Ok, guys…roll up, roll up…develop your own films here…

Yes, yes…I know. So I’m late with this post. So here, slap my hands then!

It’s been a wild weekend, I can tell you. Aside of the weekly shop, I had a major disaster with my old Honda Civic….I thought I’d let some air into the car and into what few strands of hair I still have left, pressed the button and the sunroof whirred into action. Drove home, pressed the button again to close it…nothing! So I’m sitting like a duck in my car, with a sunroof that just refused to close, and rain threatening overhead!

Quick solution…tape a plastic bag across it and run indoors before the rain!

Anyway, cut a long story short, I tried everything, relays, fuses, wires, you name it. Nothing worked. So I thought of a better fix….grabbed a hex key, located the little plug inside the roof near the sunroof, and turned the key around a couple times and hey, presto…roof shut! Rather than repair it properly, I thought it better to sell the car! Cheaper!

So, back to today. How to develop your own films.

It’s so very simple, any fool can do it (maybe that’s why I find it so easy…!)

What you need:

Developing tank

Changing bag (or a very, very dark cupboard or wardrobe where you can hide and work with loose film)

Developing fluids (developer, fixer, stop)

A pair of scissors

Film squeegee

Metal or plastic clips (to hang the developed film from)

Timer (you can use your watch for this)

Ok. Once you’ve taken the roll of film out of your camera, you need to open the film cassette (or the roll of film if you’re using 120 roll film) to get the film out and into the developing tank.

This has to be done in total darkness, and I mean not a single chink of light anywhere. The best and easiest way is to use a changing bag…these cost very little and can be used for years and years. But before you even try using a changing bag, you need to practice opening a film cassette, removing the film from it, and loading it into the developing tank, all without looking, just by feel alone.

Those of you who have good, sensitive fingers (!) will have no trouble doing it. Practice as many times with a duff film till you are confident that you won’t destroy your exposed film.

If you don’t have a changing bag, or don’t want to buy one, the next best thing is a very dark wardrobe, where you can do the film loading. I have only used this method a couple of times, but I wouldn’t guarantee it, as it’s pretty darn difficult stopping all light entering the wardrobe. I must stress this point yet again…even a teeny-weeny point of light coming in will destroy your film, so to be safe, I would not hesitate to recommend you invest in a changing bag. Another point to note; when loading an exposed film into a tank, don’t be under the misunderstanding that you can do it under a darkroom safelight…you cannot. Even the deep red or orangey light from a darkroom lamp will destroy your film. The darkroom light is only for use with printing papers, which it will not expose, not films.

So let’s assume you’re happy with unloading and loading films purely by touch. Next thing we will do is actually use a real exposed film!

Get your film cassette, the pair of scissors and the loading tank into the changing bag. Then, put both your arms into the changing bag and feel around for the items you placed there. Get hold of the film canister, prise off the end cap carefully with the scissors, feel for the loose end of your exposed film, cut off the smaller leader end and thread it carefully into the loading tank reel.

changing bag, scissors, film and developing tank

Once the film has been fed through a couple of inches, all you need to do to fully load it in, is to just twist or ratchet either end of the reel alternately and the film will load up by itself. When the film is fully loaded into the reel, place the reel into the tank and screw the tank lid on hand tight.

loading the film inside the changing bag

When the lid is on, it is safe to take it out of the changing bag. Now that the difficult bit is done, all you need to do is start the developing process, which begins with pouring the developer fluid into the tank. Always pour the chemicals in as slowly as possible so as to make sure no air gets trapped in the tank as if that happens, the film will not get developed evenly.

pouring chemical fluid into tank

When the developer has been poured in fully, start your timer and begin to invert the tank at equal intervals as suggested in the developing fluid instructions. This will ensure the fluid gets to cover and treat the film evenly all over. A word about developing fluids here; some developers are ready mixed with water and don’t need to be diluted, but others may not be diluted or may come in powder form, in which case the instructions will tell you how to prepare them by diluting etc.

inverting tank at regular intervals to ensure even development

developing chemicals (shown in powder packet and bottled liquid forms)

Once the required time has elapsed for the developer, pour it out slowly into a spare bottle — developer can be used several times before you sop using it, so once you’ve poured it out of the tank, put a tight stopper on your bottle of used developer and store it away in a cool, dark place for use next time.

Then you need to wash out all traces of the developer inside the tank. here you can use many ways to do this. The proper way is to buy a film washer, which is just a rubber tube that fits into the pouring spout of the tank, and the other end pushes into your bathroom tap or faucet. The tank is then filled with cold water, agitated several times, and this is repeated at least 4 or 5 times.

Ok, now I’ll let you into a secret here! The proper way is to use Stop bath fluid, which you pour into the tank after the developer has been poured out. The Stop fluid does what it says…it stops the developing process. But me being me, I only ever used Stop bath a couple times before someone told me to stop wasting money and use plain water. Ever since, I’ve used water in place of Stop bath…and never noticed any difference!

Ok. Once you’ve washed the tank out with cold water, now is the time to pour your fixer fluid in. Again, the amount, temperature and length of time will be printed either on the bottle it came in, or on printed instructions. The fixer again does what it says…it fixes your developed film, so that whatever is on it doesn’t fade away.

Ok, we’re nearly there! After the fixer has been in the tank for the required time, pour it out into another spare bottle (you can use the fixer again, just like the developer) and store it away.

Now we add water to the tank for the final time, washing out the fixer just as with the developer. Do this at least 3 or 4 times again, just as with the developer. That done, you carefully open the tank up, and voila….there’s your precious film with the shots you took..magic!

All you do now is hang the film to dry in a dust-free space. At one end, place one of the 2 clips; this end will be used to hang the film to dry. At the other end, place the second clip, to act as a weight and to make sure the film remains relatively straight and doesn’t curl up.

Now, with the film cleaner, gently wipe the film from the hanging end down to the lowest point; once should be enough but if you feel you’ve left some water droplets on it still, do it once more.

cleaning the film with a squeegee

Leave to dry overnight, or if you’re in a rush, a couple of hours, remove the clips and cut up your negatives in batches of five or six shots per section.

Now comes the fun part, as if it wasn’t fun in the first place! if you’ve used 120 roll film, you can make contact prints straight off, as the 6x6cm negatives are big enough to do that (more on contact printing soon!). If you’ve used 35mm, then you can either enlarge them to  a good size, like 6 x 4, or scan them and print them out.

Using an enlarger is another thing altogether and you will need to have a darkroom set up for that, but then again, if you’re a serious film user, then a darkroom will be no problem for you, yes?

That’s all there is to developing your own film!



About filmcamera999

ME & MY PASSION! ok, you probably looked at the length of this "about me" page and thought, god, what's wrong with this guy!....does he have to start telling us his life story or something!!? well, youve come here now anyways, so why not hear what im like as a person, eh? ive been using film cameras for well over 30 years...my first one being the family yashicamat twin lens! over the years, ive both bought sold and collected film cameras...too many to tell the truth! in fact, ive been buying and selling cameras well before the internet came on the scene, so anything you purchase from me is backed by my self-styled moneyback promise.....if you dont like what youve bought, send it back within 14 days and you get all your money back...no arguments!! WHERE I STAND ON THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION! yes, i do use digital as well, but only as a ready-reckoner...i try and take most shots with my simple 2megapixel digicam....if the shot looks good, i pull out my film camera and shoot! i most defintely do not believe in digital manipulation of photographs....that in my eyes is not photography...its cheating! WHERE I USED TO LIVE, WHERE I AM NOW & WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO DO! i used to live in Ontario, Canada, but moved back to the UK a little while ago (its a long story..!)...but now i'm living in the one place i always wanted to be...Vancouver, BC..the next best thing to paradise on earth! as i work as a freelance writer as well as other things, i often find hat my work takes me to europe for short spells, so i get to travel a lot...not a blessing, as i just hate long flights! im a qualified Quality Assurance guy (you know...ISO 9000, auditing, documentation etc) ....99% of my skill-set is transferable so i can handle any admin or documentation-related roles....see you in BC! otherwise, i specialise in ISO 9000 auditing and documentation. my dream? to have my own thriving camera shop in Vancouver BC, whilst living in the mountains somewhere.....the best of both worlds!
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8 Responses to Ok, guys…roll up, roll up…develop your own films here…

  1. MartyW47 says:

    When I was in grade school, I had an art teacher that used to develop his own film and had a darkroom set up in a small room off his classroom after he did (explained) the process of developing the film he let us come in in small groups and watch him transfer the images to the photo paper… Very cool process to watch…

    • hey, marty!
      yep…the process is pure magic!
      thats why i cant see myself dropping film in favour of digital any time soon!
      by the way, i’m working on several articales about home developing and printing….drop in if youre interested!

  2. Kevin says:

    Thanks for your article. Would you have a recommendation for a website to buy a starter kit or the various basic gadgets.

    • hi, kevin and thanks a lot for dropping in!
      yes, i stock complete developing kits myself.
      the only problem can be the chemicals, as i know in some countries its illegal to ship chemicals by post.
      saying that, ive sold chemicals overseas many times by post and none have been stopped by the authorities.
      have a look at my blog…the main page which lists all my cameras for sale, also has a listing for developing kits!

  3. Kevin says:

    OK Thanks. Let me have a look.

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