Developing Black and White Film on Easy Mode

One of the things that made me super nervous just thinking about developing film at home was that thought in the back of my head asking “but what if I screw it up?”

Disclaimer: If you’ve never developed film before, you’re going to need to combine it with a different guide for learning to develop. My goal is to have an article on the whole process soon, but I haven’t gotten around to developing any film recently to take photos of the process. Ilford published a guide on the process, it’s the same one I used to get started.

Easy Mode Option 1: A Monobath

Initially, to deal with this, I started using a monobath as my developer. A monobath is a concoction with chemicals that perform the two steps of developing black and white film, the developer and the fixer. Because it combines the two steps into one, it’s almost impossible to screw up assuming you’re working in a room around room near 70°F.

I know of two monobaths currently on the market, Cinestill’s DF96 (which I’ve used and can attest produces great results), and Famous Format’s FF No.1 (which I haven’t used, but based on what I’ve seen online it appears to produce similar results as DF96).

Easy Mode Option 2: Stand Development

After I’d exhausted the monobath and had enough confidence to try something new, I started investigating other potential options.

When asked for a good black and white developer, most of the internet points at developers made by Ilford and Kodak. A smaller portion of the internet points at Rodinal. I went with Rodinal.

Every developer you’ll find has its own strengths and weaknesses, and one of Rodinal’s strengths is that you can use it for stand development.

Stand development is pretty much what it sounds like, instead of shaking the chemicals up every minute and finishing the process fairly quickly, you instead do a little mixing at the start and then leave the tank to sit for awhile.

The gist of stand developing with Rodinal is this:

  • Mix a dilution of 1:100 Rodinal:water (so most likely 3ml Rodinal and 300ml water for a single 35mm roll)
  • Put the water in your development tank, and agitate for ~30 seconds
  • Go do something for 30 minutes (I usually watch an episode of a TV show and have it act as my timer)
  • Come back to your developing tank and agitate for ~10-20 seconds
  • Go do something else for 30 minutes
  • Dump out the developer (at this dilution Rodinal is most likely exhausted, and you’ll need to throw it out), and fix it the same way you would any other film.

Technically this is semi-stand development, but the two are very closely related. True stand development doesn’t have the extra agitation in the middle.

As a note, right now the only place I’ve found that will ship Rodinal in the US is Freestyle Photographic Supply. Get it on their Rodinal product page.

You may also be able to find it at your local film shop, if you have one. I have seen the B&H says they carry it, but it’s only available for in-store pick up, which isn’t useful for those of us living outside New York City.

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