Many people are intimidated by the idea of developing their own photo negatives and prints. In many ways, that apprehension is understandable. To develop film, you have to operate in complete darkness some of the time, without even a safelight. It is usually a slow process that requires active agitation at carefully timed intervals. What’s more, once your negatives are developed, you are only halfway to having a photograph; you’ll have to go through a whole different sequence to print your images. Below are five lauded photography chemicals for film and paper development that you can always come back to for dependable results.
1. Kodak D-76 Developer Powder
If you stop 10 photographers on the street, nine of them will likely have Kodak D-76 developer for film in their darkrooms. While other developers may have a leg up in sharpness, shadow detail, or tonality, none can beat D-76 in versatility. It’s wildly popular because it works with almost every black-and-white film and will always provide a workable image. It won’t necessarily be the first developer recommended to newbies, because powders take more work to mix than liquid developers, but the advantage is that it has a near-infinite shelf life.
2. Spring Record Speed Fixer
Another favorite of hobbyists and professionals, Sprint Record’s fixer (which makes the image permanent and light safe) is an industry standard that delivers consistent results without much fuss. It fixes prints in one to three minutes in a bath and can be converted into a hardening fixer with the brand’s converter formula, which is sold separately. This one-liter bottle is a great economical option that will yield enough fixer for 600 8-by-10-inch fiber prints or 150 rolls of film.
3. Photographers’ Formulary Forma Flo
If you’re tired of seeing water spots on your film, add a couple drops of this wetting agent into your developing tank. Forma Flo is designed to decrease water surface tension, reducing the odds of water streaks and marks on film and also helping film to dry faster. The four-ounce bottle will last a long time.
4. CineStill CS41 Liquid Developing Kit
Casual photographers rarely get into color film development, but it’s simple with this two-step kit for processing color negatives, especially if you have an accessible darkroom for color printing or if you scan your negatives straight to digital. The process is even more standardized than it is for black-and-white film, and CineStill’s kit comes in premeasured portions for added simplicity.
5. Kodak Indicator Stop Bath for B&W Film and Paper
Some people opt out of buying a stop bath in favor of a thorough rinsing, a homemade solution, or simply skipping straight to the fixer. But a stop bath will extend the life of your fixer and is more precise. Kodak’s stop bath for film and paper turns a purplish blue when its use is exhausted, making it easy to tell when it’s time to throw it out. It’s also very reasonably priced—it’ll last you roll after roll and print after print.