Film Processing

Some notes on film processing. A good place to start in my mind are these documents for Kodak and Ilford:

I also highly recommend using the Kodak, Ilford, and Fuji film and developer documents as starting points for development times. There’s a lot of hearsay out there, and much have has reached places the like the Massive Dev Chart. The Massive Dev Chart is a wonderful resource for obscure film and developer combinations, but if you are developing something ’normal’ like Tri-X in D-76 at a standard speed, Kodak probably has a better starting point for you.

Tanks and Reels #

I use generic stainless steel tanks from B&H Photo or Freestyle Photo. I don’t use generic reels though. Hewes professional reels are the best 35mm reels. They make loading the film a breeze. They are expensive, but they last forever and sometimes you can get the used for cheap.

Developers #


I follow Kodak’s recommendations for agitation. Here is what the recommend for invertible small tanks from their document AJ-3:

Tap tank on work surface to dislodge air bubbles. Provide 5 to 7 inversion cycles in 5 seconds, i.e., extend your arm and twist your wrist 180°.

I also do a slight rotation of the tank with each agitation. This helps prevent the developer from just sloshing back and forth.


Almost all of my developing is done with XTOL. I do have some Diafine lying around, but I rarely use it. Up until now, I always use it 1:1, though at some point I want to run some tests with it at higher dilutions.

I mix up 5 liters at a time with distilled water and then pour it into .5 L water bottles. There are two nice things about doing this. The first is that you never have more than .5 L of XTOL sitting around oxidating due to a half empty bottle. At 1:1 dilutions, a bottle does about 4 rolls of film. Secondly, your developer is in conveniently sized bottles—no trying to manhandle a gallon sized glass jar and pouring too much out. Dasani water bottles seem relatively robust, so I bought a case of it just for the bottles. Be sure to label them appropriately.

Fixing and Washing #

I use Ilford Rapid Fixer. I mix it up 1:4, about 1.5 L of it, which is good for 36 rolls. Every roll of T-grain film I put through it counts as 2 rolls - they also get fixed for longer.

Tri-X does have a slight purplish tint to the base, but its clear and even. Don’t kill yourself trying to get that out. When I process T-MAX P3200TMZ, which is notorious for having a pink color to it, it comes out gray, so my fix and wash procedure is robust enough for Tri-X. I use Ilford Wash Aid even though you really don’t need to, but it can’t hurt. My wash cycle is as follows:

  1. Fill tank with water and agitate for 30 seconds.
  2. Wash with Wash Aid, mixed 1:4, for two minutes with heavy agitation, 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off.
  3. Fill tank and give 25 inversions.
  4. Fill tank and give 30 inversions.
  5. Fill tank and give 35 inversions.
  6. Fill tanks with Photo-flo solution (see below), invert 5 times, give it a tap and let it sit for 30 seconds.
  7. Hang film to dry and pour Photo-flo solution on negative strips from the top.

Photo-flo #

I use Photo-flo 200 for my post-washing surfactant.

When my tap water dries it leaves this sticky oily residue everywhere. I found that a final rinse in distilled water and Photo-Flo wasn’t enough, and that I had to do my washing (Ilford style) with all distilled water. I could probably do tap water for the first wash or two then switch over, but distilled water is cheap and its working. In my previous apartment, I did NOT have to do this—tap water all the way except for the last one with Photo-Flo.

As far as Photo-Flo goes, I have a little eye dropper that I use, and I put in 1 drop per ounce of wash water. I use stainless tanks and reels which are 8 oz per roll, so for the two reel tank, I put in 16 drops in 16 oz of water. I’ve tried Kodak’s dilutions, which was a hair too much all the way down to no Photo-Flo, and this amount works the best for me. I think my dropper is 10 drops/ml (roughly) so this works out to .1ml Photo-Flo / 29.7 ml water, which is… a dilution of about 1:300. The Photo-Flo I have states 1:200 dilution, so I’m using less, but not half as much, about 2/3’s as much.