Developing Color Negative (C-41) Film at Home

Developing film is every bit as awkward and tedious as it seems if you haven’t done it before, but after a few rolls you realize it’s nothing more than following a recipe. The chemistry sat on my shelf for 6 months before I had the courage to try it, but after my first roll I was hooked. The upfront costs are between $100-$150 depending on what you have already, but it’s totally worth it.

Everything needed to develop color negative film.

The minimum needed to develop C-41 film is as follows.

  • Developing tank (I use the Patterson tank but am making the transition to stainless steel)
  • Film cassette opener tool
    • Once you start developing, you’ll probably start shooting more film, which means you’ll be developing more, which means you’ll be opening a lot of film canisters. I tried bottle openers but had no luck getting the canisters open, so this tool was absolutely worth the $13.
  • Scissors 
    • To cut the leader off of your film when loading it onto the tank reel.
  • Darkroom bag
    • Bought on Amazon, mine is 23.6” x 21.6”. After using it 100 times or so I wish I had a bigger one. I recommend getting a larger size, because you need to fit the developing tank, scissors, film canister opener, and film in it while you’re removing the film from the film canister. This is where you’ll be getting the film from the film canister into the development tank, so you want plenty of room to move around.
  • (3) 1 liter bottles 
    • I use dark amber glass bottles which can be easily found on Amazon. I’ve read that these are ideal because they provide the best protection against air and light, but plastic containers, preferably opaque, also work. 
  • Unicolor C-41 developing kit 
    • I buy mine on eBay or FPP. This comes with all the chemicals you’ll need to develop C-41 film.
  • Thermometer  
    • Mine is a cheap analog one. A digital one is better, but anything works as long as it’s accurate.
  • Funnel
    • For pouring your chemistry back into the bottle.
When not in use, everything fits in a small IKEA box.

Optional:

  • Kodak Photo-Flo
    • This is highly recommended if you want to remove water spots. I learned the hard way that it’s nearly impossible to remove water spots after the fact.
  • Distilled water
    • I use this as my final rinse mixed with Photo-Flo. I’ve also used water filtered through a Brita filter with similar results. Distilled water seems to be slightly better at reducing water spots though.

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