Film: How to develop, scan, and print with no darkroom required! By Max Marinucci

Film…it’s simple…and beautiful!

By Max Marinucci

First of all, I want to pile on and say that Steve is doing a great job here and we should offer our support for such informative, no bull site. Photography is fun and weʼre here to enjoy it and get inspired without worrying about chromatic aberrations and lens sharpness. Again, thank you Steve for putting so much time and effort into this. (From Steve: Thanks so much!!)

I have written this article for those who want to take some time away from digital photography or simply want to get back to basics for a bit and have never considered or experienced shooting black & white film.

For many who have grown up with nothing but digital photography and files, the notion of black & white film feels like some foreign relic which may be nice to look at but have no idea on how it was produced and if it can be replicated today. This article is for those who may be interested in discovering (or re-discovering) the simplicity and beauty of black and white film and are willing to spend a little time engaging in something that will not give instant gratification. Before I go on, let me extrapolate a bit on this point: instant gratification. We have become the society of NOW, where waiting for something just doesnʼt seem acceptable. If we take a picture, we want to see it NOW on the back of our camera, on the LCD screen. It sucks…well, letʼs take another one, and another, and another. While this is the norm these days, patience and parsimony are virtues to be cultivated and nourished. When shooting film, you immediately accept the fact that it may be a little while before you see the fruits of your work and, by living with this, you will become more disciplined which will in turn carry on to your digital shooting as well It also means that shooting everything in sight without any thought into basics like light and composition is out of the question since you only have 24-36 shots in a roll of 35mm and it makes no sense in spending time/money developing thoughtless junk. This is a valuable exercise in restraint and it brings us to actually THINK before we shoot. Would you have taken a picture of your toes with film just because you can? I sincerely doubt it. I personally have become a better photographer by shooting film because again, when I do, I pay more attention to details, and, since time is money I donʼt want to waste either by developing and scanning too many duds.

So, you may ask, why do you need to shoot black & white film anyway? Well, first of all, film still looks better (in my book at least) and second, you may start enjoying photography again in all its glory. I use Leica gear and enjoy my digital M9 but, there have been instances when I have shot the same picture with film and it very often blows the digital away. Even with today’s advanced technology, it is very difficult to reproduce the look of film in digi-world. Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro does a great job converting to b&w but the picture still looks, Film still has that extra latitude and dimension that makes it unique and special. I will not get too technical here because I want every novice to understand the process and be enticed by the small challenges, be excited about producing something unique while having a feeling of satisfaction, not frustration, at the end.

You will probably not be able to reproduce the works of Ansel Adams (no one can) but certainly use those as your inspiration and take comfort in knowing that such beautiful masterpieces were taken with now ancient equipment, film, and most of all, an thorough understanding of nature, light and composition (yes, along with lots of technical stuff as well). There is a deep sense of pride that comes into play when one catches that moment, nails the exposure and develops a good negative which can bring life to a special picture. The process, the anticipation, the fact that YOU are in control (not your camera or digital software) will bring forth a sense of accomplishment that, in todayʼs digital world, we now rarely get to savor.

Before I go on, let me explain that what I have outlined below is a “hybrid” system designed to work well in today’s digitally oriented world and it will bring outstanding results once you have mastered a few steps. As Ansel Adams’ famous quote goes ” the negative is the composer’s score and the print is the performance”. But, few these days will go through the trouble of darkroom printing, which requires time and dedication (oh yes, and a good amount of talent). So, what do we do with the negative? Well, if you are just taking pictures of your kids or casual snapshots, you can just bring them to your local lab and get prints within one hour. They will probably look okay. Now, if you are getting a little more serious and want more creative control, today’s digi-world let’s us do what one would do in a darkroom but on a computer screen. To keep it simple, you need a good scanner (I use the Epson 750V Pro) and Adobe Lightroom (yes, you can use Photoshop if that’s what you like and you’re familiar with, but in the interest of keeping this SIMPLE and for someone just starting out, Lightroom is THE ONE). The new version of Aperture is also great and these, unlike Photoshop, do a fine job at keeping things simple and well organized. Also, most of us today look at pictures on computer screens, iPhone, etc so most never actually get printed. The following system will easily let you upload your favorite b&w film pictures onto Flickr, Zenfolio, etc with great output quality.

Please note, everything written below refers to 35mm film.

Film: you have choices.

As always, photographers (like musicians) get bogged down by too much gear and too many choices. It’s okay to try different films and you will eventually choose different ones for different situations or looks. Having said that, for now, try to find a favorite and stick to it. By doing so, you will achieve some consistency, results you can predict and, more so, repeat. It’s okay to experiment but only when you have mastered the task at hand and you know what you’re doing. Don’t try to be a jack of all trades, master of none.

Film Speed: faster is not always better, just different.

If you start looking on the internet, you will once again be bombarded with tons of information. Much is useful but it may also confuse you and prevent you from starting out without getting extremely frustrated and, ultimately, give up. Every film has an ISO rating on the box. Shoot it at that speed. More on this later but let’s just leave it at that. Now, generally speaking, slower film (50-100-125) will give you tighter grain (or close to none in the case of Kodak T-Max100). As speed goes up (400, 800, 1600, 3200) grain will increase noticeably (also your choice of developer will

determine that but again we want to keep things simple so we will not dig into this one at the moment).

Camera: it does not matter!

When it comes to shooting film, you have so many choices and many of them dirt cheap these days. Frankly, your choice of camera may be possibly dictated more by the lenses. I love Leica because of its simplicity, timeless design, ruggedness, and most of all, lenses. You can buy a good M3 for less than the price of a new digital pocket camera and use lenses made all the way to the 1930s. If you shop eBay, you can get a nice M3 with a 50mm Summitar for about $1500. The Contax G2 system is another winner with Zeiss lenses. Nikon also made some great film cameras and the Zeiss Ikon is also just fine. Having said that, I am partial to Leica because it is SIMPLE. There is only one adjustment knob on an M3 (or a modern M7 as a matter of fact) and that is shutter speed. You will not get bogged down by dials, knobs, menus or tons of useless junk designed only to sell the newest and greatest without respect for a user who demands simplicity and just wants to shoot without getting his/her brain cluttered with junk. Trust me, the less you have to think about camera settings, the better off you will be.


With black and white film you need them for some creative work. On a beautiful day, with sun and clouds, without a filter you will get little separation between the sky and clouds so you want to add a yellow filter (light or medium) or red to dramatize those skies even more. Yellow or green are also essential for skin tones when shooting outdoor.

Do you need a darkroom? NO!

Unless you are willing to do your own optical printing with an enlarger, no you do not need a darkroom. You can get a simple setup to develop your negatives with little money and use your laundry room, kitchen, bathroom to develop. B&H sells black changing bags and the few other supplies you need to successfully develop your roll of film. You will basically need:

Black changing bag to load your roll into the tank

A Paterson plastic tank (single roll is fine to start with) as these are much easier to load than metal ones. (can be found at B&H Photo)

A film retriever (to get the lead out of the exposed roll) Graduated containers to mix your chemicals Developer Fixer (can be found at B&H Photo)

Wetting agent (B&H Photo)

Film Clips (B&H Photo)

A sponge squegee (B&H Photo)

Thermometer (B&H Photo)

A cheap baby medicine syringe to measure developers to be used straight such as HC110 or Rodinal.

The Steps are simple

Load film into tank, developer, stop bath (to stop the action of developer), fixer, wash, hang to dry. That’s it. Basically, two chemicals, as I use a water stop bath to be gentle to my precious film which doesn’t need an acid environment to stop development.


Again here we have a bunch of choices. Photographers have their favorites with certain films and we donʼt want to turn this into a complex subject. We want to keep this simple and to give consistent, repeatable results. Enter Kodak HC110. It was good enough for Ansel Adams, it’s good enough for all of us. It comes in syrup, can be mixed straight from concentrate and has great shelf life. HC110 can be diluted in a few different ratios but again we won’t confuse anyone with that here. Let’s just say that DILUTION B (1 ml of syrup for 32ml of water) works for everyone. So, for a single roll Paterson tank, you squeeze 9ml of syrup (with those plastic baby syringes you can get at your local pharmacy) and mix with 281 ml of water to make your 10oz (290 ml).

Fixer Ilford Rapid Fixer. Mix 72ml of fixer and the rest water to make 10oz.

Temperature: you can use tap water but I say DON’T. I use a gallon jug of Poland Spring distilled water for each roll of film developed. I use 68 (20c) temperature so you will probably need to put the jug into a water bath and bring it to temperature. With black & white, temperature is not as critical as with color but you still want to get and stay very close. Very important.

Real World Example:

One of my favorite films is Ilford FP4+ (iso 125). At this speed, you can comfortably shoot outside in daylight, with or without filters. Developed with HC110 it gives great tones, grain, and it scans real well.

Developed in HC110 Dilution B, I use 9 minutes developing time at 68 (20c) degrees.

Using your film retriever, take the lead out of the roll and cut it straight with a pair of scissors. Put your tank, roll and scissors into your black changing bag and zipper up!

Load your roll into the spool (practice with a roll in daylight just to get the hang of it first) in the black changing bag. Make sure you have closed the tank and take everything out.

With a timer (I use an iPod touch and Digitaltruth massive development chart app) pour the developer into the tank and immediately start the countdown. Close the tank as quickly as you can and perform 4 slow and gentle inversions followed by two-three firm taps on tour table surface to dislodge any air bubbles. From this point on, you will perform 3 slow and gentle inversions at the start of each minute and one single inversion at the 8 minute mark. Again, two firm taps on the tabletop after each inversion cycle.

Start pouring your developer out five seconds before the time expires and then pour your distilled water stop bath. Agitate (invert) continuously for one minute. Pour the water out and now dump the fixer into the tank. Four inversions the first 10 seconds and the same at the start of each minute thereafter for a total of four minutes.

Washing process: dump the fixer out and fill with 10oz of water. Agitate/ invert five times. Pour water out, fill again and agitate 10 times. Pour out again, fill and agitate 20 times. Repeat this last step two more times, as you want to remove every trace of fixer. Some people use hydro clear prior to this washing method which is intended to cut washing time from a normal ten minute rinse. I have done this with and without hydro clear and I have found no difference, for whatever it’s worth. Dump the last round and fill with another 10oz of water plus 1-2 drop of wetting agent (this will prevent water from drying on the negs and create water spots) and agitate for one minute. Dump this out and take the roll out of the tank. You could also use tap water (make sure you can get it a constant temperature) and rinse for ten minutes, with a final minute in distilled water with wetting agent.

Drying: do this in the shower stall. Run the hot water to create steam for a minute or so, as this will prevent dust from flying around and forever be stuck on your precious negatives (this is a great tip as I have often seen negatives with tons of dust on them). Unspool the negative, examine if you’d like and hang with clips (one on top and one on bottom to prevent curling) and squeeze the water out with the damp squeege a couple of times. In about one hour your negs will be ready to be scanned. One more tidbit: I have found that Kodak films (Tri-x in particular) curl like crazy and Ilford films do not. When it comes to scanning time, you will learn to love ilford film just for that!

By the way, once you master these few steps, you will have a roll of film developed with a total time of about 20-30 minutes, excluding drying time. You will feel like a kid again, trembling with excitement and waiting to see the fruit of your work. When was the last time you have experienced that with your digital?

Ok, now that you have your dry strip of film, cut it in smaller strips of five pictures and you are ready to scan.


When it comes to scanners, unfortunately you do not have many choices if you are looking for high quality. I use the best flatbed there is at the moment, the Epson V750M Pro and I’m very happy with it’s features and final output. The only other choices would be a dedicated film scanner like the perennially out of stock Nikon 5000 or 9000, which are more epensive, or an Hasselblad X1 which will set you back $13K. You could also find an old Agfa Duoscan on eBay. Going back to Nikon for a second, unfortunately, they donʼt give a damn about film anymore so their scanners are old and merely an afterthought. They are too busy pumping out a new camera every 18 months to keep everyone spending money. More megapixels, 200,000 ISO so we can shoot raccoons and skunks in the middle of the night and new, useless features. By the time we barely figured out how to use the camera, a new one comes out and more money goes out the window. Okay, rant over 🙂

Again, I personally think that the Epson V750M Pro does a very fine job and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (B&H has it in stock @ $849 and again, you would have to spend A LOT more to get something better). It also comes with SilverFast Ai 6 which is expensive but FREE with the scanner.

MAJOR TIP HERE: You want these for you scanner! http://

These guys sell MUST HAVE adapters and glass plates for your scanner. They hold the film in place and FLAT. Trust me, you donʼt want to scan without them. Like I have said above, Ilford film is okay but Kodak..forget it. Without these, you would have to leave the film flat under a weight for a day or so before even attempting to scan.

Once you have your scanner up and running, create a master folder on your desktop and name it, for example, “scanned negatives”. Then, inside that folder, you will create folders for each roll being scanned and that’s where your scanned photos will go.

Once you have scanned your negatives, you are ready to import the master folder, with its contents, into Lightroom (or Aperture). Once you have that, your pictures are available for any editing like dodging, burning, curves, contrast, brightness, vignetting, etc. If you wish, you can even open your scanned negative into Nik Silver Efex Pro and make use of some of the great features available there.

Once youʼre happy with your picture, with a Lightroom plug-in (which will be standard with Lightroom 3, I believe) you can easily upload your photos directly to Flick or Zenfolio, or export them as a jpeg into a separate folder and then upload directly within Flick, Zenfolio, or any other website that allows you to do so. (Note from Steve: Aperture 3 has this feature as well 🙂 )


Okay, some of us still like to see our precious work on paper. Before we start, even though weʼre not working in color here, you still want to have your monitor properly calibrated to match on paper what you see on the screen. There are great papers available today for inkjets and with some of them you can get extremely close to matching the beauty of optical, darkroom printing. As far as printers, the new line of Stylus Pro from Epson are awesome! I use the smallest (which is not that small) 3880 and I am super happy with it. You can also use older Epson models (like the 3800) and get superb prints. As far as paper, my favorites for black and white are Epson Velvet Fine art, Hanehmule Photo Rag and the superb Harman Glossy FB AI, which can give absolutely stunning prints.

Well, get out there and shoot. Have a great time, pay attention to light and your surroundings, and remember…keep it simple. You will enjoy photography a whole lot more.

From Steve: WOW! Thanks so much Max! This was a VERY informative article and makes me want to get out there again with some film. Truth be told, I have been checking out some used film cameras and hope to buy one soon for those times when I really want the B&W look. So thanks Max!

Max Marinucci is a Leica enthusiast who enjoys shooting film with his M3,  M7 and classic Leica lenses. He also owns and operates “The Wine Connection” in Pound Ridge, NY. You can some of Max’s fun film images at his flickr page HERE!


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  1. What if you open the can were the film is in and you can’t see the pictures doesn’t it mean you never took pictures or something is wrong with the film?

    • You can’t see the pictures until they are developed. exposing the film to light before the film is developed ruins the photo. If you develop film that you exposed to light like that you will be developing a completely white picture. This process doesn’t work like a Polaroid.

  2. Hi thank you for this excellent article. I have recently got a film camera, but have used digital previously. My Q is this, with digital I expose to the right but I read that for film you should expose for the shadows so essentially the left. If I was to process film digitally as you describe above should I go right or left with film. Apologies if this has been mentioned else where or if it is silly question.

  3. Steve, thanks you so much. this is a wonderful article, exactly what I was looking for. I have been reluctantly about to launch myself in to buying a digital camera instead of using my little used and immaculate Leica R4s with couple of wonderful lenses and this has pushed me in to picking this up again. I guess I am a little old fashioned although not that old and enjoy the process of creating the images this way … very satisfying.

    Thank you again and all the best,
    Jilligan UK

  4. Great post, not sure if someone said it or not yet because I don’t want to read all of the comments, however the Epson V500 is a great flat bed scanner for beginners and won’t break the bank. Gives great resolution for anything under 8×10 prints and definitely adequate for web.

    • Why is the sanning resolution with vertical 35mm shots so much better. Any ideas somebody?

  5. Agree with most of the thread and do agree about the PP being a bad thing it is being abused big time. You only have to look at some of the sites images, all done on Photoshop. Whether I shoot 35mm or digital, I refuse to PP. I think of my digital camera as if I have film in it. I shut off the screen,limit the shots I will take, to 36 or 64. The first time I see what I shot is when I download them. If they are blurred or crap I delete them there and then. Don’t cheat yourselves with PP.

  6. Thanks so much for this post, I have a film camera and have been searching for the right way to convert the film to digital and this seems perfect.

  7. Love the article.

    Could you tell me the overall cost to develop a roll at home instead of getting them develop at a store. Is there a large saving of money? I would love to know.


  8. Film or digital, simple camera, straightforward pictures, little or no digital manipulation, (cropping, contrast etc) . Works for me every time.

    Take a good look at some of the work of HCB, Tony Ray-Jones, Burke Uzzle(b&w) Chris Killip, Elliott Erwitt, etc. Lets not get to immersed in the technicalities.Let the pictures do the talking!

  9. The changing bag is truly the greatest thing since sliced bread 🙂

    It can take a bit of getting used to though. You have to learn to do everything using just your fingertips as a guide!

  10. Great article, I hope it get’s more people interested in film.

    One word on scanners: one great low-budget solution is the Polaroid Sprintscan 35+
    It’s from the 1990s and rare to find, but IF you find one, it’s dead cheap, since ppl would rather throw it away. I bought mine a couple of years ago for less than 100 quid.

    Why do I prefer it to a flatbed? It’s a dedicated film scanner, with a diffused light source. It doesn’t have ICE (wouldn’t work with b/w anyway) or any of those new technologies but the diffused lightsource means that you have less trouble with dust and scratches.
    I also a Reflecta Crystal Scan 7200 (for colour) and an Epson Perfection 49990 Photo (flatbed) (for medium and large format) but for b/w I still keep the polaroid.

    Brian, if you just want to experiment a bit, before deciding to buy your own scanner, some labs also offer to scan a film right after development, in my experience development+scanning ranges between 10-20€ per Film, depending on lab and quality of the scans. Sure, a lot of money, but since the scanning itself can be very tedious, it might be something to think about if you don’t shoot many rolls per month.

  11. Brian, If you have the film developed elsewhere, yes, the only step left would be to scan the negatives (or slides if that is what you are shooting).

    John, thanks! No, I do not use the fluid mount. Even though there would be an improvement in quality, it is hardly worth all the trouble and cleaning/playing with chemicals.

  12. Thanks for the great article and lovely images! Are you using the fluid mount with your Epson 750? If so, how do you handle the wet negatives and are the chemicals easy to deal with? I have a 2 and a half year old…

  13. Okay, so. I was seriously thinking about getting a Nikon FM10 (because it’s the only legit model next to the F6 now) and really want to shoot film.

    So let me get the process straight:

    1. Shoot film
    2. Get developed?
    3. Scan into computer?

    So when i get it developed at say CVS I put what they gave me onto a scanner?

    • No wonder no one answered your dumb question … the Nikon Fm10 is “the only legit model next to the F6” ?? You don’t DESERVE to be let near a film camera !!

  14. Matthias,

    I am in your camp and post processing is indeed a necessity with digital images. The question here is what defines a photographer and photography. Is he/she who goes out at sunrise/sunset, finds interesting subjects and composes with thought and attention to details, or the one who goes out in at high noon, with not a cloud in the sky, takes a picture of a house sitting on an open field and then goes home and adds all sorts of post processing tricks to make it visually stunning and impressive? I see a lot of the latter and I call it Photoshop Art. Adding buildings, clouds, moving things around, overly manipulating, requires computer skills, not photography skills. The way I see it, there are three major groups of artists (with variables in between obviously): 1) The great photographer (they are a rare breed): he/she who accepts that perfection is only in nature, who’s aware of his/her own talent and limitations, and puts oneself in uncomfortable, unique situations to bring life to real images. 2) The great photographer who also knows how to post process and let’s it be of service to his talents without using it is a cane or magic wand (again, a fairly rare breed). Our own Steve Huff here I believe is one of them, as he has a great eye and also knows how to use PP, somewhat judiciously. And 3) He/she who is lazy and low in photographic talent but has a moderate to high knowledge of post processing tricks to turn basically crap into a visual stunner (from what I see, a very common segment these days).

    I am sure plenty of tricks were used by film photographers as well, back in the days, but that still required a deep knowledge of actual photography. Today, an 18 year old who’s a Photoshop wizard, with a point and shoot and zero photo skills, can turn out a masterpiece and eat everyone’s lunch. Once again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with #3 but I simply don’t consider it photography. It is an art form but it can distort reality way too much for me and, again, more importantly, does not tell me ANYTHING about the photographic skills and talents of the person behind the image, with his/her camera.

    All the best to you!


  15. Max,

    I sometimes consider myself as a perfectionist – which is not always helpful . . . and sometimes it is just necessary for me to do the PP because I’m still looking to express that inner image. For an outstanding good photograph the whole workflow must be perfect – I don’t think that a bad image can ever be corrected by PP. As for PP, I always consider it as an add-on, never a substitute.
    I believe that it is one of the hardest things to find the beauty in it’s natural simple state – and one of the most rewarding.

    All the best,

  16. Mathias,

    You are absolutely correct. Camera manufacturers, like drug companies, have found the perfect way to keep the disease at bay, without quite never reaching a cure (“THE” perfect camera) so to keep photographers wanting the newest, and supposedly, greatest. What I find always laughable is the fact that my M3 loaded with Fuji Velvia or FP4+ and a 50 year old lens, still gives me images that I prefer to any digital file that I have seen so far, unless of course it was overly manipulated. You are correct in regards to post processing and in fact I find myself at times dreaming of a certain image and wanting to change what I have. Usually I don’t, as I feel like I am cheating myself and my vision. Personally, my vision is to find beauty in its natural, simple state and, aside from the regular PP issues with digital files (white balance, curves, etc), I do not like to distort reality. Again, that’s just me while others feel quite differently, and that is okay.



    • There is an inconsistency in your thought process – you state that it is “laughable’ that your film camera gives you results you “prefer to any digital file that I have seen so far, unless of course it was overly manipulated” ?? Excuse me, but that makes ME laugh … you just stated there are digital files you DO prefer to film, but in the same sentence you state that these files are “overly manipulated” !! LOL – how can they be “overly” manipulated when they garner your preference ? They are clearly “manipulated” to exactly the right and APPROPRIATE degree if they are better than the film results – sheesh … think before speaking, perhaps ?

  17. Max,

    Thank’s for your reply and the images (I especially like the shadow of the palm tree on the first one).

    Camera Manufacturing is mostly big business today and I think those companies are very good in making everybody want their new products – their main purpose is to sell. The idea is to never reach a pinnacle. And yes, the technology is rapidly advancing since there isn’t only Moore’s Law, but also other fields and new areas of science at work. From a pure consumer standpoint, that’s not a bad thing. – For me, I decided, that at the moment there is a greater need for me to develop my photographic skills, than to buy and use a new camera with video and 3D capabilities. Besides – I just love the mechanical perfection when handling the Leica, although this does not contribute to the image quality itself.
    I see, that simplicity can be a truly valuable thing – this is one reason why you like to use film – and this is why I also like a Leica Camera and use my Mac. It helps to concentrate.
    But, speaking just for myself, it is often not enough for me to get what I see thru the viewfinder. I often got an inner image in my head, sometimes just a feeling I want to express and so it is important to me to begin the work at another stage at home on the computer. Sometimes the post processing is minor, sometimes many hours of work. When I shot film many years ago now, I just didn’t have those possibilities at hand.

  18. David,

    Thank’s for your reply to my post. I do see your point and enjoy to read from people that direct my own opinion and thinking in new or other directions.

    With my statement I wanted to oppose the still wide spread thinking of some photographers, that in a strictly technical sense film still has greater potential than solid state devices – that’s just not the case and I think we should all accept and embrace this fact.
    I also think that we should not always tend to compare digital with film concerning the “look” a photograph has – we should concentrate on the possibilities we have at hand now in a total to serve the only importance there should be – the look we want it to have with our “inner eye”. I don’t want to recreate anything, I rather want to create. No one knows what reality is – we all create our own reality. Therefor a digital HDR image is no less real than an exposer with Kodak Tri-X – it’s just different (form a purely technical standpoint the digital HDR is even nearer to what the human eye sees).
    I just oppose the idea, that photography with chemical film is the only “real” kind of photography as much as I don’t like the idea, that H-C Bresson and Ansel Adams are the fathers of what we all should try to achieve with photography, as much as I admire their interpretation of photography.

    As concerning the fun part . . . that’s up to everybody him/herself. Some people like to repair old 17th century clocks as a hobby. That’s fine with me and I think that’s great! Just don’t come and tell me that in reality this mechanical masterpiece runs on a preciser frequency than a modern quartz wrist watch.
    I just heard that Sony stated at PMA, that they are going to develop a 3D digital camera – interesting technology, but I couldn’t care less for myself! I’m just so happy with my M9 and the new world it opened to me.

    For me, photography is all about the combination of modern technology and art to help me serve my own ambitions to create my own photographic reality and to get better in this over time.

    I would love to read from others of you, a little more specific, what your photographic reality is. What are you trying to achieve and how? – Steve developed his own view of old buildings and barns and I got even inspired of his way to photograph hydrants with his Leica (thanks again for the extra shot in the cold, Steve)! – What are the inner ideas you photographers follow? It would be nice to read a post once in a while in this sense. – For myself, I got interested in the interaction of groups of people with historic places (for example in Paris or Siena) and I also enjoy to experiment with the manipulation of light, color and shadows in HDR images.

    Thanks again David for your enlightement.

    As my mother language is german, my english is often not as good as I would like it to be 🙂

  19. Matthias,

    As David says, there are many advantages to the digital workflow, and as far as technical superiority of digital VS film, that is still debatable. If digital superiority was so obvious, camera manufacturers wouldn’t be pumping new cameras every 18 months, sucking everyone’s money, and still not reaching a pinnacle. Also, what I have outlined in my article, does not require physically touching a single drop of chemical, and that is what makes it attractive. Few have the time, knowledge or patience for true darkroom processing these days and that’ fine. Shooting film is about beauty, which is indisputable and most of all simplicity. Also, unless you’re a real wizard, what you see is what you get. I’m not into overly manipulated images so I have no interest in becoming a photoshop guru and I like to work with the camera and availability light, without too many added gimmicks. And, in all truth, I still have to see a digital conversion of classic film and that looks like film. If I want the look of film, that what I shoot. Others may see it differently but I think they are cheating themselves and take cover in the fact that with film, what you see is what you get and one can rarely hide a poor picture behind wild post processing tricks (which again is art to some but not for me and that’s PERFECTLY OK. There is no argument, just my opinion).

    The pictures below may not win awards but did not require me spending a single second turning them into something in Photoshop. They were taken with a Leica M7 and /Kodak Elitchrome 100/Fuji Velvia 50. Scanned as 25MP files. Again, SIMPLICITY.



  20. Matthias,

    In one sense you are right: physics can overrule chemistry and the digital workflow has its merits. But you missed the point. Firstly, a lot of digital workflow is all about recreating the possibilities of film. Sure, you can simulate grain, different levels of exposure, render a coloured digital image superbly in black & white, etc., using a digital camera However, this is photography as facsimile. The best digital cameras use a lot processing power (and not inconsiderable expense) to achieve what a fairly average film camera can produce.

    Secondly, the process of shooting with film should be about having fun and, to my mind, seeking the possibilities and limitations of film.

    Don’t get me wrong, digital photography has its advantages, especially the instant feedback/gratification. And film shooters, like Max, still have recoure to a digital darkroom. I sometimes get seduced by the “arms race” of phtographic equipment and worry about which lens will give me the sharpest image, or which camera has the optimum number of pixels. But the greats of photography produced some amazing images which, by today’s standards, would seem technically inferior. Lighten up, Matthias, and enjoy the art of photography.

    • PLEASE don’t be a tool by telling someone to “lighten up” just because you disagree with their (well-articulated) opinion … it diminishes the rest of your argument substantially.

  21. Max,

    Thank you so much for your thorough answer! I bought several rolls of Ilford FP4+ and my next step is to order all development equipment you describe here to try it out. It’s not that expensive after all. It seems I will have tons of fun!

    Thanks again for the inspiring post.

  22. Thank you for this article that reminds me of the past days of shooting and developing film myself.

    But I very heartily disagree!
    Physics has overruled chemistry and the digital workflow has won impressively clear the race.
    Film handling is not simpler (I don’t want to go back to the many hazardous hours in the wet darkroom nor do I want to buy a scanner when I can have digital from the beginning on) and does forgive all the advanced possibilities of the digital (post) process – practically and in sense of creativity on the computer at home.
    But one has to understand, that shooting digital is fundamentally different from shooting film, as once again is nicely described in the current issue of LFI (Leica Fotografie International). Film grain is in essence binary – a solid state device like a photo diode can produce many tonal values. The graduation-curve of silverhalogenidfilm flattens more in the highlights compared to its digital counter part, which leeds to the wrong conclusion, that film has a greater dynamic range (Signal/Noise Ratio) – actually, it’s quite the opposite way around. In the film world one has to expose for a middle value of 18% gray – and this is what the exposer meter of the current M still is doing (!) – but with a digital sensor one has to expose for the highlights.
    Esthetically, you can simulate accurately the look of every film emulsion from the past in postprocessing – if you really want to.


  23. Hi Guys, to answer a few comments above, I’ve said it clearly..”gear doesn’t matter!” Leica is what I chose but again, it’s just my choice. I’m lucky to be able to afford it but you can all certainly get great results with much less expensive combinations as long as you pat attention to much more important components such as your subject, light and composition. As far as scanners, sure there are less expensive options out there, especially on the used market. Once again, the Epson 750 Pro was my choice because scanning could easily be the weakest link in the chain and I wanted great results without spending a fortune. Yes, it is $800 but the Nikon Coolscans are not better for three times the price so that actually makes it a really good deal. Obviously, if one does not have $800 to spend on a scanner, less expensive options will still give acceptable results.


    Glad you’ve enjoyed it. The film retriever I use is made by Kaiser (B&H carries it but I see that they are out of stock). You basically spin the roll counterclockwise 3-4 times then, while holding it in place with your left hand, you slip the larger lead of the retriever, along with the retracted small lip, into your roll. Then you again slowly roll counterclockwise until you hear a little “click”. Then you move the small lead of the retriever all the way into the roll and pull back. The small lead retriever should have hooked the lead of the film inside it will come out. If you look at the picture of the actual gadget on B&H’s site you will have a clearer understanding. Now, if this fails (some Ilford films don’t respond well to this one), you should have one that is more like a can opener ( once again made by Kaiser. This one you would have to use in your changing bag, in the dark, as essentially you are popping the canister open and take the whole roll out. It’s a little trickier to handle while you have to wind the film on your developing spool but with a little practice you’ll be fine.



  24. Carlos – I use a cheap bottle opener in my changing bag to pop the top of the film canister off. Then, with scissors, also in the bag, trim the leader and start loading onto the reel. Takes a bit of practice, but faster than fishing with a leader finder, in my view.

    Amy – I have been underwhelmed by Rodinal (1:50) and Tri-x (at box speed) I find the grain overwhelms a bit. For that, I would just as soon use Fomapan. YMMV, some love that look.

  25. BTW – best thing I did to get me started was watch YouTube videos on how to load the film onto a reel. You can practice in the light (WITH SCRAP FILM!) until you get better at it, but then you have to go dark and do it blind inside a changing bag. With practice though, it’s easier than most people think!

  26. Thanks for the input Max… I’ve been doing well with Diafine but recently tried Rodinal too… but I have to tweak my time/agitation because I ended up with a lot of grain with TriX (which is fine for me, but it was a little on the heavy side).

    I love to hear more people using film these days! I hope your article encourages many others to try it!

  27. Max,

    Thank you so much for this article. I decided to shoot film recently and bought a Contax G2 Kit with 3 Zeis lenses (for less than the price of an used M6) and a Leica CM, for a pocketable film camera. So far I am loving the whole 35mm film experience! I am eager to trying developing my own film. It’s not clear to me though, how I should open the film enclosure to get the film out of it. Could clarify the process form taking the film out of camera and start developing it?


  28. Forgot to add, you could also use something like a PlusTek 7200i 35mm film scanner which is not bad at all and should get a good condition one on eBay for between £70-£100 and the results are great with most films and is it’s the “i” version it comes ready with the full version of Silverfast which costs a bomb on it’s own, even the Epson Pro V700 only comes with the cut down “SE” version of Silverfast so that’s a great deal and I personally had reasonable results with it until I upgraded to the Epson.

  29. Good point Dan, my wife uses a Nikon F65 body I bought her boxed & unused which I paid a mere £15 for!!!

    Now that camera has pretty much most of the features (that anybody will need) of an F100 or even an F5 for almost nothing in price. Trouble is she now borrows all my Nikkor glass, then I barely use the lenses these day’s as I use RF’s 99% of the time. 😀

  30. Nice article for those considering film. I have been shooting quite a lot of film in the last year, developing and scanning as you describe. I love HC110 and use Dilution H unless I am pushing Tri-X or Neopan. My only criticism (if you can call it that) of your article is that it makes it sound as if using film is a rich man’s game. A Leica and a $900 scanner? Not needed. Buy an Olympus Trip 35 or one of the many available film cameras that have sharp lenses (old Canonets, Canon or Nikon SLR’s come to mind) and a scanner under $500 (I use the prior model of this one and have had great results. Shooting film is great for all the reasons you describe. It just doesn’t have to cost a lot and, when coupled with your very thoughtful insight about the time and care taken in framing film shots vs. digital, it shouldn’t.

  31. Hi Amy,

    Thanks…loved your article and in fact did comment that my favorite picture of the bunch was…the film one 🙂 ..with the VW van as a close second.

    Diafine…not my favorite one but it has its applications. I find that it gives a little too much grain with Tri-X and it’s fine for low contrast negatives, which is okay if we’re scanning. It seems to do fine with low light/high contrast situations and I’ve used it a while back with Tri-X shot @ 1250-1600 with good results. I consider it more of a specialty developer. I like HC110 because it loves most film, it is easy to use and it lasts forever as a concentrate. It also is very economical. I listed dilution B in my article, but me (and many others) also use the “unofficial” dilution H, which is basically half the developer/double the time, and that means that you would squeeze MANY rolls out of a $15 bottle of syrup. Again, storage and deterioration are not an issue so that’s a good thing. Another favorite is good old Rodinal, which may be hard to find at times. I LOVE the tones with it (the Simple Day Series on my Flickr page was developed with Rodinal) and it is also easy to use as a concentrate, with a bottle lasting a long time (although its shelf life once opened may not be as long as HC110). There are also Kodak Xtol, if you’re looking for very fine grain with Tri-X or TMax, and D76 which has been a hit or miss for me, as the negatives always leave me kind of flat. Hope this helps and if you have other away.

    Thanks cidereye! Some labs do fine with C41 here but here I’ve always had mixed results and I just wanted to have more control over the outcome. Neopan 400 and HC110…another great combo…go for it!

  32. Great article Max, I mean .. how on earth did you get all of that onto 1 page and so concise too. Really good & simple guide with plenty of advice! 🙂

    I’ve been a bit lazy the last year I must admit and have mainly been using C41 B/W film like Kodak BW400CN or XP2 which costs me £2 a roll to get processed at my local supermarket who to be fair do a really good job on it. Great films to scan too. Time to dig out my old changing bag and tank again though as the Mrs is complaining because I have so much film stored in the fridge, plenty of Tri-X & Fuji Neopan 400 so time to buy some fresh chemicals I think after fresh inspiration from your article.

  33. Do it Ashwin! It’s incredibly satisfying and so much fun.
    Great article Max!
    Your thoughts on Diafine? I got into developing only about 8 months ago and have had great luck with Diafine as a develper (using TriX 400 and TMax 100 – or really, the cheaper Arista Premium versions)… it also makes it SO easy, especially for first-timers (no need to worry too much about temperature). I wonder if you have thoughts on it? (I posted a film photo in my article from Monday on taking pictures everyday if you want to see).

  34. seriously seriously seriously considering doing my own development. i use a leica m6 and i have an epson film scanner. i’ve been shooting A LOT of a film recently and doing a lot of scanning and A LOT of lightrooming. the last link in the chain is to do my own developing.

    Max. great article, it doesn’t sound like it’s all that hard to do your own developing.

    Steve. the additions you’ve made to your site with guest photographers and in particular this article, are awesome. keep up the great work.

  35. Hey guys, (and gals) I’m glad you found this interesting and yes Pete, as we get older, I think patience goes out the window a bit 🙂 Nevertheless, with a little inspiration (such as Steve’s site here) one can find the motivation to bring some old school attitude back and have some fun while also being creative. I personally get a much deeper sense of satisfaction working with film than with digital files. Like I’ve said above, the M9 is a wonderful camera and I enjoy it tremendously is still where my heart is. In fact, I will be doing something a little insane for the next nine months and that is to shoot the next four seasons (or 3 1/2 anyway) with a Zeiss Contarex Bullseye and its legendary lenses.. in KODACHROME 25. It’s the last hurrah before Dwayne’s stops processing in December. 🙁

  36. I was an old film developer and printer in the late 60’s, 70’s and into the 80’s. I still have a ton of negs not even printed. So last year I tried to again get back into film photography thinking it would give me that old camera spirit I once had. No way. I was too impatient with everything…go figure. But, I soon found this site and bam! spirit refreshed and feeling wonderful about this craft we all share in. Thanks Steve.

    And Max, a wonderful read, brought back wonderful memories. And, if you haven’t processed your own film yet, you really should. Nothing quite like seeing your work come to life right in front of you. Those were the days…

  37. I started film photography after a year with a compact digital camera.
    All I have to say is that it is very funny and technicallly quite simple 🙂 . Once you have given a try, you realize it is very easy

  38. Wow this is a very informative part of photography I would not have thought to see here. Most people use digital now a day such as myself. Yet I was intrigued to not snap away and always compose my shots. unfortunately I cannot afford the camera I want yet since I got the Leica Safari and that set me back $1k. Well now I got me some film cameras to play with since they are cheap and so is some film for them. My gear consists of two Minoltas a Maxxum 70 and a Maxxum 5. I want a Maxxum 7 or 9 yet feel that for my type of pictures the ones I have will do fine. I have about 6 Lenses and some Fuji Superia Reala ISO 100. Now I read a lot about photography and learn my stuff since I used to Develpo and print for Kodak back in the days. Now I am re-interested in film since there is no pixelation. Well long story short, I took some pictures and Walgreens messed them up since their machine broke while my film was being developed and ruined the color of my film. However it gave it a very very retro look that I was not expecting. DSLR’s are good for pros or beginners such as students (who want to snap away and see what they can accomplish) I prefer digital since you can see the results immediately and it saves all the data for you such as ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture. I write down all of the settings for each shot since I want to remember how I got the shot. I hate the Program feature since it takes away from the learning factor or knowing factor. I found a shop the develops film for a good price and gives great results. This tutorial will help me in the future in the event that I want to give this a Try. Thank you for such a great post

  39. Thank you very much for this post. It is funnny, I have just spent the evening doing exactly what you have described. I have been in the snow last sunday taking my M3 and the M-Elmar with me. This is a very light and easy to use combo and shooting on film, I use Rollei Retro 100, is great.


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