Developing photographs at home

Discussion in 'The Darkroom' started by HorizonHummer, Mar 8, 2017.

  1. HorizonHummer

    HorizonHummer TPF Noob!

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    Can somebody give me an overview on how to develop photographs at home? I know this is common practice now now but I am new to photography as a personal interest and am unsure of how to begin the procedure. I am sure many of you remember the era before phone cameras became common when pictures were taken on film and then brought to a film lab to be developed into photographs which were then picked up the next day. Although picture taking is more commonly done by smart phone now there are those including myself who prefer photographs the way they were back then. I have seen instant print cameras available on amazon.com and at stores like Best Buy but those don't manufacture photographs in the full width, they produce ones with white side bars on all four sides (similar to the photographs produced by instant cameras in the 1980s). So please insight me: How do I develop full size photographs without having to go to a lab?


     
  2. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I recommend you go to the library and find some darkroom books from 30 years ago. That should save someone from having to write a book here. By the way, if you don't like white borders on your prints you can simply cut them off.
     
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  3. table1349

    table1349 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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  4. HorizonHummer

    HorizonHummer TPF Noob!

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    Fred: Actually I have seen in done in private the same way it used to be done only in labs. So I don't see a need to buy a camera that will print the photographs with the sidebars and then cut them off. Also I'm sure I can learn more simply without having to go to the library although it would be enriching to be around the other people there. Just the same though thank you for the response.
     
  5. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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  6. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Cameras don't print photographs except for the old polaroid land cameras. I believe they all printed with a white border. Images without a border are either printed in a darkroom using a borderless easel, or an automated film processing machine like those that they used to have at drug stores or they are trimmed. You are welcome for the response enen with your decision to ignore it.
     
  7. table1349

    table1349 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    If you want to shoot some type of film you have three choices.

    1. Old Polaroid with packet film.
    2. Film camera and take the film in to be processed and printed.
    3. Film camera and you set up your own dark room, learn how to develop film and learn how to print.
     
  8. limr

    limr Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    You don't need a darkroom to develop film. You only need the darkroom if you are planning to wet print your images. The alternative is to scan them into a digital format and print them with an inket. It's called a hybrid process.

    So if you really want to start out simply, don't bother with the darkroom. The basic equipment you will need:

    -a changing bag
    -scissors
    -a daylight developing tank
    -a timer (easily managed with a phone app)
    -chemicals (developer, stop, fixer)
    -thermometer
    -film hanging clips
    -film sleeves

    Developing can be done anywhere you have access to a sink and running water, and a clean relatively dust-free place to hang and dry your film. I suggest a bathroom and hanging the film in the shower.

    As for the actual procedure, there are many websites that will tell you in detail. The basic procedure is the same, but depending on what film and what developer you are using, the details such as time and temperature will be different, and you should investigate those on your own. It's too detailed to go into here when you are still in the investigation stage. You can always post another thread when you are closer to doing this yourself and you have specific films/developers in mind.

    Basic procedure:

    -Load the film into the tank using the changing bag. You must keep all light away from the film during this stage (this is what the changing bag is for.)
    -Chemicals: developer first, then stop bath (for some developers, this will be plain water), then fixer. Final step is a clean-water rinse.
    -Open the tank, take film from reels and hang. Use a weight at the bottom of the strip to keep it straight. Curly film is very difficult to work with.
    -Let dry for a few hours. Cut and sleeve.

    Each stage has several steps that are really best learned by watching a tutorial video (there are many available - just google) and then sacrificing a roll of film to practice on in the light.

    (And now, I'm going to move this thread to the Film Photography section.)
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2017
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  9. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Get ready!

    choose either black and white or color film
    take your pictures
    in a very dark place (darker than you might expect) remove the film from the camera and place it into a film developing tank.
    pour in the correct developer
    time the developing accurately, including the temperature
    pour out the developer, and pour in a film fixer
    pour out the fixer and pour in fresh pure water to rinse
    remove film from the developing tank and dry it
    after the negatives are dry, cut them into convenient lengths
    in your darkroom, (WAY DARK for color) place the negatives on a sheet of print paper and expose with a white light for the prescribed time
    remove the negatives and place the print of contact prints into first a developer, then a stop bath and then a fixer
    remove the sheet and hang it up to dry
    when it is dry, look at the contact prints to see which ones you want to print larger
    to print larger, insert the negative into your enlarger, and place a sheet of print paper on the table
    expose the print for the prescribed amount of time
    place that print into the developer, then stop bath, then the fixer
    hang up your print to dry
    when dry, frame and hang on your wall
     
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  10. limr

    limr Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    And fyi, old Polaroids are not the only cameras that shoot instant film. Fujifilm Instax cameras are modern cameras that shoot Fuji Instax film. And Impossible Project makes film and cameras. All of these shoot integrated film. Peel-apart is no longer manufactured and that's what you need an old Polaroid for. And yes, they all have white borders. The OP does not want those. So the instant film point is moot.
     
  11. mdruziak

    mdruziak TPF Noob!

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  12. TCampbell

    TCampbell Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    It was a bit easier to get into the hobby of developing your own film and making your own prints "back in the day" because you could get into the hobby in school (if the school had a photography club that owned a darkroom) or if they knew people already in the hobby who had darkrooms. This means you learn from another person rather than trying to figure it out entirely on your own.

    You might check around to see if there are any camera clubs in your area where people actually still use darkrooms (probably hard to find these days).

    Apart from that, you'll need to look for books or tutorials on the Internet or ... go visit that library that you mentioned you'd rather not visit.

    I can "sum up" the process... but there's just no way to cover all the details.

    There are two halves to the home processing... (1) developing the film and (2) printing (and developing the prints).

    "Developing" the film doesn't actually require a dark-room. The equipment is actually fairly cheap.

    Basically the developing process entails learning to transfer the exposed-but-undeveloped film onto a film spool which is then placed into a light-tight canister. The canister has a funnel with baffles in it that wont allow light through but will allow liquids through. This part does actually require a 'dark' room. There are dark bags designed for this... it's a light-proof bag. You put everything you need into that bag and zip it shut. You stick your arms through a couple of sleeve holes. You can now go through the process of transferring the film to the spools and into the canister and you don't need a 'dark' room because the bag doesn't let any light in. But EVERYTHING you need must be in that bag because once you pop open the film... if you forgot something important, you cannot open the zipper in the light or you'll ruin the film.

    You'll then go through steps to add and soak it in a three chemicals (one at a time)... starting with the 'developer' (which does what the name implies), then that chemical is emptied and a 'stop' chemical is applied (this neutralizes the developer chemical), and that is emptied and then finally a 'fixer' chemical is applied (which makes the film no longer sensitive to light). The film can now be exposed to light. Typically the top of the canister is removed and you run it under tap-water to rinse the film, then pull it off the spool and and hang it to dry (sometimes gently wiping it off with a squeegee to avoid water spots.)

    Learning to transfer the film from the canister and wind it onto the spool for developing takes some practice. I suggest sacrificing a roll of film by doing this with the lights ON so you can see how it works (this, of course, ruins the film for photography but it helps you practice the technique). Once you've got it... do it again but this time in completely darkness (or in a dark-bag) and repeat several times until you're sure you can "feel" your way through the process without the need for light. When you're comfortable with that, you're ready to try with some real film.

    You can find the process here: Developing Black and White Film at Home


    Printing is a bit more tricky because printing actually requires a dark-room... a light-tight room which has both electricity and running water (commonly people find a way to seal out all the light in their bathroom and use the bathroom as a dark-room (assuming the bathroom has enough space to hold everything they need.) Sealing out all the light can be trickier than you think. Your eyes wont notice the light leaks until they are dark-adapted... a process that takes 40 minutes but your eyes are mostly dark adapted in about 20 minutes. So you seal up the room, then go sit in it and do nothing for a half hour and then start checking for light leaks (and you'll be amazed how many you find that you couldn't see before.)

    You also need a few bits of specialty gear such as a darkroom enlarger (the projector... you load the film negative onto a tray that slides into the projector and this is what will ultimately be used to project the image onto a sheet of photographic paper). You also need a timer. You need several trays for the chemicals (developer, stop, and fixer) as well as a place to rinse the paper (hence the need for running water).

    The equipment for a dark-r0om is a bit more expensive (although you can probably find great deals on used gear because there isn't much of a market for it anymore.)

    If you botch the process of developing the film it's game-over for the film. But if you botch the process of printing the paper ... well hey you still have your negatives so you can certainly try again.

    There are numerous techniques to create timing-sheets, contact sheets, learning the process of 'dodging' and 'burning' (make local adjustments when printing an image that needs more exposure or less exposure in a specific area) which are too numerous to go over here.

    But the basic process of developing the paper is rather similar to developing the film.

    Most photographers did this only with black & white. Very few people attempt to deal with color processing in their home darkrooms. The process is more complicated. I never personally knew any photographer friends who did their own color at home... they sent out the color for processing, but they did their own B&W.
     
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