Ever since I started shooting film I have thought about developing my own film to save money, because as we all know shooting film is not cheap. The problem I had though was that I was shooting colour film when I started and that is harder to develop at home than black and white film because the chemicals have to be at certain temperatures when you use them. This put me off doing it because it just seemed easier to take it to my local lab and get it developed and scanned there, especially as I was only shooting film for fun and wasn’t taking my photography seriously at the time.
When I decided to take my photography more seriously I liked the idea of incorporating film into my work as I liked the asthetic and enjoyed using the medium overall. The first problem I ran into was that the scans I was getting from my local lab was poor at best so I decided that I would invest in my own scanner to get better results and save money in the long run, that was that issue solved. The second and biggest problem was the developing. The local lab only developed c41 film on site and BNW film had to be sent off, this was not an option for me as I would have to wait atleast two weeks to get the scans and negatives back. I am not a patient person so I couldn’t wait that long to see my images. Could you?
I thought I had found a solution to my developing issue when a friend told me about Leicester LO-FI, a local film community that had a building where you could go and develop your film and they even had a darkroom. And then another set back, they couldn’t develop colour film. Not yet atleast, they only had the resources to develop BNW but I was told they would get the resources required in the future it just meant I had to wait. Which I was not to fused about as I would rather wait and then spend a lot less money than I had been paying at the lab. Not only that but it would be only slightly more expensive than buying all the equipment myself and doing it at home, also I would be able to get hands on help there so it just made sense all round to wait for it to all fall into place. Who hates waiting?
After a couple months waiting I seen that they put on there Facebook page that they was now able to develop colour film. I couldn’t wait to get down there and give it a go. They are only open Tuesday and Wednesday nights 6-9, as I work shifts I knew it would be hard for me to be able to go every week. Luckily I was able to go down the same week on the Wednesday for an hour or two but I didn’t have any film ready to be developed so I just went down to see what it was like and show my face. I had the next Wednesday night off too and I knew that I would definitely have some film ready to develop by then. I had a couple portrait shoots in that week so thought that would be a perfect time to shoot and finish the roll off.
The following Wednesday rolled around and I had managed to finish the roll of film so I could now go and develop film for myself for the first time. I was excited but nervous because I thought I had a few good photos on that roll and had also took some portraits on it too so I didn’t want to go and mess the roll up, especially as I thought it looked quite hard to do, getting the film out of the canister and into the tank. Looked the hardest
After getting down there I spoke to a few of the regulars and then was showed how to develop the film, I practised a few times getting the film into the spool under the table and then with my eyes closed to make sure I could do it before I did it for real with my own film in the bag. It was surprisingly easy to be honest, it was a little difficult to wind onto the spool as the spool I had didn’t have any ball bearings in it so it was stiff. I braved it and put all the equipment I needed into the dark bag and gave it a crack for real. I thought I cut my finger on the canister when opening it straight away but there was no way I was pulling my hands out to check and allowing light to get in and ruin the film. It turned out I didn’t cut my finger luckily. After opening the canister I got the film out and into the spool relatively easy and quickly, then it took ages to wind the film onto the spool. It seemed like I must have been there atleast ten minutes trying to wind it on. In the end I just used my thumbs to tease it along. Finally I got the film onto the spool and into the tank and then I could remove it from the dark bag. That was the hardest part done and now came the easier part, they had a water bath there for developing colour film that kept all the chemicals at the right temperature and it would spin the tank too so all I had to do was put the right chemicals into the tank one after the other and time the amount of time each chemical was in the tank for. They had a book there that told me how long each chemical had to be in for so all the hard work was done for me. This all went along without any issues and then came the part of taking the film out of the tank and checking to see if it all had gone right, if so I had to hang it in the drying cupboard until the film was fully dry. I had PHOTOS! The film had been shot fine and developed fine, I had finally developed my own film now I just had to hang it to dry before I could properly look at the results. So I just sat there and had a cup of tea and chatted while waiting. It took about twenty minutes for the film to fully dry. Once it had, I cut the film up into six frames long strips and then I was able to look at them more closely on the light table. They all looked fine atleast they did to my eye with the little experience I had of looking at negatives.
Now came the scanning. I did this part at home as it would be easier, I was going to wait until the next day to scan them but when I got home I couldn’t wait so decided to stay up and scan. The only problem I found was that there was water marks on the film which I had to wipe off that was tedious and annoying and in turn wiping the film left loads of dust on the film which made scanning and cleaning the film a lot longer than usual. This was the only downside I found about developing the film myself though, it was fun and nice to know that I had done the whole process myself from shooting the film to scanning and editing the final photos. It was so much fun that I decided to become a member at Leicester LO-FI for a yearly fee but that meant I got everything half price so was definitely worth it in the long run.
Here are a few images from the roll.
Let me know what your first time developing film was like in the comments below?
Don’t Follow Paths, Create Them!