I started developing Black and White film back in January, but the low cost of developing colour film and hearing about its complexity stopped me from doing it. As I’ve been living at home this summer, I haven’t been able to get to my usual lab and I’ve had a few problems with my local lab so I’ve started to process C41 film.
For this tutorial, I will be using the Rollei C41 Colorchem kit as it was the cheapest I could get that produced results I liked (I checked on Flickr, Flickr groups are a great way of seeing the results of different films and developers). The kit I got makes 1 litre of chemicals so I mixed halves, as it only lasts 8 weeks once mixed. I used new syringes for each chemical to avoid cross contamination when measuring them out as per the instructions in the kit.
It is advisable to use distilled water for mixing the chemicals as it keeps them as pure as possible, you also have to store them in air-tight and light-tight containers so they keep as well as possible. Each kit is different but mine will do 8 rolls of 36 exposure 35mm film rolls per 500ml of developer/blix. When deciding on what kit to get make sure to find all these details out beforehand and see what will suit you best as they are all very different.
Once you’ve shot a roll of film and want to develop it you have to get it from the canister into a development tank. I do this in a ‘dark bag’ as I don’t have a darkroom, I break the film canister open with a screwdriver and then roll the film onto a reel to put in my development tank. If you’re new to developing I advise trying it with a dummy roll in the light first, doing it without being able to see what you’re doing in a restricting bag takes practise!
Unlike Black and White developing which one does at 20 degrees, C41 needs to be done at 38 degrees for optimum results. I heat mine in a basin full of hot water and remove them once they hit the correct temperature. The development times are short (3-4 mins) so the temperature doesn’t get much of a chance to drop, just be sure they’re accurate when you start and the development should go fine, aquarium heaters and keeping the development tank in warm water are just overkill.
Once the chemicals are up to temperature it’s time to actually run the film through the chemicals. Each kit is different and with Rollei Colorchem you compensate for the age of the developer when developing so each roll has a slightly different development time. The instructions in kits are very detailed though so don’t panic, just follow the times they say and you can’t go wrong.
Once developed you can remove your film from the tank and inspect the negatives, you can get a good idea of how well the development went straight away. It’s then time to dry them, many people heat them to dry them quicker but hanging and weighting the negatives is the best way to keep them from curling. I also squeegee them with a squeegee dampened with stabiliser from the development kit to speed up the process.
So, that’s it, you have your negatives. Just be sure to keep track of how many times you’ve used your chemicals and when you mixed them so you can adjust development times appropriately and know when to throw them out.
Overall I’ve had great success with Colour film, I’ve developed five rolls now and never had any issues, all the photos I’ve used in this post I developed so you can judge the colours for yourself. It’s always painted to be such a difficult task online and it really isn’t, in saying that I’ve only been developing €1.50 AGFA Vista so far, any professional films I’ve been sending to my original lab in Dubin but I hope to do more myself in the future.