Jul 3 2021

The Taco method

No I am not referring to how to eat a taco without getting it on your shirt. The ‘Taco Method’ is how to process 4×5 negatives in a Paterson daylight tank without a film holder.


  • 4×5 negatives
  • Paterson System 4 multi-unit tank
  • chemistry to season to taste (aesthetic taste not taste taste)
  • Elastics or hair bands to hold the taco shape
  • A dark room or film changing bag

The idea is that as you take your film out of the holder in the dark you curl the film along its long axis with the emulsion side in. You can ensure that the emulsion side is in by holding the film with the notches at the top right hand side and then doing the curl towards you. Once you have the film in that position you slip a rubber band over the film to hold it that way. Its important that the edges of the film don’t meet or the chemicals wont reach the emulsion evenly or enough. Next pop that taco into the Paterson tank and do another. The tank will hold four films this way around the center column. Remember despite it being annoyingly in the way, and flopping around, the center column is what makes the tank light tight. Once you have your film loaded and the lid on its time to come out into the light.

I have been soaking the film initially for 3-4 minutes to ensure the film is nice and ready to accept the chemicals. Once you pour that water out its time for the developer (I’m assuming your doing B&W at room temperature). I’ve been using 500ml of solution which isn’t enough to completely submerge the film in the tank so its important to immediately do a series of inversions to cover all the film with developer. After that I roll the sealed tank in random patterns on the bottom of a bathtub. Its actually quite a soothing thing to do and 10 minutes can seem to go by quite quickly.

This is pretty much the procedure for all the chemicals. Get them in fast do a number of inversions and then roll them around for the prescribed time. When your all done you can take the lid off for the wash. And that’s it the taco method.