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Developing Color Film Is a Lot Easier Than You Think

I enjoy shooting film from time to time. I like the process, the feel, and the whole "specialness" of it. Up until somewhat recently, I was afraid to develop myself, but this video from fantastic channel Eduardo Pavez Goye shows that developing film is a lot less scary than you may think.

When developing film, especially color film, we are told that your chemicals need to be within one degree or it won't work, or that if you don't get everything absolutely bang on with the right tools, it will ruin your roll. However, in this video from Eduardo Pavez Goye, he challenges that advice by developing some rolls of film just by guessing. No measuring his chemicals, no measuring his temperature, all he measured was time (he's not a madman!).

As you can see, all those statements we hear that color development is hard and you have be totally precise are not exactly true. Your temperature can be good enough, the amount of chemicals you use can be close enough: the big thing here is your order of operations and time. 

Now, if you want your results to be identical from batch of film to batch of film, you need things to be a bit more scientifically accurate, but as this video shows, if you're just playing with film and doing it simply for the fun of it, you can afford to be a bit more loosey-goosey with the formula. 

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michaeljin's picture

It's only difficult if you care about silly little things like consistent or predictable results... 🙄

Spy Black's picture

It was kinda seat of the pants both ways because there were no measurement reference like a McBeth chart in a properly exposed frame and it appears to be late afternoon where the sunlight's color temperature is shifting faster between the rolls than around noon where the temperature would be more consistent. It's relatively easy to have more consistent hand agitation, inasmuch as there was a deliberate attempt at not doing that. Pre-wetting time seemed insanely long, typically no more than 30-60 seconds is needed. It's a film emulsion, not a bed mattress. That mechanical processing device is something only a Brooklyn hipster could love and feel a need for.

Robert Escue's picture

And the results would vary widely based on how you agitate.When I supervised film processing (large tank) the difference between a coworker and me when it came to processing black and white film by hand was a paper grade in contrast. Processing color by hand is no different and I would only use a machine if I had 10 or more rolls of film to process.

Spy Black's picture

"And the results would vary widely based on how you agitate."

Depends. I would time my agitation intervals, and the interval time itself. If you do it regularly your agitation technique becomes consistant. In the late 70s I worked in a "cat house" with a manual E6 processor. The processor was able to maintain target color and density as good, or better, than any dip-n-dunk or roller transport unit. ;-)

Roger Botting's picture

If you have time and money to waste why should you care how you process your film. Or even bother to shoot it in the first place.
The more care you put into the film processing the less likely you are in having to do salvage work to get anything usable from the mess you had just created.
What would i know? Only 40 years of darkroom experience having processed thousands of rolls of film and thousands of prints.

Kirk Darling's picture

"If you have time and money to waste why should you care how you process your film. Or even bother to shoot it in the first place."

I kinda needed to repeat that.

Yeah, if you don't care about the results, why even bother to shoot film in the first place?

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Next time may be we should compare car painting in a booth with the right tools and primer VS spray can and no prep.

Brandon Hopkins's picture

Every fstoppers post on film gets so much hate now. Why don't you guys commenting just skip these articles if you hate film so much?