I recently got myself a new expensive hobby, that of photography. Where I wouldn't pay a second glance to anything before, my world around me has truly opened up and become more vibrant, even when I am not carrying my camera around.

In any case, hearing about me is not why you're here: You want to learn how to develop your own film, don't you? While it seems a bit daunting the first time you do it, I hope you'll find that it's really not all that difficult as long as you have everything prepared and ready to go.


Optional, but good to have

  • Stop bath (If you don't have this, have a source of flowing water that is easy to regulate temperature wise)
  • Hair dryer (Makes drying the film quicker)
  • Thermometer (This gets more and more important the more exactly you want to do it, or if you move to color (C-41 negative or E6 positive)
  • Squeegee (This helps to reduce water marks on drying film)
  • Wetting agent (This also helps to reduce water marks on drying film)
  • Negative storage

Now, have you gathered everything together? Do like the French, and Mise en place. (Is that verbable?1) Ensure that all of your chemicals are mixed, that you have every ingredient that you need handy, and that you've read through the directions. Twice. More if you want.

Now for the magic to begin!

  1. Place the following items in your changing bag/dark room: Developing tank + all internals, film canister, can opener, scissors. Got it all in there?
  2. Make your working area light-tight. Zip up your changing bag, or shut off the lights in your dark room. From here until the film loaded and in the developing tank, you cannot let light in or else your efforts are all a waste.
  3. Count to ten. Have you made sure your environment is light tight? Do you have everything in your working space?
  4. Take the bottle opener to the bottom of the film canister. Work slowly so that you don't scratch the film. You will end up with a curled up length of film around a spool and pieces of a canister.
  5. Find your reel. Follow the directions of the developing tank in order to get the film onto the reel. If it gets stuck, take a deep breath and try to work it backwards for a bit and try to get back on track. Do not force it. If you feel like you need to start over, a quick way (with plastic reels, at least) is to follow the directions to take apart the reel.
  6. Put the wound reel into the tank, such that the reel is on whatever alignment pegs necessary. Put the tank together according to the diagrams given by the manufacturer.
  7. Double check your work. You shouldn't be able to feel the reel any more, as it should be under a funnel mechanism that is designed to let chemicals in and keep light out.
  8. Open the changing bag/turn on the lights in the dark room. As long as you keep the developing tank closed, you can do the remaining steps in normal light. Do not open it until my directions specify explicitly to, or else you will lose your film.
  9. Get your timer ready, and go over the developing time necessary for your film. The developing charts located at http://www.digitaltruth.com/devchart.html are a good place to figure out what other people have found to be successful.
  10. Put on your gloves. Ensure that all of your various chemicals are lined up and ready to be poured. Did you check to make sure your ventilation system is working?
  11. Begin pouring in the developer and start your timer at the same time. Try to get the liquid in as quickly as possible while not splashing it.
  12. Beginning immediately after the developer is poured, and every minute thereafter in development, invert (turn upside-down) the developing tank four times within ten seconds. If you're looking at your timer, you should be able to gauge about how long each turn should be.
  13. 15 seconds before the time is up, begin pouring out the developer.
  14. Immediately after the liquid is out, either pour in the stop bath or pump in clean water in order to flush all the developer out. Keep the film in the stop bath for at least one minute, and invert the tank at the same frequency as the you did for the developer. If using water, fill and flush out the tank at least three times.
  15. Pour in the fixer. Follow the same procedure as for the developer, for at least three minutes.
  16. Pour out the fixer, and flush the entire tank with water. Rinse the tank for 5-10 minutes. If you have wetting agent, now is the time to get that ready.
  17. (Optional step) After the rinsing is done, put the wetting agent into the developing tank and rinse one last time.
  18. Get ready for one of the most rewarding experiences I've had in recent memory: Open up the tank (If you've opened it before this point... prepare to be disappointed...) and take the reel out of the tank. Follow the directions from your tank's manufacturer to take the film off of the reel. Does it look absolutely amazing? I hope so...
  19. Get your film clips onto the film and ensure that it is properly weighted such that it won't curl up. Squeegee the film so that any excess water is off. Hang to dry.
  20. (Optional step) When dry, cut the film at appropriate frame counts in order to place them in your choice of negative storage.

All done? Hopefully, you've ended up with a beautiful looking strip of film. Now, go out and take more pictures of all the things in your life that you find beautiful.

1: Albert Herring says that: mise is the past participle of mettre, so "mettre en place" would fit.

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