I really had no clue this was possible. I came across an article in my readings recently about developing film with some basic items and figured I would save it for a slow news day. Here it is! While you wont be able to develop any photos of the kodak film above (its extinct and widely thought of as the best 35mm film ever offered) you can get some fujifilm or something, snap some photos on a cheap camera and develop them pretty cheaply and easily. While it wont look like professionally developed film, it will look pretty neat and should offer interesting views to things you may see every day. Here’s the instructions:
What You’ll Need: Chemistry
Instant coffee (not decaf)
Vitamin C powder
Washing soda (see Step 1)
2 gallons of room-temperature distilled water (or tap water if you’re not fussy)
A tiny wee drop of dishwashing liquid
What You’ll Need: Equipment
A daylight developing tank & reel
A roll of exposed film
A bottle opener
Measuring beakers (including one large enough to hold 16 fluid ounces)
Clothesline or coat hanger
Step 1: Acquire Materials
Washing soda can be tricky to find unless you live in a rural or highly eco-conscious area. We found ours at Rainbow Grocery, but you can order it online, or call around to drugstores, health food stores, or pool supply stores (it’s also known as sodium carbonate or soda ash). Baking soda won’t work as a substitute.
If you don’t have a daylight developing tank, look for a used one at photo supply shops or borrow one from a friend. If you buy one, get one with adjustable plastic reels. Steel reels are more trouble than they’re worth.
Step 2: Make the Developer
Your tank should have instructions about how much liquid it takes to fill the tank. As a general rule, 12 ounces should be enough for a roll of 35mm.
Formula for 12 oz. of developer:
12 oz. water
5 teaspoons instant coffee crystals
3 1/2 teaspoons washing soda
1/2 teaspoon vitamin C powder
Mix the vitamin C and coffee in a glass with 6 oz. of water. Stir until all the crystals and gritty bits are completely dissolved. Mix the washing soda in a separate glass with 6 oz. of water and stir until dissolved.
Mix the two solutions together in a container large enough to hold all of the liquid.
So, we heard that this developer smells really bad, but we didn’t believe it until we mixed the 2 liquids together. Holy frijoles! How can things that smell like coffee, nothing, and nothing combine to smell like grim death?
Step 3: Mix the Chemistry
Mix enough fixer solution to fill the tank, following the package instructions. Set aside until you’re ready to develop the film.
In a separate container, dissolve a small drop of dishwashing liquid in enough water to fill the developing tank. Set aside.
Step 4: Set Up the Darkroom
The film must be loaded onto the reels in total darkness. Ask somebody to let you use their darkroom, or find the darkest room in your abode and cover any windows with double layers of black garbage bags. Don’t forget the cracks under and around the door. If light still gets in, wait until dark to do this. Or use a changing bag.
Set up an area to load your film, like a desk or counter. Lay out the reels, film cans, bottle opener, scissors, and various developing tank parts in a way that will make them easy to find in the dark.
Step 5: Practice
If you haven’t loaded film before here’s how. Practice a few times with a blank roll of film. Try it with the lights on a few times, then with your eyes closed until you feel ready to do it for real.
Step 6: Lights Out!
THIS MUST BE DONE IN TOTAL DARKNESS.
Pry the lid off the film can with the bottle opener. Cut off the film leader to square the end of the film.
Feed the film into the reel, turning first your right hand, then your left hand clockwise, using your thumbs to guide the film onto the reel.
Continue this motion until all the film is loaded and you reach the end of the spool. Cut the film off the spool and give the reel an extra turn or two to load the very end of the film.
Slide the reel onto the spindle (i.e. the part that looks a pipe), and put it into the tank. Screw in the part that looks like a funnel, and put on the rubber lid.
Step 7: Set Up the Chemistry
You can turn the lights on now.
You’ll need a sink for this part, preferably one that’s easy to clean. A ventilation fan or open window would also be nice, but you’d be OK without it. The chemicals are more stinky than harmful.
Get all of your chemistry ready next to the sink, put the tank in the sink and set the timer for 12 minutes.
Step 8: Developing!
Take the rubber lid off the tank and pour in the developer. Put the lid back on.
Hit start on the timer and agitate slowly and constantly for the first minute. (Do whaaaat? One agitation equals turning the tank upside down and then right side up again once.)
After the first minute, agitate the tank 3 times once a minute.
Step 9: Stop and Fix
When the timer goes off, pour out the developer and fill the tank with water. Agitate 6 times, then pour out the water. Repeat this step 2 more times.
Pour out the water or stop bath and fill the tank with fixer. Set the timer for five minutes and agitate 3 times each minute.
Step 10: Final Wash
Pour out the fixer and fill the tank with water. Agitate 3 times and pour out the water. Refill with fresh water, agitate 6 times and pour out. Refill, agitate 12 times and pour out.
Refill the tank with the soapy water you mixed in Step 3, agitate slowly 24 times then pour out.
Open the tank and remove the reel.
Step 11: Hang the Film
Twist open the reel and remove the film.
Use a clothespin to hang the roll of film from a clothesline. If you don’t have a clothesline, hang a coat hanger up in the shower and hang the film from that.
Bring two fingers together on either side of the film and drag them down the roll to squeegee off any excess water. Clip a clothespin on the bottom edge of the roll to keep the film from curling as it dries.
Step 12: Enjoy Your Photos!
When the film is dry, scan it into your computer or get in the darkroom and git to printin’!
If you don’t have a scanner, you can send your film to a company like DigMyPics or ImageLab, or google “film scanning” plus the name of your town to find local businesses that will scan your film for you.
Sounds like a fun idea to try huh? If you are into digital photography it is my personal opinion you should know your roots. History can only help you in the future.
Category: Tech News
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Co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of GizmoNinja.com.
During the day I work in graphic design and also do photography. By night I try to play with programming and code of all different types. I love the opportunity to write for the site and hope to see it grow as time goes on.