article, photography

DIY Black & White Photo Development

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten any photos developed.

The lack of photo updates (or any updates, really) are due to COVID-19 and its impact on creative endeavors.

Specifically for film photography, there were a couple reasons I haven’t gotten any new pics.

  1. Finances – Sending film to a lab for development is expensive, and its a luxury right now that I couldn’t prioritize
  2. Lab Closures – Some of the labs I regularly use are either currently closed or have limited availability
  3. Film stock availability – I’ve read about shortages of particular stock online, and after the price increases early in 2020, I’ve been dipping into my fridge stock rather than buying anything new to experiment with (See: #1)

Learning to Develop at Home

I’ve been shooting color film almost exclusively for the past few years. However, I started on B&W back in the day when I first took photography classes in high school (yes I’m old), and have been interested in getting back to it. I bought a used copy of Black & White Photography: A Basic Manual by Henry Horenstein on eBay, and it has been very inspiring. It’s available for less than $10 used, and I cannot recommend it enough. I plan to write up a full review of the book, because it’s an amazing resource.

I’m interested in coming up with an extremely budget-friendly workflow for black and white development. Most of my film photos ironically end up digital, but I’d like the final scans to be high enough quality to print on paper since I occasionally frame photos as gifts or home decor.

I’ve also been bringing my rangefinder out quite a bit lately, and everything I’ve read about the Yaschica Electro 35 says it truly excels when you load it with B&W film.

Creating The Workflow

I plan to build on this post long-term as I seek out and choose equipment to reach my goal, and I’ll try to update it with links to gear as I put together a kit. The focus will be on value, since I think a lot of film enthusiasts are on tighter budgets than usual during this pandemic. Film and photography equipment is a luxury for hobbyists like myself, but I’d like to be able to continue creating photos more regularly, in a DIY fashion instead of constantly scrimping and saving for lab services.

I’m also open to suggestions from any film photography blog followers, or film buffs who happen to run across this post. How do you develop B&W and has it made things more affordable? Let me know in the comments.

Stay tuned!

5 thoughts on “DIY Black & White Photo Development”

  1. Do it! I taught myself to develop black and white film in paterson tanks and at that point I had so little money that I was making caffenol to develop my shots since I could only afford the fixer. That was almost 10 years ago now. In college I taught people how develop their film and make prints. It really is a lot easier than you’d think and since most colleges have dismantled their darkrooms at this point all the equipment you could possibly need is pretty inexpensive on eBay.
    Just get yourself a Paterson tank, some developer (I like Kodak D-76, some distilled water, some fixer, and of course a dark bag (or you can do it in a dark closet like I used to.)
    Hope that helps!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! Since I wrote this I actually put together a kit with a tank, bag, and a black&white monobath. Cinestill had a kit sale so it was actually more affordable than what I was seeing used online. I haven’t had a lot of time to blog recently, but I plan to do a write up since I just finished a roll of B&W that I can develop!


      1. I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m a big-time photography enthusiast. I spent the first four years of my career as a photojournalist and I’m still shooting film today. I actually just finished a review of Fuji Pro 400H, which is a brilliant color portrait film. I haven’t gotten around to writing any black and white film reviews, but it’s on my todo list. I only really have experience with Fomapan 400, Tri-X 400, and Ilford HP5, so if you’ve got any suggestions for black and white film stocks I’d love to hear them.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I ordered some Kentmere 400 from Ilford, and that is what I’m gonna test the monobath with. Also, in the kit I bought Cinestill provided a few bonus rolls of their 200 ISO B&W film which I’m excited to try as well. Supposedly it has a nice finer grain.

        Liked by 1 person

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