I have recently got a film SLR and I have shot a lot of pictures (say like 6 rolls in a weeks time). To develop these pictures in my area takes up to a week or two.... so what struck my head was to develop the film myself.

Can someone help me by explaining how this works? What is the process of developing a roll of film?

It's a fading art which I want learn and keep alive.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Colour or black & white? Frankly, colour is a real pain in the backside; it's a lot more "finicky technical chore" than "art", especially if the end goal is traditional colour prints. Due to reciprocity failure, there's not much room for creative printing, there's no such thing as a real safe light so everything except the print exposure happens in blackness, it's highly temperature-sensitive, and you need rock-steady electricity (or an enlarger with its own regulated power supply) if you want your carefully-set filter pack to work the same on the print as it did on the test strip. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 5:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ oh surely i do enjoy black and white than color :p \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 9:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you want to see the photos, you have to develop the film and then print enlargements. I loved printing enlargements, but over time I decided that developing film was not worth my time. I'd have a lab do the development and print a contact sheet. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 20:52

2 Answers 2


The process involves the following steps:

  • Remove the film from its roll(s), load it onto reels, and insert the reels into their tank. This must all be done in the dark. (Good to practice on some old ruined film so that you can learn to load the reels by touch.) Once the cover is on the tank, you can turn on the light.

  • Pour developer solution into the tank, agitate periodically (or occasionally don't) for the required amount of time. Pour out the developer.

  • Pour stop bath solution into the tank, agitate periodically for the required amount of time, and pour out.

  • Pour fixer into the tank, agitate periodically for the required amount of time, and pour out. At this point the film is no longer light sensitive and you can open the tank.

  • Rinse in clean water. Add a capful of wetting agent to help prevent water spots on the negatives. Agitate. Dump the water.

  • Remove the film from the reels and hang each strip to dry. Your film isn't really film anymore -- it's photographic negatives. When its dry, cut the strip into shorter lengths of 5 or 6 frames and store properly until you're ready to print.

Printing works much the same as taking pictures and developing film, except that you do it all at once:

  • Load the negative strip into a negative carrier and insert this into your enlarger, which works like a camera in reverse. A light in the enlarger shines through a condensing lens, through the negative, through an imaging lens, and onto the enlarger base. With the room dark, you adjust the lens to focus the image, switch off the enlarger, place a piece of light sensitive photographic paper where the image will appear, and turn the enlarger on to expose the paper for the required time.

  • Much as you did for film, you slip the exposed paper into developing solution, then stop bath, then fixer, and finally rinse in clean water.

  • Hang the paper to dry, or dry on a print drying machine.

Note that the are a lot of unspecified times above. These depend on the particular chemicals that you're using, the temperature of your solutions, film speed, whether you under- or over-exposed the film, etc. Baseline figures can be found in data books from Kodak and other suppliers, as well as in the data sheets that come with your film and chemicals.

  • \$\begingroup\$ When @caleb talks about "turning on the light" he means a proper darkroom safe light. Almost all of the work in a darkroom has to be done in the dark, with only a safelight. Loading film into their tanks has to be done in the complete dark, no light of any kind. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 22:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PatFarrell Actually, I meant a good ol' white light bulb. All the tanks I've used are light tight once the top is on. For example, the Patterson tanks have a funnel-shaped top that locks into place after the reels are loaded and makes the container safe to use in normal room light. I agree about loading film onto reels in complete darkness, of course. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 22:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ WARNING! When you "pour out" the fixer, it may NOT go down the sink, the toilet, the storm drain, the sewer, or anywhere else besides a hazardous waste storage tank. Proper handling of waste fixer is your responsibility to your neighbors. \$\endgroup\$
    – ruief
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 23:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ The steps vary a bit if you ever try Diafine developer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Skaperen
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 3:45

If you are shooting monochrome film (B&W), it is reasonably easy to build your own darkroom and develop your film and make prints. With color films it gets much more complex. Different types of color film require different processes, and getting good results requires everything, including the temperature of the chemicals you use, to be almost perfect at 100F/38C. B&W only requires a constant temperature of 68F/20C for all of your chemicals.




The third link is for color film that requires the C-41 process to develop it.

Good luck!


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