I got into film photography, more precisely black and white film photography, a little over a year ago and have been in love with it ever since. I actually got rid of my complete digital setup, invested into a nice 135 and 120 camera, a nice scanner and a metric shit load of chemicals over the short timespan of a year. I thought it would be interesting to share my personal development, scanning and archival process, since this is probably one of the most often asked questions I see in various Facebook groups and Youtube comments. I am not saying that my process in 100% correct and perfect whatsoever! I am very happy with my results and think that some of you might want to adapt some of my techniques.
What I use
I tried out many different bw films and developers during the past 12 months, but settled on my personal ideal combination about 3 months ago. I only shoot HP5+! For me it is the perfect 135/120 bw film for the sort of photography I do. I use it pushed to 1600 ISO in my Leica constantly, to document daily life, shoot it at box speed in my medium format camera to get beautiful high-res portraits and just love the flexibility of the film. I pushed it to 6400 ISO, pulled it to 200 ISO, accidentally over-/underexposed it and used it in a huge variety of situations and it never let me down. Furthermore it is less expensive than TriX and offers a beautiful contrast, which can be easily adjusted further when scanned, or printed. But! A bw film only shines when combined with a proper developer. Some swear by the Rodinal + HP5/TriX or some by the D76 + basically any bw film combination, but I found myself a truly beautiful duo. HP5+ combined with Kodak HC-110 (dilution B). I tried it with Ilfosol DDX/HC, but settled on Kodak after listening to an episode of Matt Day's podcast "The Shoot" and giving it a try afterwards. When combined with HP5, images with beautiful sharpness, grain and contrast are the result.
HP5+ @ 1600 developed with HC-110 dil B
Another big benefit of HC-110 is how long a bottle will last you. I have developed around 30 rolls of film using mine and it's not even close to being half empty. The film and developer are the only two "look" defining elements of your film development process, but the stop bath, fixer and photo flo also play a big role. I use Ilford Ilfostop, Ilford Rapid Fixer and Kodak Photo Flo, but you can basically use whatever combination of chemicals you want. I would advise you however, not to cheap out on the fixer, because low quality ones can really fuck up your workflow. Scanning is done on a Kodak Pakon F135+ for 135 and an Epson V600 flatbed for 120.
I start out with pulling the film leader out of the canister using some old Ilford tool. I do this, because I can think of more pleasant things then loosing a roll in my darkroom whilst fiddling around with scissors in my hands. Now, let's heat the chemicals. I develop at 20C, because it's the recommended time for most bw developers and because I can easily heat my darkroom to 20C. Nevertheless, i still always check my developers temperature before I develop and if it isn't exactly 20C, I use a hairdryer to quickly heat it up. When it comes to development times, I use the Massive Dev Chart app for my iPhone, which is extremely helpful! I usually follow the directions closely, but if I remember underexposing slightly, I'll dev a little longer, etc. Let's use HP5+ at 1600 as an example. When I have successfully loaded my film onto the reel, i cut it with about 1cm left on the spool. This allows me to use the empty canisters for bulk loading in the future. I'll pre rinse the film with filtered tap water for a minute or so, pour out the water and fill in the properly heated developer. I always start the timer at the half point of the filling process, if that makes any sense...What I am trying to say, is that I fill in half of the developer and whilst continuing to pour in the dev, I start the timer. I'll then agitate for the first 30 seconds straight and every 30 seconds for 5 seconds (about 3-4 inversions). I'll continue doing this for the next 10 minutes and 50 seconds (the development time is 11 min) and start pouring out the chemicals about 10-5 seconds before the timer runs out. Depending on how many rolls I am developing at a time, I reuse the dev again, or pour it down the drain (Kodak recommends 4 rolls per 1000ml of dil B). This is then followed by the stop, which I agitate for 10 sec or so. After pouring out the stop (1 min), I quickly wash the film because I don't want my fixer to be contaminated at all! After the wash, I pour in my Fixer, which I agitate for 30 seconds every 2 minutes. When I am done with that, I safe my Fixer for another batch of film, tho it needs to be said that the Ilford Fixer expires extremely quickly! Next is the final wash. I wash with flowing (filtered) tap water for 7 minutes, and rinse the film in distilled water for 3 minutes afterwards. This is ESSENTIAL, because the water in my house is extremely rusty! The last step would be to soak the film in a 1+200 dilution of Photo Flo, of course mixed with distilled water! Following that, I hang my film to dry for about 3-5 hours.
Pro tip: If you want to keep your chemicals from expiring as quickly, I suggest using Tetanal Protection Spray. It replaces all the air left in your container and keeps the chemicals from oxidizing.
I hated scanning so much, before I got my hands on my Pakon F135+ 35mm scanner. It truly makes scanning 35mm film so enjoyable, especially because it enables you to scan uncut rolls of film, which safes you an incredible amount of time. Well, I take the uncut rolls of film and feed them into the scanner, which is set to the highest quality setting, the Pakon offers (3000x2000). I really don't want to go into too much detail concerning the Pakon, because Matt Day made an amazing video explaining how the thing works. I also use a very similar Lightroom preset as his, when exporting the images into Lightroom.
Well, scanning medium format is not quite as enjoyable as 35mm, simply because the V600 is a flatbed scanner, which opens up a whole new category of problems. Dust will be your worst enemy! I always wear cotton gloves and have plenty of compressed air at hand when doing this, because it safes me quite a bit of time when retouching the images in Lightroom. I recently watched a great video about scanning color film with an Epson flatbed by Tim Palman. Even tough it concentrates on color, most of what he's saying can be translated to bw scanning.
I always start a new folder for my film at the beginning of a New Year and also start at 1 again. For example the 34th roll of 2016 would be 34-16 for me. I have all my negatives, 135 and 120 mixed, in the same folder. I also use the same technique for organizing my photos on my Mac in Lightroom. I use transparent film pouches for 135, because it makes printing contact sheets a lot easier. Btw, I only print contact sheets for projects, not individual rolls. My 120 rolls are stored in non see through ones, because they are cheaper and laying out the 120 strips by hand, for contact prints, isn't too time consuming.
sorry for the German descriptions
I hope some you enjoyed reading this and maybe some of you might adapt some of my techniques. I am currently starting to develop my color film at home as well. I'll share some insights on that, as soon as I am comfortable with my process