’s websites, and apps like ‘Massive Dev Chart’ can make the whole process less stressful. Don’t get me wrong, it can be daunting to try something new, especially with your own precious photos, and I’ve certainly made some mistakes (another story!) but it’s worth it. I’ve been loving the process of developing B&W at home, and I look forward to sharing more about it in the future!

How did you get started with B&W developing? Have you wanted to try it, if so, what’s holding you back? Let us know in the comments below.

All photos were developed by myself, and then scanned by the good folks at Come Through Lab in Ancoats, Manchester. Find them on Instagram here: @comethroughlab 

Thanks for reading, and if you live, work, or are from the North West of England and are shooting film, then check out North West Film Photo on Instagram, and consider joining the Discord for community chat outside of social media too. I look forward to sharing more of my photos and experiences with this community soon, in the meantime you can find me on Instagram here: @tedayre

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15 thoughts on “Easing into Home Development”

  1. I first started when I was doing a photography course at my school back in the late 70s. I didn’t process at home until the 2000s as I didn’t have room for an enlarger setup, but started once I could scan negatives. I’ve tended to stick to Rodinal/R09 apart from some Perceptol fine grain developer for subminiature negatives, but I’m impressed by the results you have got from the Adox developers. Recently, I took the plunge and did my own C41 processing using a CineStill kit.

    1. Oooh yeah developing your own colour film is a whole other step Bob! Interesting that you stuck to Rodinal/R09 mainly, that seems to be a popular one to use. Thanks for reading!

  2. Back in the day, Popular Photography magazine had a series of basic developing and enlarging articles. I bought the cheapest tank (which leaked horribly) but still got great results. I was hooked. Now 40 plus years later, I still think it’s magic to open the tank and see a perfectly developed (usually) roll of film. Even more impressive is watching a print appear in the developer. Nothing better than this for me!

    1. Aww Ken that makes my day hearing that! It’s great to still find that magic in our hobbies, and the joy of the old analog processes. Totally agree!

  3. DANIEL J CASTELLI

    Hi Ted,
    I like the puddle reflection photo. I had an aunt who used to think that puddles housed hidden worlds that we could only see through the reflections.
    I got my first camera in June of 1970. When I started community college, we formed a camera club and talked a forensic photographer into being our advisor. He taught us how to develop black & white film and make enlargements. The approach was simple (Tri-X, D-76.) Making enlargements on a sole Omega B-22 (Kodak Medalist paper & Dektol.) We thought we were kings & queens of visual art. Looking back at my old stuff, I realized we were terrible. But we had fun.
    Since 1970, every apartment & house I’ve lived in has had a darkroom. They may have been in closets, or bathrooms, but I always had a darkroom. You see, I’ve never stopped developing my film and making enlargements in 52 years. It’s still magic to me.
    Today, I have a 6×8 darkroom in our basement. Light years away from the B-22 (still a capable enlarger!) I try and get into the darkroom at least once a week. I wave goodbye to my wife and disappear for about two hours. At 72, I still get excited when I unspool a roll of film and see the results. I just printed the B&W negs from our trip to London in 2022, and I remember the circumstances from each print I make.
    Continued good luck with your work.
    Dan

    1. Thanks for reading Daniel! No. 1 your Aunty sounds like a legend, and I love those kinds of beliefs – like finding magic in the everyday. I think it’s admirable that you’ve created a darkroom space for yourself over the years, how fantastic! I’m looking forward to experiencing the darkroom magic sometime in the future too.

  4. I started my photographic journey at a very early age.i was always trying to take my Dad’s camera whenever he was using it so in desperation he bought me a VP camera from Woolworths.
    By the time I was 10 he had bought a developing tank (Essex daylight loading type) and a Durst RS 35 Newporter enlarger.
    I was hooked and we ran through a number of cameras including a couple of Retinas, a Ried III and a Leica IIIf.
    Black and White photography using FP 4 and HP 4 with Acutol developer.
    Time passed and for my 21st birthday Dad bought me an Olympus OM-1.
    Still carried on with the b & w, but branched out into Ektachrome transparencies as they were cheaper to process than print film at the time. As a result I started Cibachrome processing with the same enlarger.
    I moved into digital in 2000 with an Olympus E-10 and have had several digital cameras up to my current OM-D E-M1.
    I kept my OM-1 and added an OM 2sp and a brace of OM-4s keeping shooting various films as and when. As it got more difficult to get film processed I started processing my own E-6 in a Jobo processor (CPE 2+) and have now moved onto C-41 processing as well with Tetenal and Cinestill process chemicals
    I am 67 and still processing

    1. Wow Bill, your Dad sounds like a great bloke – how lovely to be encouraged from a young age! That Olympus OM-1 must be really precious to you, along with your brace of other Olympus’s (Olympi?) All the best to your continued processing success!

  5. I started in the 60s, 4×5 glass plates, tray development and fixing in “hypo”. Needless to say much help from my father. So that was the start of the journey taking me through all formats from 35mm to 12×20 (not recommended!), including reversal processing of FP4 (never again!), and enlarging negatives onto VLF lith film (also never again!). Now, the easy life, almost exclusively 35mm in Rodinal 100:1 slow to medium speed film. Thanks for the article and reminding me of my journey! Some nice images too, lets see more.

    1. How great to get some help from your Dad with development Geoff – and it sounds like you kept going and experimented plenty! You’re welcome, and thanks for the kind words.

  6. Hi Ted
    Fellow Northerner here (Lancaster). Developing is a rabbit hole! I came to film from digital a few years ago and just love it. I have a nice, varied camera collection (Contaflex, folding retinas, Fed3, Pentax KX etc.) That keeps me smiling. Regarding developing, my initial plan was to use Caffenol (and I still do, it’s excellent) but I soon invested in ID-11. This is a powder developer that gives excellent results. I used it stock where you reuse it up to ten times, adding 10% to the time each roll. I loved it but it does die suddenly. Then I tried Bellini Euro HC, their version of Kodak HC110. It is superb if a little less contrasty. It doesn’t accentuate grain like Rodinal but that means it may not be quite as sharp. Once my bottle ran out I went onto the Kodak version. Big mistake. The Kodak one is thicker and my results were just not as good. I ended up with thin negative after thin negative as I tried to get to the bottom of it. It was all down to handling. The bottle needs shaking before use, the jollop is best measured with a syrynge, the dilution needs a good stir because it doesn’t instantly mix and it benefits from the Kodak Agitation scheme (1min then 4-5 every 30secs). Once nailed you have a developer that is tremendous with expired film as it helps with the base fog. Theres also a really good free app on android. Rodinal. You need this on your shelf. It lasts forever and Rodinal Stand or semi-stand development is the magic bullet. It does a tremendous job with everything from 1990s fp4 to pushed modern film. At lower dilutions it isn’t to everyone’s taste but you will always be able to find a dev time because it has been around forever. FX-39 I love this stuff too, so much. Fomapan 200 is brilliant in it but it isn’t easy to find.

    See, rabbit hole 🙂 regarding scanning, I have a macro lens on my DSLR, that sits on my tripod. The film is held by one of Hamish’s Pixl-latr, the cheapest option out there, and its brilliant. I also bought a set of Forster 35mm and 120 guides (also available here), they are excellent and 100% recommended. The light source is an old iPad. It works a treat. TOP TIP. To make sure your camera is perpendicular, place a flat mirror on the light source. When you look through the viewfinder you should be able to see a reflection of the lens in the centre. Keep experimenting and always wear gloves. I didn’t and got some very odd skin issues, they’re OK now though
    Peter

    1. Eey ‘up Peter, thanks for reading and commenting – sounds like you have a nice varied collection of cameras there to use. Yes I’ve seen some excellent results from ID-11 from friends, and interesting to hear about your wrestling with Kodak HC. I had definitely wondered about Rodinal, but have not yet moved away from FX-39 yet – I may be tempted to in the future. Thank you for the scanning recommendations! Also, that may be my favourite last line of a comment ever… always wear gloves folks (he’s right though!)

  7. Been developing b&w when Jessops (remember them?) used to sell a 35mm KB21 (remember that?) for 99p a roll. The early 90’s. Those were the days. Cheap film that was almost fine grained and boxed as “orthopanchromatic”, ie, next to no red sensitivity. Actually Jessops was a lifesaver, cheap film and cheap chemicals for a cash strapped teenager.

    A Paterson tank is just a gateway drug. Just wait until you set up a darkroom and watch your first print appear in the tray of developer under the red safelight…

    1. Hey NDH, yes I grew up in the 90’s so can remember Jessops for sure! I remember getting our summer rolls of colour film from them (and Woolworths) to take to the Norfolk coast. Well I might be cooking up my first taste of darkroom developing soon – I think my rabbit hole might get a little deeper…

  8. I’m so tempted to give it a shot. Recently, I had a lab ruin a roll of HP5. That might be what motivates me to try. My dad setup a darkroom when I was in high school, and I used it a bunch. But, that was eleventy billion years ago!

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