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How to Develop Film in a Darkroom

The invention of the digital camera has made it possible for the world to take photographs without having to develop them in a darkroom. That doesn't mean that the discipline of photo developing should be lost forever; there is a certain satisfaction to watching your photos form on a sheet of photographic paper. Besides, you never know when you'll stumble across an old canister of film and want to have it developed. You will quickly find that the experience of developing your own film will make your home photos even more special.

How to Develop Film in a Darkroom

Find a room that can be used as a darkroom. Most people with an at-home darkroom choose to use a closet or a bathroom. The best darkrooms are ones that aren’t against an exterior wall of your home. They shouldn’t have any windows, and the door should fit tightly into the door frame. The size of the darkroom isn’t important; what is critical is that you are able to block all light from entering the room. The best darkrooms have locks that can be locked from the inside. If you don’t have a lock, make sure you post a sign that forbids people from entering the room while you are developing your photos.

Install some lights so you can see what you are doing. The light bulbs you install in your darkroom need to be red. 15-watt bulbs usually work the best.

Make sure your developing tank is clean. Fill it with developing chemicals.

Load your film onto your spool, first making sure all light (except your red light) is off. The best way to load the film is to attach one end of the roll to the opening of the spool. Once the end is inserted, you can continue feeding the film to the spool by twisting the spool reel back and forth. Be very careful to handle only the edges of the film.

Presoaking your film is the next step in the developing process. Fill your developing tank with water and submerge the film. Allow it to soak for a minute before emptying the tank. Don’t be alarmed if the water turns blue or green; this is caused by dyes seeping out of the film’s paper backing.

Consult the Massive Development Chart (see Resources) and learn how long the film you’re developing needs to be kept in the chemicals.

Dilute your developing chemicals according to the Massive Development Chart.

Pour the developing chemicals into your developing tank. You only need enough to completely submerge your film. Cover your developing tank with the push cap. When the cover is in place, gently agitate the film for 10 seconds for each minute the film has to soak in the tank. Don’t forget to set your timer so you don't over-soak your film.

Hold your film under a gentle flow of water to remove any chemical residue, splotches and fingerprints.

Hang your film on a line and allow it to dry.

Once your film has dried, you will need to enlarge your photographs onto photographic paper.