You might think this should go under photography. You would be wrong. Incredibly wrong. With the advent of digital photography, it is nice to go back and experience how things used to be. Not merely for the sake of hipsterism, or reminiscing, but it helps your shot composing, and it's a ton of fun (and not too expensive).
- Film - Films tried and true by the LJCK Staff are:
- Kodak Tri-X 400 - Processes very nicely but the margins of the film tend to come out darker than other films. This is often a problem when using automatic slide/film scanners (e.g. Nikon Coolscan V) which rely on the margins to know when a given frame begins or ends
- Kodak TMax 100 - Simply put, it's incredible film. Cheap, easy to process cleanly, scans/enlarges great, and super crisp. Sure it's only ISO100, but it's probably the best ISO100 you can get for $0.15 an exposure.
- Fomapan 100 - Cheap, but looks good.
- Ilford Delta Pro 100 - A bit on the pricey side ($8/36exp) but worth every penny. Very flexible and provides beautiful results.
- Camera - Doesn't really matter. What matters is if it's , , 4×5, etc. We've got experience with a variety of Nikons (F, F4s, N2000, F80), Minolta 7000, and a Konica MN-1.
- Development Items
- Dark Room1)
- Developer - Ilfosol 3 - $8.50 buys you enough developer for more than 50 rolls! (that's like, 2000 photographs.) Note : the developer will go bad after a few months if exposed to oxygen (i.e. half-empty container). It's recommended to try to use as much as possible at a time. The powdered D 76 might be better for this.
- Fixer - Ilford Rapid Fixer - $10/L, lasts an incredibly long time as it can be reused, and is mostly cut with water.
- Wetting Agent - Anything will do. As long as it lowers the surface tension of water and doesn't mess with the film chemistry, that is. HCl, for example, will not work.
- Lately, we've been using Photographer's Formulary, a strange 3rd party 2-part developer that we've found works extremely well.
Using a Film Camera
For the most part, you use a film camera in the same way that you use a digital camera - point the lens in the appropriate direction and press the button. The main exception being that with film, there is no instant feedback - you have to either develop the film yourself or take it to a lab to be developed and either scanned or printed. Similarly, there's less flexibility for taking “bad” pictures, because you can't delete a frame from film once it's been exposed. Some people believe this helps us become “better photographers” because it forces individuals to be more mindful of what they're shooting. That said, I've seen a lot of bad pictures taken on film.
Almost every film/developer combination has a different time required for development. Use this database to determine how much time is needed to process film with your specific film and developer combination.
Our methodologies for developing film are incredibly simple, and often crude. That said, we have developed over 70 rolls (to date) very successfully. There are some moments, however, when precision is necessary - timing especially. Your own practice and judgement will be necessary to figure this out, as everyone does it differently.
The first step is developing film is obvious: get the raw film out of the canister and into a lightproof tank where it can be developed. This requires four things: a change bag, scissors, a good bottle opener, and a developing tank. 2) Actually getting the film from the canister into the tank is very tricky because it must be done in complete darkness, as any extra exposure to light can destroy the emulsions. This is where the change bag comes in; most people don't have access to an entirely lightproof room, so some smart people developed a double walled nylon bag with arm holes. it's bes tot have a few practice rolls of film to work with before using “real” film, since everything you'll be doing must be completely entirely by feel, and can be a pretty tough task even when you can see what you're doing. Essentially, you're using the bottle opener to pry off one of the ends of the film canister, then you very carefully remove the spool of film and feed out a few inches to cut off the oddly-shaped tab, then you feed the squared off edge of film into the reel which then must be ratcheted back and forth to take up the film off the spool. Once all the film is fed over, the remainder must be cut from the spool, and the reel is loaded into the developing tank.
At this point you can pull your arms out of the bag and relax for a few minutes. The film is fine within the lightproof tank. I consider myself to be fairly skilled at this procedure and am capable of doing it in about one or two minutes per roll.
Some people like to “pre-wet” the film at this point by filling the tank with water of the proper temperature (usually 20°C) and letting it soak for a few minutes before developing. I have done this perhaps five times total and have yet to notice any difference in the quality of the finished product, so whether or not you want to is entirely up to you. I suggest you try it at least a few times to see if you notice any differences. If you do, let me know!
Now, after the film is loaded into the tank is has or has not been pre-wetted, the film is developed. First, know what developer you're going to use, and at what ratio you're going to mix it. I've always used Ilfosol 3 mixed at a 1:14 ratio. My developing tank calls for 293mL when developing one roll of 35mm film. At the 1:14 ratio, this calls for ~21mL developer. I use a very small (100mL) beaker to measure this amount, and I mix it with 20°C tap water into a graduated pitcher to a total volume of 293mL, or just about 10 fl oz. To insure proper temperature, I use an infrared thermometer. I used to use a mercury lab thermometer, but the infrared thermometer is 1) just as accurate, 2) much faster, 3) much less fragile. Before pouring the mixture into the developing tank, I set a timer for the required time (as mandated by the development Chart, linked above) on the microwave or a watch. Then I simultaneously pour the mixture into the tank and start the timer. The first 30 seconds should be constant agitation and smacking the tank against a solid surface to make sure no bubbles form on the film, which can ruin emulsions. The film should then be agitated about 10 seconds every minute until it's done.
In the mean time, you can prepare a stop bath. Many of my rolls of film were developed without ever using a stop bath, but the chemicals are very inexpensive and last a long time, so recently I decided there was no reason not to use it. If you chose not to use a stop bath, vigorously rinse the film (sealed in the tank) several times after pouring out the developer. If you do use a stop bath, mix it to the proper proportions (marked on the bottle) and pour about 12fl oz, in my case anyway, into the graduated pitcher. When the development timer beeps, pour the tank out into a sink and quickly pour in the stop bath. Agitate constantly for about 30 seconds, then return the stop bath to the pitcher and its storage bottle. This will have completely halted the development process, and you can rinse the film in the tank a few times with tap water to clean off the stop bath.
The last thing to do before opening the tank is to fix the development to the surface of the film. This is completed with the aptly named fixing solution, also mixed to the proportions marked on the bottle, and can also be reused many times. I usually fix my film for about 15 minutes, agitating regularly. When this is done, you can finally open the tank and look at your film. The fixer can be poured back into its storage bottle, and you can begin the final stage of rinsing. This stage is the most important, as you want to remove absolutely everything from the surface of the film but the emulsion itself. As intense a rinse as possible is a good idea: five minutes under a full-on bathtub faucet works well for me. When that's done, you can add the final chemical to the water in the tank, the wetting agent, let that sit for about 30 seconds, then hang the film up to dry. It is important to have enough weight on the bottom end of the film, or else when it dries it will curl, and that is incredibly aggravating to deal with.
When the film is completely dry (takes several hours in a room with average humidity) you can cut it and load it into film archival pages. At this point the film is ready to be digitized or enlarged.
See our page on scanning film for more information on digitizing.