Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hand-developing C-41 at home for the first time/Week 4

As I mentioned in my last post, I made the leap and invested in C-41 and HC-110 chemistry so I could start developing all of my own film myself at home. The chemistry arrived in the mail today and after spending the evening with my family at my brother's house to celebrate my nephew's 1st birthday, I came home so excited and anxious to try it out that I've spent the past three hours mixing chemicals, shooting off a test roll of film, and developing it just to make sure I did everything right.

I realized that the HC-110 developer I bought was the concentrate, and the directions recommend making stock solution and then diluting to a working solution and it was just way too much to think about at 10pm, so I went ahead and put together the C-41 chemicals, which is what I was really itching to test anyway.

The process was far more labor-intensive than that of HC-110. Even when mixing the chemicals, the water has to be at just the right temperature for endothermic reactions and blahblahblah. I had to buy a couple more jugs tonight from B&H because it didn't even occur to me that I'd need a jug specifically for tempering water to the correct temperature for mixing or even just for each rinse during the developing process. I also bought some PhotoFlo, for reasons that I'll explain after I post the photos.

So I mixed up the chemicals and all at once, I decided I was going to shoot a test roll just to make sure I mixed everything correctly. I took a bunch of boring shots of the chemical bottles and jugs, the sink, etc. Nothing special at all, just something to test.

I am still a wizard in a black bag. I had that film on the reel in no time.

I ran through the process and it actually wasn't too bad. There were a few surprises in there; for example, the kit I used integrates the bleach and fix steps into what is known as "Blix" so that you have one less step during development. I poured that into my tank and it was wine red, which I was not expecting at all, since fixer for B&W film is clear or light brown. Also, my stabilizer poured in clear, but came out pink. I frantically Googled to make sure I didn't do anything wrong and it's apparently normal, so that was a relief.

I pulled my film out when it was all finished and was a little worried; it was a little dark and the film looked a little flat, like I had perhaps underdeveloped somehow. I let the film dry and scanned it in, and surprisingly, it actually looks pretty darn good, especially for my first time.

This was shot on expired Fujicolor Press 800, one of my least favorite films. It never gets good colors and the grain is always outrageous, even for a higher speed film. I'm guessing perhaps the negatives were a little worrisome because this just isn't a very high-quality film.

Anyway, here are the shots of me documenting my first step into C-41 development :)

I ordered PhotoFlo tonight because the stabilizer in the kit I used apparently doesn't have a wetting agent, which is why there are drying spots all over all of the photos. Everyone online says to put just a tiny bit of PhotoFlo into the stabilizer and drying spots shouldn't happen.

I was anxious all weekend to see how this would turn out and I am so pleased to say that I am capable of developing all of my own film. I had developed my own B&W for years in high school and I had always wanted to try doing color, and this is an extremely fulfilling moment for me. I think this is a very big step as a photographer. I am now completely, 100% responsible for every single aspect of my film, from what kind I buy to the shooting to the development to the scanning. It is all entirely me and I think that's pretty darn cool.

This is not my 52 weeks film so I'll be posting again later this week :)


  1. I wish I had the ability to develop at home :)
    At uni they've only just introduced the chemicals for colour, is it that different from developing from black and white?

    1. It's not all that different. When B&W is develop/(sometimes stop)/fix/hypo, color is develop/bleach/fix/stabilize. The biggest difference, really, is temperature. HC-110 can be mixed up pretty effectively just at room temperature or with pretty lax temperature control, whereas C-41 requires pretty precise temperatures for much of the process. It's not much more difficult, but it is more involved than B&W.