How I Develop Print Film

March 08, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope your week is going well! This week I want to talk about how I develop my film. Yes I said film! There is something about film that I really like. It's like listening to old vinyl record albums . Something about the analog system. I won't get into many specifics of how but an overview. I have been developing film off and on for more than 40 years. I have developed black and white film and color slide film and now color print film. It's a lot easer than you think. If you can bake a cake you can develop film. It's all about following directions that come with the chemistry that you are using. Depending on the manufacture of the chemistry you're using the only thing that really changes is the time and temperature of the chemicals that you use. One of the reason that I am developing my own film is that its a lot cheaper than sending it off to a professional lab. I already have all of the special tools that you will need to process your film. So all I had to do is find all of my stuff get some chemicals and go. If you have been reading my blogs you can see that I'm doing a film project where I use a film camera and at the end of the year make a photo book of what I've captured. I have some film that I bought a few years ago before it got so expensive and I'm going to use it for the project. The last time I developed film was in 2019 before COVID.  I was really surprised how much the price of things have gone up! But that's another story. I'll also tell you how after the film is developed I scan the negatives with my digital camera to get them into Lightroom or Photoshop and make them ready to print. So that's a lot lets get started.

Tools you'll need. This will sound like a lot but you can buy kits with everything for under 150 dollars.

  • -Developing Tank and film reels. This is a light proof tank that all of the film processing will take place.
  • -Changing bag. This is the light proof place that you put the film onto the reels into the developing tank 
  • -Chemical bottles. This is what the stored chemistry is kept in . You can reuse the chemicals for up to 20 rolls of film.
  • -1000 ml graduated measuring cup
  • -Thermometer to get the chemicals to a certain temperature.
  • -Timer, You can use your phone
  • -Disposable rubber gloves to keep the chemicals off of your skin

Any other items you'll need you'll have at home like scissors and a bottle opener . So here is the process to develop the film.

First you have to get the film onto the reels and in the developing tank in complete darkness. This is where the changing bag comes into play.  This takes some practice and I would try on a dummy roll of film if you have one before trying it on the real thing.  Inside the changing bag you'll place scissors, bottle opener, film, developing tank and reels. Close the end of the double sided bag and place your arms into the sleeves. You then open the film with the bottle opener cut the film leader off with the scissors then thread onto the reels and put inside the tank and secure the tank before taking your arms back out. When this is done you're ready to process the film that is inside the lightproof tank. You can now take everything out of the changing bag.

Mix the chemicals . For color print film the process that you use is C41 it will be printed on the film box of the film your using. This is the process that is used for most color print film. Black and white is a different process and slide film is even different than that. You mix the chemicals according to the directions that come with them. Making sure to clean your funnels and mixing stick between not to cross contaminate the chemicals. 

Next is getting all of the chemicals to a certain temperature. It is usually 102-106 degrees Fahrenheit.  This is easily done by placing all the chemical bottles in a larger tub full of water at the desired temp using the Thermometer. You will have to add hot water to keep the chemicals at the desired temp during the process to keep the temp in range.

Now down to business. Follow the instructions that came with your chemicals! These instructions are just what mine were yours may be different. This is where your timer comes into play or your phone.

  1. Pre-wash film by putting warm water into the tank and let sit for a min. Then dump out.
  2. Add Developer to tank for 3 min. Agitate every 30 seconds(this is to dislodge any bubbles) then pour developer back into storage bottle
  3. Wash with water for 1 min. Change water 3 times
  4. Add Bleach to tank for 3 min. Agitate every 30 seconds(this is to dislodge any bubbles) then pour developer back into storage bottle
  5. Wash with water for 1 min. Change water 3 times
  6. Add Fixer into tank for 5min. Agitate every 30 seconds(this is to dislodge any bubbles) then pour developer back into storage bottle
  7. Wash film thoroughly at least 6 times. You can open the development tank now and see your negatives!
  8. Hang film to dry with a weight at the bottom so film doesn't curl.

Thats basically it. Keeping times precise and temperatures accurate are a must. Making sure your utensils and funnels to get chemicals back into storage bottles clean between chemicals is also important. I know it sounds like a lot but after you've done it a couple of times you'll be a pro. Just follow the directions. Really the hardest part is getting the film onto the reels and into the tank is the hardest part. You can develop 2 rolls of film at a time. All of this developing can be done at your kitchen or bathroom sink. I would suggest the kitchen because you have more room.  Now you have negatives of your film I cut into five frame strips and put in a protective sheet that has sleeves for the negatives. The next step is to Scan and get them into your computer. If you had all the equipment you could print with an old time Enlarger in a darkroom but that's a lot it's much easier and better on the computer. I'll have to explain that in another blog next week since this one has dragged on. So until next week get outside and shoot! Some Film!


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