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How To Develop Film

How To Develop Film: Film development can be likened to the process of darkroom redeveloping. It is the chemical process that is used to convert a latent image into a visible image.


  • Film cameras and their components
  • The film camera is a type of camera that captures images on photographic film. Photographic film has been replaced by digital equivalents in the 21st century.
  • The earliest form of these devices were known as “cameras obscura”. Film development is the process of developing film into negatives or slides. Films are developed in darkrooms or in some cases, on pieces of specialized equipment called processors.

What is film developing?

Film developing is the process of developing a piece of photographic film into negatives or transparencies. Film develops as chemical compounds migrate during development and react to produce an image-forming layer (the latent image). Film developing, or film processing, is the chemical and photographic stage of filmmaking that follows the photochemical production of a latent image on a strip of film. It involves two major steps: first, exposing the sensitized film to light for a short time; and second, developing the exposed film with chemicals to create an invisible latent image that can be chemically “developed” into a visible photograph.

Installing the chemicals

This is the most delicate step in the process. The developer, stop bath, and fixer must be mixed in the right proportions to avoid any damage to the film. If you make a mistake, there is no way to correct it without starting over.

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The chemicals are poured into the tank using graduated cylinders great for measuring small amounts of liquid. There are a number of chemicals that need to be mixed together before the developing process begins.

It’s important to be careful during the installation so as not to spill any of the chemicals and ruin the developing process. First, pour each chemical into its designated area, making sure to stir as you go so as to avoid accidents.
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Loading the film onto reels

Make sure the leader of the film is not too close to the reel or it may tear when being wound on. Never load 120 or 220 length film onto a 135 size reel. Carefully wind the film so that it does not overlap onto itself for this can lead to an uneven, light leak-prone result.

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In a nutshell, you can choose from doing it yourself, or have a lab develop the negatives. Of course, the latter is more expensive and not always accessible. What I’ve found to be most convenient is having a mail order service develop my negatives for me.

The Development Process

Film development is a drawn-out process that takes anywhere from one to eight hours. The film has to be immersed in the developer for the appropriate time, then rinsed and soaked in the stop bath to bring it back to its original non-exposed state. Finally, it is developed again before being fixed with the fixer.

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Film developing as a hobby as opposed to as a full time occupation

A lot of people know that developing film is expensive and time consuming, but with the right education and expectations, film developing can be done as a hobby without too much hassle. Film development is not for everyone because it’s an art, not just a science.


Developing film is a fun and easy way to create some really amazing, unique photographs. If you’re interested in learning how to use this equipment, then follow the steps outlined here.



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