Despite what the digital imaging aficionados may try and tell you, developing actual film is not, in fact, a dead and useless art.
You can do almost anything with a digital camera and a printer, but nothing really beats the feeling of doing your own prints, watching them develop, and in the end, holding a finished photograph in your hands that you did yourself. Plus, if you are taking pictures with a camera that uses film, you may find that there is a shortage of development labs in the area – the rise of digital photography has pretty much killed the traditional photo lab.
So here are the things you will need to have to make a home darkroom. We are assuming, however, that you don’t have an actual room to dedicate to film development, and so we will be going with the options that can be used in lit rooms.
First things first: you don’t need expensive brand-name gear to develop photographs at home, but you do need to be sensible about things. If you use a kitchen implement (like a funnel) you need to make sure that it is never used for food again. You really don’t want photo chemicals in your food.
It’s also important to remember that while it is possible to develop colour at home, the beginner is probably best served by sticking with black and white, which is much simpler.
Without further ado, here is a list of the things you will need to develop film at home. A developing tank. A developing tank looks a bit like a dustbin, but has a tightly-fitting lid that keeps all light out of it. They usually have metal or plastic spools to wind the film on for developing. While plastic tanks may be cheaper, steel tanks are much more durable.
A large measuring cup, at least 600ml, to measure your chemicals. Most people have three of these – one for each of the chemical solutions that you will be using. A graduated cylinder for measuring chemical concentrates. Make sure that you rinse it very well and clean it tween measuring different chemicals, or use a separate cylinder for each chemical.
A thermometer for measuring your mixes and the temperature in general, since the temperature affects the developing time of the various mixes. Film Reels, which hold your film in the developing tank. Remember that while you can get developing tanks in plastic or metal, and film reels in either type, you have to match your reels to your tank – metal reels go in metal tanks and plastic reels go in plastic ranks.
You’ll need hanging clips to hang your print while you wipe it. Drying cloth. You’ll need a cloth of some sort to wipe down your prints. Remember that you have to reserve this for photo use only!
You will also need to be able to create absolute darkness, at least temporarily, in order to load your film. You can use a changing bag if you can’t seal off an entire room, but the darkness is totally necessary for successfully developing film. If you want to keep your film orderly, you should invest in archive sheets to put your film in.
You will also need to buy the appropriate chemicals for developing film. These go in their own little list because you will need to replenish them periodically. Developer. Probably the most important part of the whole process. You will need to keep your developer stocked and make sure that it is still usable before you use it.
Stop bath. You can replace this with water if you can’t find or afford stop bath, or don’t want it. Fixer. Pretty vital in the overall scheme of things. Can’t be replaced by anything else. If you have hard water, you can use a wetting agent to clear your film.
So, the above are the things you need in order to develop film at home. We’d really recommend that you take some classes or do some serious reading before you dive right into the world of film development. The chemicals used for film development can be dangerous, so you definitely need to know what you are doing before you start.