01 Apr DIY Developing For Newbies
Ah, Grasshopper, you have had your first films developed. You have the scans and have seen the images on your computer. You are proud. Now you must humble yourself again. It is time for you to develop.
And if you ever wanted to make a mess, here is your chance. If you share accommodation this will be a trying time. Your housemates will consider murdering you, for you will steal their bathroom.
First off – do not try colour processing initially. It involves precise temperature controls and handling of dangerous liquids and is best left to the professional lab. Concentrate on black and white negative development. There will be dry work and wet work – the bathroom – and some new equipment to borrow or buy. If you are able to use a communal darkroom at a school or a club, by all means do so for a year – you’ll learn so much that you can bring back to your own premises, without losing the good will of your housemates.
If you are on your own, you’ll need:
a. An entirely dark room or a photographic dark bag to load the film into the developing tank. CE sells the bags. Making your own room entirely dark is harder, but do-able with black plastic sheet and gaffer tape.
b. A developing kit – These are made by A-P and are the very best way to get the tanks, measuring cylinders, film tongs, and thermometer you’ll need. Again, CE sells these kits at both shops.
c. Chemicals – get the Ilford liquid concentrates ( CE again ) in the convenient plastic bottles. Ilfosol 3, Ilfostop, Ilfofix. All good, all usable. All have accurate mixing instructions on the bottle. Don’t drink any of them.
d. A clock to time the process. Get a cheap one from IKEA but remember that Swedish time is not measured in hours and minutes: They use elk and moose. You’ll get used to it.
e. Running water ( bathroom sink ) and a shower stall to hang the finished film while it dries.
If you pop to your local library there will be a book on photography that will show the basic procedures for tank loading and development – there are little rituals like inverting the tanks or twirling the film reels that we all participate in. There is careful observation of solution temperature and time. There is care in washing and drying – all these make for a good negative at the end. You’ll spoil a few before you get the hang of it, but once your routine is successful it can be so for decades.
There are also good storage systems for negatives – plastic sleeves or pages that mean you don’t contaminate or lose the images you produced. And once you enter them into your digital stream they can last as long as nay other electronic image – but with the advantage that you always have the negative hard copy to return to.
How do you get the picture in front of you? Read more next time.