How-to Video: Daylight Black & White Sheet Film (4×5″) Development

In this lengthy but highly detailed How-to Video: Daylight Black & White Sheet Film (4×5″) Development, Michael explains how to develop your own large format black and white sheet film at home *without* requiring a darkroom! This is an entirely ‘daylight’ process requiring only a few specialized pieces of equipment and patience. So grab a pen, a notepad, and beverage of your choice, and get ready to take notes! I hope you find it helpful.

SPECIAL THANKS TO: My good friend Robert Myers, who went to great lengths to help me complete this video and get it online.

And also SPECIAL THANKS TO: the great photographer and print maker Per Volquartz who encouraged and helped me get started with this process some years back. And finally, THANKS to my friend Scott Schroeder who conceived and designed the brilliant, inexpensive, and portable “drying cabinet” first seen at 40:20 in the video.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website

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37 thoughts on “How-to Video: Daylight Black & White Sheet Film (4×5″) Development

  1. Videos of 4×5 film developing are part of the new Zeitgeist 😉 – very interesting indeed (including the short sequel – Developing Film and Staying Hydrated – presumably coming to a cinema near you soon). Do you do your own colour developing at all?

  2. THANKS, Tim! I don’t develop my own colour, especially since I am doing so little of it these days. I watched a bit of your developing video last night for entertainment!

    And don’t think for a second that proper hydration isn’t crucial! 🙂

  3. Although I didnt watch the video, thanks for takling the time to do this. As a 4×5 shooter, I prefer to just pay a lab, I may come back to give this a try though

  4. Just a wonderful watch. I’m going to trash my Jobo-2300 now and do this. (Not really) Great site you have here Michael. Giving back is SO important.
    Best to you and yours.

  5. Thanks Michael, wonderful video. It brought back memories of working with the chemistry.

    I can remember how dangerous some of those chemicals we used back then were, but it was for the love of our craft.

    I think once you’ve experience what it’s like to take a piece of exposed film and develop it, there really is no greater satisfaction.
    And it’s all about the art, from an unexposed piece of film to a finished print.

    Today I work with digital, but do miss the old days.

  6. Thanks for the comments, folks.

    Bob: the latent photographic image is like magic! 🙂

    Tony: the only problem with lab development: you get what you get! Developing yourself gives you the CONTROL and you get to choose developer, development time, etc.

    Thanks again!

  7. Thank you for putting this video together. I have enjoyed watching it. I have been using Tri-X roll film in Diafine and I planning to use Acros sheet film in Diafine. My goal always have been scanning the film. Now you just gave me something to think about as I have always heard that the acutance of Ilford Delta in Pyro is excellent.
    What is the rest of your process? Printing in the dark room? scanning?
    You are doing wonderful work keep it up. Thank you.

  8. Pingback: David's Weblog » Rollo Pyro Development in a Jobo Drum

  9. Thanks for this helpful video, I hadn’t realized how simple this is. You inspired me to venture into my own B&W sheet film development!

  10. Pingback: Film Development: Acros 100 & Pyro PMK « 70 Degrees

  11. Michael, thanks for taking time to show an affordable alternative to a full blown Jobo system and how to use a base motor to develop film.

    I’m getting close to being ready to do some film. I think I’ll go with BW first then some C41 after I get the BW down.

    cheers !

  12. Michael, a quick question I see you use the 3010 drum which holds 5 / 10 sheets of 4×5. A member at a club has the 3006 which holds 6/12 sheets. Is the 3006 a wider diameter and will the Beseler base accomodate it?

    Thanks !!

  13. Hi Michael –
    This was an extremely helpful video. I’ve just started developing with rollo pyro. Thank you for posting this and am amazed at the detail over my previous attempts using Rodinal. If I might ask, what ASA and dev times do you use for Delta 100?
    Many thanks,

  14. Hi Joel: THANKS for the comment! I rate Delta normally (100) and develop at 68f (20c) for nine minutes. As they say, YMMV, but it’s a good place to start. Good luck!

  15. Hello Michael: Interesting video and professional work; thanks for posting. Might I offer a correction? At about the eight and one half minute mark you state that , “BTZS” is an abbreviation for, “better than the zone system”. As one who is reasonably knowledgeable about the BTZS system as conceived and taught by Phil Davis, “BTZS” is short for, “beyond the zone system”. As far as I know, Mr. Davis’s intention was to build upon the original Zone Sytem so as to make such more accessible to photographers. Mr. Davis never said that the BTZS was “better than” the zone system. During his life, such an unfortunate malapropism caused Phil Davis to endure some unfair criticism.

    • Dr. Puritz: You’re so very right, and like many others who have done the same (causing Davis his unfair criticism), I know/knew this and stated the name erroneously. Thanks for the correction.

  16. Hi Michael: I note that you pay little attention to the temperatures of the rest of your solutions, and that you have little concern about temperature change(s) IN THE TANK while the film is developing. One would suspect that the temperature of the developer at the end of the process is different than the temperature of the developer when you started. It is likely that the film is not developing at the same temperature for the entire 9 minutes. Many of us who develop film are more compulsive about the temperature of our developer. You present a low key approach that is refereshing and that works for you. Well done. I am fortunate to have a Jobo unit, and temperature control of all solutions is rather easy.

    • Thanks, Dr. Puritz. My video is not intended to provide exhaustively detailed developing instructions, rather an ‘intro’ to developing with Rollo Pyro. I do mix my solutions at 68f/20c, and am aware of potential temp increase over those nine minutes. However, being from the school of It-Works 😉 , I haven’t found a reason to more carefully manage my temps. The beauty of this method is its latitude, and I haven’t found it particularly fussy about time or temp.

      I’m a low key kinda guy, and my prints can and do attest to the quality of my low key negatives 😉

      Thanks for your comments!

  17. hi Dr Purvitz.. regarding ” ..One would suspect that the temperature of the developer at the end of the process is different than the temperature of the developer when you started. ”

    If all chemicals and water for developing BW are at room temperature the probability of a temperature change is slight at best. The materiality on the development process will be close to nil. One simply follows the manufacturer’s directions for the appropriate ambient temperature at the time of developing

    If Mr Gordon was discussing C41 film and developing then as you note, there’s need for a constant temperature of 100.4 ºF / 38 C ºC during the developing process. E6 processing is different again. If using a roller base like Unicolor or Beseler, then instructions for duration of the processing adjusts for the effect of temperature changes.

    cheers, Jan

    • No argument here Jan. However, note that you are speaking about ambient temperature whilst Michael is “using” what is likely to be a temperature lower than ambient. Nevertheless, I would expect the temperature change in the tank to be rather minimal, i.e., perhaps only a degree or two. As Michael and others have stated, the black and white photographic “system” is rather forgiving of small “errors” in temperature and dilution. Moreover, the digital workflow ( via Photoshop and other programs ) allows more facile corrections of the small perturbations in a black and white negatives used for making ink jet prints. Again, the final result appears to be most important, and certainly the prints speak for themselves.

      • The irony of the Zone System, with “previsualization”, calculated temps and times, and development expansion/contraction, is that not even the ZS’s greatest practitioners could eliminate post-production work and simply make a straight print. It didn’t happen, and doesn’t happen, so I personally find splitting development hairs and managing ZS minutiae to be unnecessary. I get the prints I need and want using a modified and ‘low key’ approach to the Zone System, and it works quite well for me. As they say on the ‘net, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

      • Once again, no argument from me. You are correct in that one rarely is able to make a perfect “straight print” using either the ZS or BTZS. However, such does not necessarily mean that the ZS/BTZS is a complete waste of time. As you of course know, the range of densities on a negative, when compared to the response of photographic papers on the toe and shoulder, makes some dodging and burning necesssary. Photoshop allows ( for some ) easier manipulation of the tones so as to render a good print. I note that you do digital black and white printing. I wonder if a comparison of one of your negatives printed on your ink jet printer and then printed on silver paper, would look similar. Certainly the question many fine black and white photographers are asking is IF digitally created black and white prints are the equal of similar subjects rendered on traditional silver media.

      • I wonder if a comparison of one of your negatives printed on your ink jet printer and then printed on silver paper, would look similar. Certainly the question many fine black and white photographers are asking is IF digitally created black and white prints are the equal of similar subjects rendered on traditional silver media.

        While you pose a good question, Dr. Puritz, allow me to suggest that the answer is largely irrelevant. Are Pt/Pd prints or Photogravures the equal of a silver print? Is a Lith print or Bromoil equal to silver media? In all cases, NO is the answer, and naturally, no comparisons should be made. They are each unique media with a unique look, and inkjet is no different in this regard. We’re now able to print on a wide variety of substrates using stock OEM inks or using specialized inks such as Piezography. And we can now coat and print on virtually any surface; try that with silver gelatin. In the early days of inkjet – as the tools, materials, and techniques were developing – indeed, practitioners sought to mimic silver prints as the high standard. We don’t need to do that any longer. I produce today beautiful prints that have no comparison with silver gelatin, and I’d tell you that my inkjet rag prints easily exceed the quality and appearance of any RC silver gelatin, and they certainly exceed ANY darkroom print I was ever capable of making.

        Thanks for the discussion, Dr. Puritz!

      • Sorry…I see you mintioned the Cone inks. Have you used them, and if so, would you care to venture an opinion as to the appearance of your prints when made with his inks ( Piezography )?

    • Hi again, Dr. Puritz: I use Piezography inks for ALL my black and white prints, and the results are distinctly superior to anything you’ll get using a full color inkset. My prints have richness and depth that just doesn’t happen with a stock Epson printer….

      • Thanks Michael! I was hoping that you might be able to give us your opinion about such inks. Will give you a call over the next few days.


  18. Michael, thanks for your video and comments… I saw this video at feb 2013 and I’m wondering If you still use Rollo Pyro to develop 4×5 sheets in your Expert Jobo or did you chage to other pyro’s flavor like Pyrocat HD or MC…
    I’m just curious because I want to start to using pyro developers but with rotary processin using jobo tanks 2500 series…
    Thanks again for this nice video!

  19. Pingback: How To Develop Black And White 4×5 Film | khmoney

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