How to Develop Film


It’s the digital age and almost all media now can be stored straight to our devices but for those who want old fashioned physical copies of photos, it’s always great to know how to develop film. Of course, to do this, you would have to use the traditional film camera and not the digital point and shoot ones.

There are countless benefits of using digital cameras that’s why we have progressed into this not so new technology. You can also acquire physical copies of photos using a polaroid camera. But in some instances, there are advantages to film cameras and film photos that can never be replicated by digital ones.

Let us take a look at some of the things you need and other useful information about this not so distant past of media before we learn how to develop film.

What’s A Film Camera?

In order to learn how to develop film, you must first need to know the tools that you need to have an actual film photo. As mentioned, you cannot use your digital camera to have a physical film photo. So what kind of camera do you need?

A film camera is a camera that exposes the photographic film to light in order for it to take pictures. It has been used since the late 1800s. The film inside the camera is a chemical emulsion on a plastic substrate and it is sensitive to light. When this film is exposed, it creates an analogous image of the scene within the chemical layer. In this way, a film camera is an analog camera.

Advantages of Film Photography

Since you want to know how to develop film, it’s good to know the advantages of it as compared to digital ones.

  • It costs lower initially than a digital camera.
  • The film delivers high dynamic range so that it is better at capturing detail in blacks and whites. So this is great if you are trying to go for a noncolor photo.
  • Minor focusing issues do not affect film’s photograph so much so you may not be a professional and still take well-focused and decent photos.
  • The film offers higher resolution usually than most digital cameras.
  • You would have to think before capturing your subject when using a film camera as compared to taking digital photos where you can just shoot as many times as you want. This could be a disadvantage but when it comes to having photography skills, it’s a great training ground.

Disadvantages of Film Photography

Now, what are its disadvantages as you try to learn how to develop film?

  • Film cameras can be really heavy compared to similar digital cameras, and digital cameras now come in miniature sizes that you can even put in your pocket.
  • You have limited film storage and it takes up a lot of space, physically.
  • The development of film is a continuing cost so you may not have high upfront cost but it has continuing costs associated with it in the long run.
  • You have to develop the film before viewing it so you may end up with poor photos.
  • You would need a dark room to how to develop film or depend on a lab.

How to Develop Film?

So this is assuming of course, that you do not have a professional lab for how to develop film. These are what you need to do to develop the film at home or in a small office.

  • Tools

    You would need the following tools.

    Chemicals: You can buy developing chemicals from a camera shop. You can get a press kit or a C4-1 three chemical powder kit.

    Containers: You would need three chemical containers that have one-gallon capacity. Label the containers Developer, Blix, and Stabilizer. It is important not to mix them together.

    Development Tank: You can purchase a development tank so you won’t need to use a dark room to how to develop film. The development tank has a cup, a top, and a reel.

    Changing Bag: You need to buy a changing bag from a camera store. It’s a heavy bag with two sleeves and a zipper. Or you can use a room with minimal to no windows.

  • Developer

    To mix and dilute the developer, use a plastic measuring cup and fill it with tap water at 110 degrees. Fill it up to 800ml. Pour the contents of the developer pouch from the kit and mix it well. Then add more water to make it 1000ml. Transfer it to your chemical container once dissolved.

  • Blix

    Mix the Blix by filling your mixing pitcher with same 110 degrees water up to 800ml. Pour the Blix pouch from the kit into the pitcher and mix well. Add more water to make it 1000ml solution. Again, transfer the mix to your chemical container with the label Blix.

  • Stabilizer

    For the stabilizer, you would need to use room temperature water. Fill your pitcher up to 900ml and mix the Stabilizer pouch from the kit. Add more water to make it 1000ml. Then transfer the contents to your container. These are the essential chemicals on how to develop film.

  • Load Your Film

    Remove your film from its canister and go to your dark room or put your hands in the changing bag. Use the bottle opener to remove the lid and pull the film out of the canister but remember to only touch the edges of the film negative.

    Cut the film from the spool at the base of the spool. You should also cut the tip of the film so you have a square edge.

    Then spool the film onto the reel that’s included in the development tank. Feed the film into the outer edge of the spool from the start of the spiral. Once it’s in, twist the sides of the reel back and forth and keep feeding the film into the spool. Do this until it is all in.

    Now you can load the reel into the development tank and close it tightly. Once it’s secured, you can turn the lights on or take it out of the changing bag. These are the first steps on how to develop film.

  • Develop the Film

    Now for the actual process of how to develop film, you need to soak the developer and Blix containers in warm water. It should be 102 degrees.

    Pour the Developer into the development tank until it is level with the opening lid then agitate the tank for 15 seconds. Swirl the tank around and flip it gently 4 times every 30 seconds. Pop bubbles that form by tapping the tank gently on the edge of the sink. This process should take 3 ½ minutes.

    Then pour the Blix into the tank and agitate again for 15 seconds. Cover it. Flip the tank 4 times and no need to tap it. Then pour the Blix back into its container at 6:25.

  • Wash the Film

    After you pour the Blix, you need to wash the film by filling the tank with tap water at 95 to 100 degrees. Agitate it again for a couple of seconds. Leave it soaking for up to 3 minutes.

  • Pour the Stabilizer

    Now that you’ve washed the film, you are almost done in the process of how to develop film. Pour the Stabilizer into the tank and agitate for 15 seconds. Leave it for a minute then pour the Stabilizer back into its container.

  • Dry the Film

    For the last part of how to develop film, take the film out of the tank and reels. Pull the film gently off the reels.

    Remove excess water with a sponge or squeegee. Do not let anything else touch the film to avoid damage. Hang it to dry by clipping it to a string. You can use clothespins or film hanger clips.

Let the film dry at room temperature for two hours then you can cut it and store it however you like. That is the last process in how to develop film. For shooting digital videos, here is a quick and easy guide on how to shoot 360 video. Also, you may want to check out our take on the best camera strap and best mirrorless camera available in the market today.