Creating a black and white film processing kit

There is no shortage of recipes for black and white film processing. Use your favorite search engine and any of the links of the first page will likely offer you a starting point for developing black and white film. Most leave it up to you to translate the generic set of equipment to a shopping list and the recipe into the specifics for your film and developer. Many are excellent at providing enough background and encouragement to perform the task, but then leave you hanging on how to create a black and white film processing kit.

Due to some shipping concerns many of the chemicals you might want to explore will require you to leave the house and explore your local photography store. There are plenty of places where “local” is hours away if it exists at all. If you enjoy ordering online out of convenience or necessity the following shopping list for black and white film development is online ordering friendly. All of these items are generally in stock at B&H Photo and Video. The shopping list below  is what I used to get myself set up having been out of wet darkroom for years. While this list is close to the minimum requirements, it values quality components over lowest budget.

35mm Film Development - iStock_000011035080Small

Stock photograph of development tank and 35mm film

Creating a black and white film processing kit for 35mm and 120/220

This list is shared as a wish list over at B&H Photo and Video. That will get you the shopping list without reading all of my thoughts on each item.


Paterson Changing Bag 27” x 30” – This is where you will load the film into the processing tank. Make it stress free by getting a bigger bag. They all store folded up so going cheap here simply makes you stress out when the film or reel is uncooperative.

Paterson Triple Darkroom Timer – You will need to keep track of time and this three alarm timer makes the process flow. It allows you to set up to three steps of your film developing recipe making transition between key steps simple.

Paterson Universal Tank with Reel (Super System 4) – This version requires ~600ml of fluids to cover two roles of 35mm or one roll of 120/220. An alternative would be metal reels, but if you work with medium format film, the cool factor of metal is outweighed by not crimping your film during loading.

Paterson Auto Load Adjustable Reel for Super System 4 Tanks – If you work with 35mm film you will need an additional reel to take advantage of the capacity of the base tank.

Jobo Plastic Graduate 34oz – This is a little large but I like having extra space at the top of mixing containers. The only thing this will not measure accurately will be mixing wetting agent. It can be done, but you might want to get a smaller 25-50ml graduate if you like to be absolute.

Jobo 600ml Storage Bottle Kit (3 white, 1 black) – I tend to process one tank at a time and these bottles keep the exact amount of chemical required for the tank. They are small so you do not need lots of space to work.

Yankee Filter Funnel 16oz with Fine Mesh Stainless Steel Filter – I got this mostly because there never a time where I want dust flowing into the tanks or bottles. Particles like that can attach themselves to your equipment leading to unexpected results.

Paterson Chemical Stirrer – You need something to stir the chemicals and they are all over priced.

Dot Line 2” DLC Stainless Dial Thermometer – While temperature is less critical in black and white, you still need to know the temperature of your chemicals since that is what takes all those generic instructions and plots it on a graph to set your development times. Without one of these if you wanted to maintain a certain temperature it would all be a big guess. This thermometer is short, but perfect for this size of bottle.

Chemicals – Out of convenience I prefer buying chemicals in liquid form. Unless the developer does not come that way, it ensures some level of consistency. I also subscribe to one use mixing. Stop bath and wetting agent can be reused without having significant impact on the final negative. Ilford stop bath will change colors as it exhausts.

Delta White Darkroom Cotton Gloves, 4 pair – These are perfect for keeping the oils and perspiration of your hands off of your film. They are inexpensive enough that throwing them out whenever you want won’t hurt your bank account.

Delta Stainless Steel Film Clips, 10 pack – These are pretty good because they require a small footprint to hold your negatives. They have enough weight and have hook letting you add weight or attach it to a string or wire to air dry.

Paterson Film Squeegee – This is one of those things that I use to have, but never loved. It can leave streaks, but it is an effective method for speeding up the drying process.

I am a believer of sticking within brands in an attempt to reduce compatibility issues. Brands of chemicals can be mixed. For example, Ilford DD-X is similar to Kodak’s TMAX developer. Getting started I think establishing a baseline is more important than using a favorite developer or trying something “new”. The minute you develop your first roll, you will see that developing black and white has many points of variability. This shopping list doesn’t include the kitchen sink, which is also required. Some people like distilled water based on bad experiences with dirty film. Create your setup and start processing black and white film to have more influence on your final image.

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2 Responses

  1. Ed says:

    Thanks for putting this together, I was going in a few days to pick up this stuff from my local camera shop, I’m lucky to have two very good stores near by.

  2. Brian Goodman says:

    Hi Ed, that is excellent. Apparently some folks have no options. Being in the New York area is a blessing for having quick access to resources. Glad you are in a similar position.

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