David Rickard explains how to process black and white negatives in a darkroom.


  1. Developing tank with inner section, lid and cover
  2. Spool (one per 36 frame film)
  3. Film-puller (to pull a small amount of film from the can)
  4. Scissors
  5. Film


  1. Use the film puller to produce a small length of film. Pull out a further 6–8 inches: this film will not be damaged as it was already exposed when loading the camera.
  2. Begin passing the film onto the spool, so that it gets taken up when the spool sides are rotated. It is easiest to have the opening of the spool winding facing you, with the film canister hanging down; you can wind the film onto the spool holding your thumbs on the wider part of the spool rim at the opening. Once the first 6–8 inches of film is loading correctly, set down the spool.
  3. Place all of the items listed above within easy reach on the bench. Turn out the lights in both the corridor and the darkroom.
  4. With both hands pass the film onto the spool until it has completely would on; cut the canister from the end of the film using the scissors.
  5. Place the spool onto the inner section of the tank, place inside the tank, and attach the tank lid. Twist the lid until it clicks. It is now safe to turn on the lights.
  6. Measure approx 300ml of film developer and film fix for each roll you are processing into separate graduated cylinders. Ensure they are both at 20°C using the thermometers provided and by placing the cylinders in a bath of hot or cold water as necessary. Check how many times the solutions have been used: more than 5 rolls and you may need to dilute some more solutions. Pour exhausted solution into the larger containers for disposal.
  7. Consult the bottle of film developer to find the correct developing time for the film you are processing. If you have multiple films requiring different times, use a separate tank for each or else process them one after the other.
  8. Pour the developer into the tank and affix the cover. Agitate the tank continuously for one minute and then for 10 seconds each minute thereafter.
  9. When the development time is up, pour the developer solution back into the graduated cylinder. Either pour in 300ml of stop bath or quickly fill, empty and refill the tank with cold water several times, for about a minute or two. If you used stop bath, replace it in its container.
  10. Pour the fixer into the tank and leave for five minutes, agitating as for the developer. Pour the fix solution back into the cylinder.
  11. Replace the developer and fix solutions in their containers. Mark off on the label how many rolls of film you processed. If the solutions are now exhausted and need to be remade, contact the committee or dilute some solutions yourself at the end of the session.
  12. Rinse the film continuously under cold water for 15 minutes, leaving the tap running moderately.
  13. (Optional) Add a couple of drops of wetting agent, and rinse.
  14. Take the spool out of the solution and shake off excess water. Remove the film from the spool (the spool can be separated in two by twisting it an extra bit).
  15. Set the negative dryer to 30°C and hang the film up – long rolls may need to be cut in two – for approximately 20 minutes. Do not take the film out if the film is in any way sticky.
  16. When the film is completely dry remove from the dryer and cut the film into strips of six frames. Place into A4 negative holder sheets.
  17. Clean up and put things back where you found them.