Tag Archives: develop

Build a Film Developing Kit for Under $50

12-step bathroom-sink-darkroom program
Creative Commons License photo credit: willsfca

The intent of this article is to present a list of one-time expenses for developing your own black & white film. I would guess that many people shy away from film photography because of the cost or difficulty. And I agree that it can get quite expensive if you have somebody else develop your film (if you can manage to find them, especially b/w).

But film photography doesn’t have to be expensive. We’ve already shown that there are a huge number of film cameras out there for under $50, and I wanted to see if I could put together a list of film developing supplies for the same price tag. After a few minutes of research, whad’ya know? Again, for under $50, we can put together a set of black and white film developing equipment. So let’s dig in!

THE BARE ESSENTIALS

LARGE MEASURING CUP

You’ll need at least one of these measurement cups (or beakers) to measure out the water for your chemicals. I’d suggest getting a 600ml version so you can use it for double batches or 120 film. You can get 3 of these (1 for each chemical solutuion), but if you’re cheap (like me) you can use old plastic cups for holding the chemicals after they’ve been measured.

$9
SMALL GRADUATED CYLINDER

This guys is used for measuring out the concentrate chemicals, since you might be needing anywhere from 10-100ml of concentrate (if you’re using liquid concentrate supplies). Just be sure to rinse between chemical pours and clean very well before measuring out the developer.

$3
THERMOMETER

These cheap-ass thermometers work just fine. They take a while to register the actual temperature, but they work. They’re also a handy little stir stick.

$5
FILM REEL

The cheap film reels will bend-up pretty easily, but something is better than nothing. Just like lenses, buy the best you can afford (you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration).

$10
DEVELOPING TANK

I’m hooked on the steel tanks. You can beat the hell out of them and they keep on truckin’. You can really slam them down on the counter to knock the air bubbles off of the film after your inversions.

$10
HANGING CLIPS

I use these clips for film and print. They’re pretty gnarly, but they have quite a grip. Useful for when you’re wiping down the film at the end.

$6
DRYING CLOTH

I’ve tried the film squeegees, but they always seem to leave a bunch of water spots. I like to wipe down the non-emulsion side of my wet film with a good clean micro-fiber cloth to take care of water spots.

$5
TOTAL $48

OK, so those are the absolute minimum equipment requirements for developing your own black & white film. There are definitely some other items that will make your life easier, but those things aren’t always necessary. Again, these things above are the one-time equipment costs. Immediately below, you’ll find a list of consumable items that you’ll have to buy up-front and periodically throughout your film developing adventures.

CONSUMABLES

DEVELOPER

Use whatever developer you want, but I prefer to use Ilford’s Ilfosol 3 solution for most of my film. The stuff works great on fine-grain film. The only downside is that it’s less versatile than other developers… and it’s a one-shot.

$8
STOP BATH

Stop baths aren’t as important as the developer, but they do a critical job. I like to stick with the Ilford stop bath just for consistency. * Water can also be used if a stop bath is not available.

$6
FIXER

Like the stop bath, fixers aren’t extremely important, but I like to stay with my brand. You can choose whatever fixer you want. * To clarify this statement, I meant that which specific fixer you choose isn’t as important as which developer you use.

$10
WETTING AGENT

For those of us with really hard water, a wetting agent can be a life saver. This little solution helps to clear your film of hard-water deposits while making it dry faster.

$8

* Added for clarification based on reader comments

Remember, these are things that you’ll use-up over and over again (in addition to film). They’re actually pretty cheap, but you have to remember to keep them stocked so you don’t run out and inconvenience yourself. In addition to these consumable items, I’ve got a list of “luxury” items below that might make your “film developing” life easier, but they aren’t completely necessary (unless you’re a film addict).

LUXURY ITEMS

CAN OPENER

These are nice to have when trying to pry the bottom off the film cassette in complete darkness. But you can also use some types of regular bottle openers to get the job done.

$11
DELUXE REEL

Like I said before, buy the best reel you can afford. Get the cheap ones and you’ll be fighting with the film after a couple of rolls. These expensive ones are built to take typical abuse.

$20
DOUBLE TANK

If you shoot a lot of 35mm film (or medium format film), you might consider buying a double tank rather than a single tank. These guys will fit two 35mm reels or one 120 reel. Handy for saving some extra time and effort.

$14
MEDIUM FORMAT REEL

And of course if you’re shooting medium format, you’ll need a medium format film reel. These guys are easier to load than the 35mm reels, but sill buy a decent one.

$13
CHANGING BAG

Changing bags are helpful if you don’t want to seal off a whole room (which is a requirement for loading film on a reel). I don’t have one of these, but it sure would save me some time.

$16
ARCHIVE SHEETS

Of course, after you develop you film you’ll need somewhere to put it. Use archival quality sleeves to preserve your negatives. And use the 7×5 sheets so you can make contact prints later in your career (yes, I made the mistake of using 6×6 sheets and I’m now regretting it).

$10

I could probably go on and on about all the other pieces of equipment that would make developing easier, but we’ll cut it off right here. The point is, you can shoot and develop your own black and white film for a relatively inexpensive upfront cost. Operating costs beyond that are fairly minimal, with the actual film being the most expensive component.

Cross Processing Tips and Suggestions

XPRO

It’s no secret… I love film photography. But if there’s one thing I love more than film, it’s cross processed film. There’s something so intriguing about it — adding a touch of unpredictable to the imperfect nature of film. Many photographers tend to either hate it or love it. Some love it so much that they attempt to recreate the look with Photoshop.

I’ve had this article on the half-finished backburner for a while. I figure we’ll take a slight detour from the photo backup series and get this one out there. One reader recently commented on another cross processing article, asking some questions about it. So I’m guessing that at least one person will find some of this useful.

Here are some tips for choosing films to cross process, exposing the film, getting it developed, and color correcting it. So grab a cheap film camera start cross processing!

WHAT THE HECK IS CROSS PROCESSING?

It’s a beautiful thing… simply put, you shoot a roll of film (most commonly slide film, or E-6) and develop it as if it were something different (most commonly color negative film, or C-41). Intentionally processing a film in the wrong chemicals. Doing this with slide film works out well for several reasons: the results are very cool and C-41 processing is much more available than E-6.

DIFFERENT FILMS = DIFFERENT RESULTS

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The largest differences in the outcome of your cross processed photos have to do with the film you’re using. Each film has it’s own unique look, and they can vary drastically. The most obvious difference is the color cast produced during development. Here are some results from those that I’m most familiar with:

Kodak EktaChrome (or EliteChrome) = very green
Fujifilm Velvia 50 = green + some blue
Fujifilm Velvia 100 = very red + some magenta or yellow

And here are some others that I have yet to try:

Fujifilm Sensia 400 = blue + green
Fujifilm Sensia 100 = red
Fujifilm Provia 400 = green + yellow
Konica Centuria 100 = little color cast

It’s also worth noting that different developer solutions will have slightly different effects on the outcome of the film. For any given slide film that can be cross processed, I’ve seen a vast array of colors show up from different photographers.

UNDER-EXPOSE BY ONE STOP

Color slide film has a lower dynamic range than color negative film. On top of that, cross processing tends to boost the contrast between highlights and shadows, thus requiring that you properly expose your shots. But cross processing (in my experience so far), tends to over-expose the film by about one stop. The first few rolls I got back were overexposed — some being unusable. So I figured out that if I underexpose the shots by one stop, I got better results with the exposure of the developed film.

To underexpose by one stop, you just have to set your ASA/ISO value to double what it should be (assuming that you have a light meter on your camera). So if you’re shooting with ASA100 film, set the camera to ASA200. This makes the camera “think” that you have a faster film loaded, so it lets in less light.

FIND A GOOD PHOTO LAB

Cross processing requires the C-41 process, and most of us aren’t equipped to do this ourselves. However, just about any lab that develops film will have this capability (since it’s the most common process for consumer film). The tricky part is finding somebody who will cross process your E-6 film as C-41 film.

When film is developed, a lot of chemical reactions are taking place. The end result is a stable piece of film with an image on it and a bunch of extra “stuff” that gets left in the developer solution. Developer solutions have to be changed out on a regular basis to continue to work properly.

From what I understand, developing slide film in C-41 chemicals can leave behind stuff that normally isn’t left behind. I don’t think this does a great harm to the solution or to the other film being processed in the developer, but shops with less-experienced technicians will shy away from cross processing because of this. You’re better off finding somebody who knows their stuff.

It’s also recommended that you find a shop with a higher volume. Developers that are used more often have their solutions changed out more often. For example, I’ve got a place downtown that changes the solution every day, and they have no problem cross processing as much as I want. But my local place has a lower volume and they only change out the solution once per week. They’ll cross process for me, but they ask that I don’t bring in more than a couple rolls at a time.

CORRECT THE COLORS WITH WHITE BALANCE

As I mentioned above, cross processing can produce some very strong color shifts in addition to other things. Sometimes these color shifts work really well with the subject and you’ll want to keep them. But other times, it’ll be too much an you’ll want to back it off a bit. This section is aimed at those of you scanning your film and processing the digital files (but this can also be done in the darkroom).

The best tool that I’ve found for this is the white balance adjustment found in software such as Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. A color curves adjustment in Photoshop might be slightly better, but the white balance is so quick and easy in comparison.

For photos with a strong green color shift, increase your “tint” into the magenta region (or away from green). Depending on the film and the specific color shift, you may also need to adjust the “temperature” toward yellow or blue to take care of secondary color shifts left behind.

For photos with a strong red shift, move your “tint” into the green region (away from the magenta). Again, you may have to adjust the “temperature” to clean up the rest of the colors.

The same rules apply with yellow and blue color shifts — just move adjust the white balance in the opposite direction. So basically, you’re just evaluating the color shift of the photo, finding that color or combination of colors in your white balance adjustment, and compensating for it by negating the colors.

Another thing that works well with Adobe’s raw processor is the White Balance Tool even with cross processed film scans. Just find something in the photo that “should” be a neutral gray and sample it with the tool. This will adjust the white balance for you, then you can fine-tune it from there. I usually like to leave a bit of color shift in my photos (and sometimes all of it) — if you go too far with the white balance adjustments, you’ll start to see weird colors showing up in those neutral gray or white areas.

JOIN AN XPRO FLICKR GROUP

If you’re on Flickr, one of the best ways to get excited about a topic is to join a group dedicated to that topic. Seeing the photos and reading the discussions is a great way to get inspired and educated. Here are a few cross processing groups:

XPRO CROSS PROCESSING
Cross Processing – XP – XPRO
Kodak Xpro
Cross Process Masterpieces
Cross Processing Anonymous

Other than that, all I can do is suggest that you get out there and try things out for yourself. Try different films, different cameras, different developers, etc. Cross processing can be quite interesting, as it adds to the “unknown” factor already inherent in film photography.

For you seasoned cross processing film photographers out there, what other advice would you give to photographers just getting into this stuff?