developing hat

I presently have three rolls of exposed film at a local camera shop being developed, and by local I mean it is a 30 minute drive, about 20 miles one way to get to it. Like everything else, development costs have gone up, and there can be a 10-14 day turnaround time to get the negatives back for black and white film.

When I quit shooting film a few years ago, I sold all my stuff including my development gear, bad choice. I developed all my own black and white film for two years when I was shooting only film, it’s not that hard. When I got the new camera I thought it was going to be for special projects and such, so I planned on using the local lab to process it. I am now changing course.

I have about 15 rolls of partially exposed and unexposed film, so it’s kind of silly under the present circumstances not to get my own developing gear again and do it myself. There is a new all in one developer and fix in one bottle that I am very curious to try.

Shooting film is a creative practice for me, and being hands on for as much of that process feels important, even beyond the obvious significant cost savings benefits.


5 thoughts on “chemistry

  1. I was doing my own for a short time. Boy did I ruin a few rolls! I was using the Cinestill monobath something or other. Which one are you talking about? Same boat here – if I start shooting more film, may get back into it. I agree that for most people it isn’t rocket science, but I did find it challenging. Streaks, scratches, dust, scanning. I think it’s largely because I’m more easily distracted these days, less organized. And damn if my apartment doesn’t seem to be a dust vortex of some kind!


    1. Yeah, it’s the Cinestill. Wasn’t aware of it when I was doing film the last time. I used Ilford chemicals mostly, with water to stop. And yes, I ruined a couple of rolls to start, but it became pretty easy after a while. Dust and lint are the bugaboos for sure. But at 12./roll for black and white, and that’s with no scans or even cutting and sleeving the negatives, it just makes sense to do it myself.


  2. I’ve only been working with film for a few months, and the only reason I’d be tempted to develop my own is that I haven’t liked the professional lab results. If I use Ilford XP2 (C41 process), the results are fine, but I haven’t been happy with the professionals with regular process B&W. The first roll of regular B&W I got back from the “local” camera store (possibly the same one you used, Chuck) had little drips on several of the negatives. I sent the second roll to the HARMAN lab in California, and those scans had skies that got paler at the lateral edges of the frame. The skies were a uniform color when I made the photos. I know I can fix the drops and pale edges in Lightroom, but it irritates me that I would have to do that with professionally developed film.

    My main concern with doing my own processing is that I have multiple chemical sensitivities and I don’t know if I can tolerate developing chemicals. I’ve been looking for someone in my area who’d let me be a fly on the wall while they developed film so I could find out, but I haven’t been able to find anyone willing to to go to the trouble.

    Anyway, I’ll be curious to see how developing your own film again goes for you, Chuck. Good luck!


    1. Nice to hear from you, Anne. The only local place is Southeastern in Carrboro, to my knowledge. They dropped a roll of my wife’s color film once during the development process and it had dust specks on it, but the few I have had done there were satisfactory. It’s more the inconvenience and expense for me. I will probably be posting later about the Cinestill all in one solution I am going to try. When I was processing before, it was the fixer solution that seemed the most “toxic” to me. There is a coffee based solution called Caffenol, that you make yourself that supposedly works well for black and white film, but I think you still have to use a fixer of some sort with it. Anyway, I’ll be posting more on it all.


      1. I look forward to reading about your experiences with developing your photos.

        Yep, Southeastern Camera in Carrboro. The entire staff has been enthusiastic and helpful with my film journey.

        I don’t have as much exposed and unexposed film as you do, but the cost of developing is still daunting after my being digital-only for many years. The cost has made me more thoughtful about each exposure, though, which is a good thing.

        Liked by 1 person

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