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How to develop 35mm film at home

If you have access to both hot and cold running water with adjustable temperature controls, you're well on your way to developing 35mm film at home. A small bathroom can easily be turned into a home film processing lab with a few minor modifications to lighting and the shower area. If your house only has one bathroom, consider converting the utility room or a plumbed garage into a film processing area.

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Converting the room

  1. Exchange bathroom household bulbs with photo-safe red or blue bulbs. Purchase the specialised lighting at a photo shop in the high street or online.

  2. Cover all windows with blackout shades or curtains. Have a door snake ready to place at the base of the door to block out light from the adjoining room.

  3. Prepare a film drying area in the shower cubicle by securing an adjustable shower curtain rod along the longest width of the shower. Hang plastic clothes hangers on the rod. Use one hanger for every two rolls of film.

  4. Attach film drying clips to the hangers. Place one clip near each of the lower corners of the triangular hanger, so they are as far apart as possible.

  5. Convert the basin unit into a film developing work space. Lay an old towel over the unit to absorb spills. Place a plastic tray (at least 25 cm long) on the unit. If there is no unit around the basin, cover the top of the toilet seat with a piece of plywood to create a low table surface.

  6. Mix all chemistry according to the directions on the film package and store in light-tight storage containers. Label each container and save the photo chemical packaging for film developing time and temperature information.

Developing the film

  1. Enter the bathroom, turn on the photo-safe lights, pull the door shut, close the window shades and place the door snake at the base of the door to block out light. Lock the door.

  2. Use the bottle opener to open each film cassette. In the dim light, place the opener at the edge of the flat end of the film cassette. Pry off the flat circle in the same manner as a metal bottle cap.

  3. Unwind the film from the cassette. Use scissors to cut the end of the film from the plastic dowel.

  4. Place the leader end of the film into the centre of a film reel, hooking it on the clips. Wind the entire roll onto the reel. Repeat this step with as many rolls as you will be processing in the first batch.

  5. Submerge the loaded film reels into the developing tank and place the cap on top. Open the push cap on the top, allowing warm tap water to flow into the tank and moisten the reels. Let the reels soak in the water for one minute. Pour out the water.

Developing the photos

  1. Place the tank in the plastic tray. Add the developer to the tank. Gently agitate the film with a smooth turning motion for the recommended amount of time. Pour the developer down the sink plughole. Rinse the film reels with warm water or stop bath.

  2. Pour fixer into the developing tank. Gently agitate the film with a smooth turning motion for the recommended amount of time. Pour the fixer down the sink plughole. Rinse the film reels with warm water or stop bath.

  3. Wash the film in warm water. Allow a steady flow of water to rinse over and around the film reels in the tank with the lid completely off. Dump the water and refill with clear water. Add wetting agent. Allow the reels to soak briefly, then dump the water, unroll the film and hang on the film clips in the shower stall. Place an additional film clip on the end of the film strip for weight, so it hangs straight. Let the film to dry for up to eight hours.

  4. Tip

    The water temperature and time in the chemicals depends on the type of film being processed. Refer to the film developer package for guidelines on water and chemistry temperature for your speed and brand of film.

    Winding exposed film onto a film reel takes practice. Perform the task in daylight with a roll of unimportant film that can be ruined in daylight. Practice with your eyes closed, letting your hands guide the film. During practice, open your eyes, correct your movements, and keep practicing until this movement is easy with your eyes closed.

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Things You'll Need

  • Exposed 35mm film
  • Film developing tanks
  • Adjustable shower curtain rod
  • Plastic clothes hangers
  • Bottle opener
  • Developer
  • Fixer
  • Stop bath
  • Wetting agent
  • Plastic tray
  • Plywood
  • Water
  • Timer
  • Old towels
  • Blackout shades or curtains
  • Door snake

About the Author

Angela Tague writes marketing content and journalistic pieces for major brands including Bounty, The Nest, Lowe's Home Improvement and Hidden Valley. She also provides feature content to newspapers and writes health and beauty blogs for Daily Glow, Everyday Health and Walgreens. Tague graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications in 1999.

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