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Home Developing c41 Film

The whole idea behind my Instagram account as well as this blog is to showcase the images that I have hand-developed myself.  Since I have picked up a bit of a following since starting both platforms, I have fielded several inquires regarding my “bath-tub” centered C41 process I proclaim to use in my Now.Developing Instagram account.  Fortunately, for this tutorial I had a lot more space than my bathtub.  Unfortunately, it’s not as authentic as my Instagram bio.  Instead, I’ll be using a drop sink and counterspace at my job, where I instruct my students to develop film.  However, I think we will be just fine moving forward.

My process is haphazard, but it is my process.  It’s definitely unique and I like to think there’s some beauty in that.  I enjoy the results I get and they are good enough for me regardless of the (most likely unnecessary) issues I encounter by not putting in the correct safeguards (a constant water temperature would definitely be one of them).

The point of this post is to show you that this is not as hard as it seems and that you can do this on your own at home if you really wanted to give it a shot.

Also, my process is in no way original and is mostly based off of the very well documented and self explanatory tutorial that was published by Lomography (Part 1 & Part 2)

I’m going to try to be as succinct as possible, but I will also add some notes, caveats, and justifications to my process.  I will also be skipping over the chemical set up process.  It’s easy, just read and follow the directions that come in the box or check that Lomography article I linked to above. Anyway, let’s get started.

My materials list is as follows:

Updated addition(s) as of 9/4/2017

I tried to link as many materials to the Film Photography Project Store.  Please, please, please buy as much as you can from Michael Raso and his team.  They are absolutely amazing people and have supported me and my students in our film endeavors over the years.  They also have a wonderful podcast that you should be listening to if you are not already!

Step 1: Preparing the Chemicals

I start running the faucet on hot for a few minutes to let the water warm up.  The water from the faucet in the photos runs pretty hot, easily over the necessary 102° Fahrenheit/38.8° Celsius needed to develop.  Since the sink is a bit of a tight space, I place the bottles of developer, blix, and stabilizer in a bin on the floor nearby.  I transfer the hot water from the faucet to the bin nearby using a beaker.  I fill the bin until the water covers most of the length of the bottles.  I let the bottles sit in the hot water until the chemicals in the bottles heat up above the necessary 102° Fahrenheit/38.8° Celsius.  I periodically check the temperatures of the chemicals inside the bottles.  You don’t necessarily have to heat up the stabilizer, but I just do it because “YOLO”.  Once the chemicals are a few degrees over the target temperature, I remove the bottles and set them on the counter.  I have read that you have a little bit of leniency with temperature, up to 2-5° Fahrenheit in either direction and still get solid results.  But obviously, if you work quickly and you will stay closer to your target temperature through the process.

Update as of 9/4/2017:

I now use a sous vide to keep a constant water temperature, which has also been added to the materials list above.  It is an amazing tool to keep constant water temperature and doesn’t require me to take the temperature of the water/chemicals numerous times when prepping everything.  Just set it and go do other things as the water heats up to temperature!

Step 2: Preparing the Film

While the water is heating up the chemicals in the bin, you should be getting your film ready.  You simply throw all necessary materials in the light proof bag: scissors, film, can opener, and developing tank pieces.  This process is not easy for beginners, but trust me, if my middle school students can do it, then so can you.  It just takes practice.  Simply use an exposed roll to practice reeling the film outside of the bag.  Or if you want to be in on a little secret or an easier reel to use, buy the Adorama tank and reel.  The Adorama reel has a better guide to get the film past the ball bearing and started on the reel.  Although I find pouring the chemicals in and out of the Adorama tank to be more of a mess and hassle, it is easier to reel the film especially when it comes to 120 film. At the end of the day, it’s really user preference here.  Use what you feel most comfortable with.  Both reels will accept 36-exposure rolls of 35mm film.

So, throw all the materials in the bag.  Use the can opener to pry the bottom of the film cartridge off.  Slide the film out of the cartridge.  While holding the edges of the film only, unravel it off the inner core.  When you get to the end, find the scissors and snip the end of the film off the core.  Take that same end that you cut, insert it into the reel entry and ratchet the film on.  When I started, I used this video.  I still show this to my students on their first development day and think it’s an amazing resource.  Prof. Agar does an amazing job breaking the process down.  Granted, this sounds so easy, but it can be just as annoying when things don’t go your way and your hands are sweating with frustration in that hot, humid bag.

After the film is on the reel, insert the tank core through the reel, place it in the tank, insert the saucer, then the agitator, and place the lid on top.

Step 3: Chemicals!

Before you start fiddling with your phone’s default stopwatch, please download  a development app.  I use Develop! for iOS.  Here is a screenshot of my settings for my C41 process:

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Again, make sure your chemicals are as close to the target temperature as possible.  You could use an aquarium heater, but I tried it, and found them more troublesome than helpful.  It’s also hard to get one that gets warm enough for film development.

3.1: Wash

Take the lid off.  Using the hot water in the bin, dunk the tank in the water until it fills/the liquid is above saucer level.  Continuously agitate (spin the agitator back and forth) for 1 minute.  Pour the water down the drain.

3.2: Developer

The UniColor kit says to develop for 3 minutes and 30 seconds, but I set my timer for 4 minutes after getting some underexposed rolls in the past.  I could just have a old or bad batch of chemicals, but you can adapt as needed.

Pour the developer in the tank.  Agitate by twisting the agitator for the first 15 seconds.  After 15 seconds, put the lid back on.  Let it sit for 30 seconds, when the timer dings, you will agitate by tumbling/inverting the tank back and forth four times.  Continue the tumble/inversion agitation every 30 seconds for the remainder of the time.  When time is over; unlid the tank, pour the developer back into the bottle, this can be reused for up to 30 rolls or so before you need to make new chemistry.

3.3: Blix

Pour the Blix in the tank. This stuff stinks and stings if you have open cuts.  As an anxiety-ridden, chronic nail-biter, I would know.  Follow same steps for developer but for 6 minutes.  Unlid, return blix to bottle, as this can also be reused.

3.4: Rinse

Again, using the water in the bin, fill up the tank.  No need to put the lid on.  Agitate with the agitator for 15 seconds.  Let the tank sit for 3 minutes.  Pour the water out down the drain.

3.5: Stabilizer

Fill the tank with stabilizer.  No need to put the lid on.  Agitate with the agitator for 15 seconds and let it sit the remaining 45 seconds.  Pour stabilizer back to its bottle as it can be reused.

3.6: PhotoFlo

I have had trouble with squeegee streaks in the past, so a recently added step is this one.  I highly recommend it for even, streak-free drying.

Fill the tank with PhotoFlo.  Let it sit for two minutes.  Some say pour it down the drain, I keep the PhotoFlo for a few development sessions.  Haven’t seen an issue.

3.7: Rinse

Rinse it for a bit, maybe 5-10 minutes to get rid of all of the residue.

Step 4: Drying

Take the film off the reel.  Attach a binder clip at each end of the film.  Hang on a push pin for a couple hours until completely dry.  I know it’s hard to fight temptation, but the wait is worth it!  I have tried scanning wet film, and it doesn’t work.  Don’t be me, don’t be an impatient child, haha.

Here’s a couple sample images from the rolls I developed in this process:

Eventually I will follow up with Black and White developing, but it pretty much follows the same structure, but with different chemicals and times.  I guess that makes a substantial difference, though.  Anyhow, if you found this helpful or have any suggestions for me, I would love to hear from you, feel free to get in touch.

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Retr0brite the Pakon

Have you ever noticed that some of those white/light plastics products you own have yellowed over time?  Or perhaps, like me, you recently bought a used device from yesteryear, like a Kodak Pakon F-135 scanner.  Most of these products are made of ABS plastic (known for its properties in resistance and toughness), and luckily the color of the plastic is in fact salvageable.  A coworker of mine informed me about this process and his experiences with Retr0brite-ing older Mac computers.  I was intrigued, curious, and figured that I had nothing to lose so as long as the scanner still functioned properly after I was done.

Admittedly, I didn’t follow all of the rules or completely follow one of the many tutorials on Youtube.  We decided that we would sort of take the shortest, most efficient, but maybe not the most comprehensive route, so if you’re into a quick fix, this tutorial is for you.  Besides, the discoloration, wasn’t that bad compared to some before/after shots I have seen from others.  If you are all about doing things the right way, you may want to leave now before you cringe to death or want to tell me how terrible my process was.  Trust me, I already know.

**Disclaimer, photos are a tad grainy.  Time for a new batch of chemicals to be made.**

To start, this is what the Pakon looked like prior to the process with all of my materials besides the screwdrivers.  The bottle of peroxide provides a good distinction of colors:

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Voigtländer Bessa R3A // Portra 160, Materials for Retr0brite

As for materials to conduct the process, all you need is the following:

  • Screwdriver set (Phillips & Torx)
  • 40 Volume Peroxide 
  • Direct sunlight
  • A surface to work on
  • Some sort of liner to protect the surface (i.e. a garbage bag)
  • Gloves
  • About 2 hours of your time

To get started, you have to flip the Pakon over and remove the top case by removing a handful of screws, I think there were 6 or 8.  The nice thing about taking the Pakon apart is that it was designed to be easily fixed by the photolabs that owned them.  No disconnecting wires, no fragile parts directly in your way, nothing.  I have had to take my Pakon apart quite a few times because of inconsistent Polling errors in the TLX software due to dust on the tiny film sensors.  It’s a pain to do this every time it happens, but I’m looking into purchasing a dust cover in the near future.  Anyhow, here is what the unit looks like after the top is off:

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Voitländer Bessa R3A // Portra 160

Again, super easy.  Time to take all the materials outside.  Be sure to keep the screws in safekeeping in the meantime.

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Voigtländer Bessa R3A // Portra 160

Once we got outside and all situated, the rest of the process was just as easy with a bit more periodic involvement.  Basically all we did was pour a generous amount of peroxide on the case every 15-20 minutes or so.  After pouring it on, we lathered it around for about 2-3 minutes, making sure to apply it evenly throughout the piece and turned it 90 degrees on the table each time.  We let it sit for the remainder of the 15 minute increment.  This was done not only produce a balanced color in the end, but to also prevent color scarring (see top image) since the peroxide was so highly concentrated.  We did get a little bit of scarring in the final product, so we may try this process again with a less concentrated solution, perhaps 20 volume or so.  I think I’m okay with the improvements I got from this single process.  Minor note, I also tried to be careful around the film entries, but I didn’t bother covering them.

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After an hour or so of doing this (we may have did an hour and a half), we cleaned up, rinsed off the top case in the sink with tap water and let it dry.  We screwed it back on top of the base, and I couldn’t really complain about the result:

It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely an improvement.  I get a little sense of pride every time I see the scanner on the shelf when I walk in the room.  The change is slightly better seen in person, or maybe I am just color-biased every time I look at it.

Again, my process is in no way the “right way” of doing things, but if you get a result that you are happy with, I guess it doesn’t matter much.  This blog was created with the goal of focusing on the process and not the result anyway.

If you have done something similar, I would love to hear about your experience.  If you try out this process, I would also like to see how well yours turned out.