Your film photography journey is incomplete without learning how to do developing. No, you don’t need a professional dark room.
This blog post consists of a list of equipment and hardwares you need for self-developing of film at home. Be expected to spend about $100+ for everything fore front (excluding scanner). All prices stated are in Singapore Dollars (SGD):
1. Changing bag 暗房袋 (< $10)
As you know, our film is sensitive to light before it is being processed and fixed. Changing bag comes in handy when we don’t have a legit dark room. I like to call this bag a ‘portable dark room’. Got mine from Taobao at about $10 including shipping fee. The quality is good!
P/S: Changing bag will be your super star when your film-loaded camera’s advancing lever is stuck or whatever mishap there can be. This happened to me several times!
2. Developing tank with film reels 百得信冲洗罐 ($34)
The function of a changing bag is for you to slot your hands in to open your film canister and load the film onto the film reels. After that, you put the film reels into the developing tank. Make sure the lid is closed tight. Now, your film is protected from light. You can take out the developing tank from the changing bag.
I use Paterson System 4 which was also purchased from Taobao. Ruby is selling at $45. It contains 2 film reels, which you can develop two 35mm films or a 120mm at one go.
3. Measuring jug & storage bottle ($8)
I got two 1000mL jugs and a measuring cup from Daiso. You can get it from Taobao (容量杯) too. Actually you might be able to find cheaper jugs from hardware shops in your neighbourhood.
As fixer can be used several times before it depletes, I also bought a light-proof, air-sealed bottle (黑色储液瓶) from Taobao ($1+) to store my fixer. Ruby only has the collapsible storage bottle, selling at $15! If you want to save more money and not fussy, I think a normal plastic bottle will do.
4. Thermometer 暗房冲洗温度计 ($4)
The temperature of the water and chemicals need to be cool when you developing the film. Running tap water in Singapore has inconsistent temperature. Sometime it’s warm (sunny day), sometimes it’s cooling (rainy morning). You need to find your preferred way to get the temperature (usually 20 degree Celsius).
Ansel Adams mentioned in his book that temperature is crucial. Because a warm environment can speed up the developing reaction. Imagine the standard protocol is 20 degree Celsius for 10mins. If your water is warm (at noon Singapore time), the reaction might have sped up but you are exposing your film for 10mins. This causes overdeveloping and might have adverse effect.
If you are not very particular about temperature, just go with your gut feeling.
5. Film clips 不锈钢夹子 x4 ($0.60)
These film clips are used to hang your film to dry. Recommended place is the bathroom because it is quite moist so it’s probably the least dusty area in your house.
If you need, it’s better to get 2 for one film. One for the top (hanging), another one for the weight at the bottom to prevent of re-curling of film. If you want to save this money, be innovative and maybe just use the laundry clips.
However, after I developed my first roll of film, I was amazed at the length. It’s so long that there’s no place in my house that’s able to hold a film without the bottom touching the floor. So I had to cut it into half. If you want to be safe, get 8 clips.
6. Chemicals ($43)
For simplicity sake, you only need these two most important chemicals: developer (显影) and fixer (定影). The others are listed as optional: Stop bath and wetting agent.
I bought my developer, a Kodak Professional Tmax, for $26 and Ilford fixer for $17 from Ruby Photo. You might get stuff cheaper online or if you buy them in powder forms?
For all chemicals, please READ the datasheets. Some chemicals are suitable for repeated usage (multiple shots) and some do not (single-shot). For example, it’s uncommon for one batch of diluted developer to be used twice. However this is not the case for Kodak Professional Tmax. This Tmax is very concentrated (1 part chemical : 4 parts water) and it can be used for 16 rolls up till 48 for the first diluted batch.
That is to say in a 1L Tmax developer, if you always make 500mL stock, you can dilute it 10 times: 100mL + 400mL water. In one dilution, you can process 48 rolls. That is 480 rolls for $26!!!
But of course, the diluted Tmax developer can only be kept for 1-2 months.
Sorry, if it sounds confusing. You just have to trust me and try it!
7. Other accessories
- Scissors: for cutting films
- Bottle opener: to open the film cassette (with some struggles)
- Timer: just use your phone
- Glove. This depends on your preference. I don’t use it
- Film pocket file for archive (底片袋) $0.20 per piece from Taobao
Most people scan their negative films to digital format for sharing onto social medias and archive. I know there are some people who print photos in the darkroom as well. I will learn that if I have the chance and facility.
A scanner is quite a good investment. Normally, if you shoot both 35mm and 120mm format, it’s recommended to get a flatbed scanner. Some examples are Epson V600, V700/750, V800 or even V850.
The cheapest flatbed with acceptable results is the V600. I bought mine brand new for $428 because I have trust issue. You can source for second-hand.
V700 and V800 are of the higher-end flatbed scanners. If you are only scanning for social medias purposes, I don’t see why you need to spend more than $1000 for an Epson V800 unless you are super rich. Lol
If you only want to get 35mm scanner, I think Plustek 8100 is a good choice.
Developing your own black & white film is definitely cheaper than sending them to the lab. The initial spending for hardwares is about $99.60, compared to the $200 Ruby Shop will quote you. (Will definitely be more than $100 depending on whether you buy the film holders and the quantity)
Besides saving money, you experience the process of making photos. So, I hope this blog has helped you in deciding what things to buy. Feel free to share the article.