Learn Film Development at Home
Processing your own film will save you bucks AND give you great feedback on your shooting!
By processing your own film you will be able to evaluate how good you are shooting…. and, if you do it soon after shooting the film, you’ll remember what the light and scenery was like. Which means you will become a better photographer faster, and have more pride and confidence as a photographer.
You’ll need a developing tank, reels, and negative sleeves. I do not recommend getting plastic tanks nor reels… only stainless steel.
You will also need a clock, thermometer (this thermometer was purchased from a local pet shop) and the necessary chemicals (Tetanal C41 developing kit). If you buy from a good camera store they can order the Tetenal kits.
The measuring cup in your kitchen is perfect for accurate measuring when mixing chemicals and a simple funnel makes for accurate pouring. You also need to know how to read instructions. Simple as that. There is no real mystery to the process, it is quite similar to cooking because it involves time and temperature. And the manufacturer has made mixing the few chemicals quite easy.
The only time you need a light-tight room is to load the film onto the reels, or you can use a light-tight changing bag. I’ve had assignments all over the country, as a news photographer, and found that any bathroom can be made completely dark quite easily.
You need to practice loading the film onto the reels. Use a scrap roll of film and get used to loading the film onto the reel with your eyes closed. The lead part of the film should be cut straight so you can insert it cleanly into the center of the reel. Notice that I have put a slight curve on the film so that it will feed into the grooves easily. It will be clumsy at first but you soon will acquire the “right feel” of slightly curling the film and feeding it into the reel’s grooves.
Once you have acquired the knack, go ahead into the darkened room and load film onto the reels and place inside the tank. Place the lid on securely and the film is safely stored inside a tank that allows you to pour chemicals in and out. Mix the chemicals according to the instructions, being careful to clean the measuring cup and funnel after each mix. You can use empty milk containers ( well cleaned) or glass bottles. You should try to use containers small enough so that you do not have a lot of air in the bottle.
As you can see the “BF” (bleach/fix) bottle is only half full and that chemical will go “sour” after a while. Usually run hot water into the bathtub to about four inches high and then place the bucket, loaded with the chemicals, into that. Then I run hot water into the bucket. Water usually comes out of the hot water faucet at about 120 degrees…. and should bring the chemicals up to 100 degrees, which is the preferred temperature. The bathtub water should keep chemical temps stable throughout the whole process.
IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU DEVELOP THE FILM AT EXACTLY 100 DEGREES! Don’t worry, if you follow the procedures listed above, you’ll be fine.
Read the instructions thoroughly BEFORE you begin processing so you are aware of the times and temps. Then simply follow those instructions to process the film. It will only take you about fifteen minutes to complete processing and I recommend you use running water for the final wash, dumping the tank a few times at the start. When it comes time to dry the film you might want to use rubbing alcohol to soak the washed film.
The alcohol replaces most of the water and makes drying much faster. Then, simply hang the film from the shower curtain rod, close the door and do not go back in for at least a half hour. You do not want to stir up the air – with the dust – and put dirt on the wet film.
To determine how accurate you were developing the film (time and temp) you need only look at the edge numbers of the developed film. They should look similar to the sample at right…. not too black and not too light.
Good luck with the magic!!!