The Darkroom

Over the coming weeks we will advance our understanding of the analogue process through a series of workshops. The first of these focused on the development of film, both 35mm and 120mm into a usable negative. The process for each is quite similar with the main variation coming in how we get the light sensitive film into a film container.

1) 35mm only – 35mm is very simple and can be completed under normal illumination. First we use a device which reaches inside the film cartridge and pulls the start of the undeveloped film out of the end.

2) 120mm only – Taking a small black light sealed container go into a completely blacked out room. It is important that there is no light at all in this area as any light would ruin the film once it has been opened. This also means that you will need to work by feel alone. Peel off the tape securing the film and allow the film to unroll. Feel along until you you can feel the smooth surface of the film. Here there is some tape and you can detach the film from the paper. Discard the paper and and allow the film to curl up. Place the curled film into the light sealed container that you brought into the room with you but leave the first part poking out. Close the container and exit the room.

This part of the process applies to both 35mm and 120mm film
This part of the process applies to both 35mm and 120mm film

3) Attach the film to a feed in sheet by placing tape on both sides. You should ensure that the film neatly meets the edge of the feed in sheet to avoid machine jams.

Feed everything into the machine before closing the lid.
Feed everything into the machine before closing the lid.

4) With the film firmly attached to the feed in sheet then place everything, feed in sheet first into the developing machine. The machine will grab the sheet and will pull it inside. Once everything is inside then close the lid. After a few seconds the lid will lock to prevent accidental opening. The whole process will take around 5 mins before the negatives re-emerge.


Inside the machine the undeveloped film goes through a series of processes. At first it passes through a vat of developer, this reveals the hidden image underneath then it goes through a stop liquid. This stops the film developing further before passing into a fix. The fix locks the negative and removes its sensitivity to light, this prevents the film being exposed again. Finally it passes through a wash where all the chemicals are removed making it safe to handle.


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