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Sitting in class the other day http://www.wcfe.ie/jcms/  the lecturer asked how many of us were familiar with camera film?  The room went quiet.  What was this ancient practise of “developing” film? part of our lesson would be to research this and write it down – then later we would be developing our own prints from negatives!! – Hands up who remembers what a negative is?

First, were we all familiar with how to look through the view finder? the arrival of digital cameras have a lot to answer for.  Ever since I can remember I’ve used a 35mm camera, my own preference would be to work in black and white – obviously this is not to everyone’s taste. You should see the camera that I’ve invested in it’ll probably take me most of the year to learn how to work it.  Bring back the 35mm say I.!! Only joking, no one can dispute how much digital camera has changed the photography industry.  So in memory of a truly wonderful medium which I for one really enjoyed working with  I thought i’d share with you how camera film was developed

You will need:

A developing tank with an auto loading film reel

A mercury thermometer

2 film clips

A bottle opener.

A pair of scissors

A 600ml graduated cylinder

3 1 gallon jugs

A stopwatch or a digital watch with a timer on it


Film! Any colour negative will work

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Mix the chemicals according to the directions and take care as these are very dangerous chemicals.

To develop color film your chemicals need to be 100 degress Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees celsius) exactly – not 1degree lower or higher.  It’s critical to get this right. To bring the chemicals in the gallon jug to this temperature you will have to sit the jugs in a sink filled with water.  Try to bring the water in the sink temperature to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit(43 degrees celius).  Although you want the chemical to be 100 degress the water in the sink will cool down very fast.

Pop open the film cannister, remove the film, load the film onto the film reel, and place the reel inside the developing tank.This must be in complete darkness. No light what soever. Take the scissors, bottle opener film canister, film reel and developing tank in to a dust free room that you can make light – tight.

Place the tools out in front of you. You’re going to be loading film onto the reel in complete darkness! Best to be prepared.

Turn off the lights.  Use the bottle opener to open the canister.  While only touching the film negative from the edges, pull the film out of the canister.  The film will be taped to the center filmspool.  Cut the film off at the base of the spool.  Also cut the tip off the film.


Spool the film onto the film reel.  While not touching the surface of the negative slide the negative into the opening of the reel slide about 4 inches of film into the rel.  Start walking the film on to the reel by twisting one side of the reel back and forth

Bring the developing tank to the sink where you have the chemical jugs floating in water. Check the developer chemical with the thermometer – it needs to be 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

With stopwatch in hand, pour the working developer into the hole in the top of the developing tank.  Do this very quickly and start the stopwatch as soon as you’ve poured all the developer into the tank.  Smack the developing tank on a counter three times to dislodge any bubbles that might be clinging onto the film. Agitate the tank for 30 seconds.  Do this by swirling the tank around.  You are going to leave the film in the developer for 3 1/2 minutes.  Agitate the film for 3 seconds every 30 seconds.  Agitation is very important.  It ensures that fresh chemicals are touching the film.

When your stopwatch (remember your stopwatch?!!) has reached 3 min and 20 sec , start pouring the developer back into the developer jug.

Again with your stopwatch quickly pour the blix soloution into the top of the developing tank until the tank is full. Start the stopwatch when you’ve filled the tank up. Once again smack the tank on the counter 3 times to dislodge any bubbles.  Leave the film in this soloution for 6 1/2 min

When the stopwatch has reached 6 min and 20 sec start pouring the blix back into the blix gallon jug.


Bring running water to 100 degrees.  Put the developing tank under the running water and let the water wash the film for 3 1/2 min

With stopwatch in hand, dump  out the water and pour in the stabilizer.  Leave the stabilizer in the tank for for 1 1/2 min. Just before the 1 1/2 min is up, pour the stabilizer back into the stabilizer jug.

Its time to wash all the chemicals off of the film.  Leave the film under running water for 10 min. The water should fill up the developing tank and over flow.  Let it overflow.  Every couple of minutes dump out the water and let the tank fill back up with fresh running water.  You want to keep fresh 100 degree water pouring into the developing tank.  This final washing part of the process is very important.  10  minutes is the minimum time to wash the film.

After 10 min is up lift the film reel out of the tank and lightly shake off any remaining water.  Turn the reel clockwise until the top half of the reel comes apart from the lower half of the reel.  Now use one of the film clips and clip it onto the end of the film negative.  Some clips have small hooks on them.  You can run the hooks through the square holes running down the sides of the film. Congratulations!! by lifting up the clip, pull the film up out of the reel and you should be able to see your negative now. Clip the other film clip onto the bottom of the negative. This will act as a weight. Hang the negative up to dry in a room temperature, dust free room.  Leave the negative to dry for at least two hours.

All done!! You can now bring your negative to the camera shop and have prints made.

Happy printing!!!