Developing Colour C-41 Film At Home

March 28, 2019

developing colour C-41 film at home - the hanging proof!

I was apprehensive about developing rolls of film by myself, for fear that I’d make mistakes and ruin shoots. This is especially when I’m collaborating with others or getting paid. But I’ve come to love developing colour C-41 film at home, so I thought I’d share some of my experiences.

Turns out, I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. But it’s been helpful and necessary for me to improve my skills and troubleshoot problems. The last 20-odd rolls I’ve processed have been perfect and I’ve refined the system to a place where I’m very confident.

The top image* shows my current hanging strategy which works great, despite not being the ideal setup. The ideal would be an expensive and space-consuming drying unit like this.

*This image is dirty and not a good example of processing!

developing colour C-41 film at home produces a lot of empty 120 spools

Technical & Chemicals

I’m currently using Tetenal Colortec C41 (2.5l Kit) for developing colour C-41 film at home. I’ll exhaust what I have (I’m on my second box of it) and move onto Fuji Press 5l kit. The Tetenal has done me well, but I’d like to separate the BLIX into bleach and fix stages, as I’ve been given a lot of advice that this is a better method, with less chance of issues.

Getting the film rolls loaded onto reels in a dark-bag took me some practice. At first it could work quickly or could take me up to 40 minutes to load one reel. Now it takes me a couple of minutes to do it properly. I did try double-loading reels with 120 film but that caused some of my biggest problems, with films overlapping (overlapped areas didn’t come out at all).

I use my JOBO CPE-2 – that I bought last year with all the darkroom gear – to process. I’ve worked out the niggles of broken bits, lids popping off and spilling chemicals during rotation and getting a good temperature.

I’ll probably blog more about developing colour C-41 film at home in the future – especially the one big issue that almost put me off altogether. I’ve also started to look forward to making my own prints at home using RA-4 and the enlarger kit I got. I tested all the equipment over the past week so watch this space on that too.


In the meantime, here are some examples of images I’ve developed at home recently:


Monday 10th September 2018

September 10, 2018

Koh Samui, 2015 (Canon T70)

The photograph above is a shot of a pond reflecting the trees on a backstreet of Koh Samui, flipped upside-down.

The weather is noticeably changing and the light is disappearing earlier each day. I’m sad to see the back of summer but there’s something about the autumnal atmosphere that I love.

This weekend I’ve been working on a book of my photographs, with writing and notes. A single prototype copy is being printed just now and I’ll have it in a few days. In it, I try to be honest about my work, my process and where I am in my career (not far). I’m not sure what to do with it yet but I’m hoping to use it as an introduction to my work, hopefully to get jobs in the near future.

I don’t find self-promotion easy and feel like I should be reaching out to magazines and companies much more than I currently am (not much).

As for my home darkroom equipment, I’ve ordered chemicals and a dark bag (for loading film onto reels to be developed), so I’m getting close to starting this process – exciting!

We’re also heading up to Scotland at the end of the week, so I’m looking forward to seeing the family and having a (not long) mini break.

Hope you all have a fab week.


Sunday August 5th 2018

August 5, 2018

The end of a picnic day, Clissold Park. Canon T70 / Portra 400.

Hello pals, I thought I’d post a summary update today and focus on certain things in the coming week.

  • The picture above was from the start of May; it just goes to show how long and hot this summer has been in London! The blue marks and scratches on the image are from the rough treatment which the film received after processing. I thought I’d try out a local ‘lab’ for processing, a shop where you can also get portraits taken and buy tacky photo frames, as it was a quick, personal roll. I didn’t expect them to cut the film properly but it turned out they didn’t cut it at all, they just rolled it up and stuffed it into a 35mm film canister. I’m glad I didn’t give them anything important – and i actually don’t mind the mistakes on this one.
  • We’re having a relaxed Sunday today, it’s the start of the Scottish football season and Becky and I are planning on getting the rooftop BBQ going this afternoon for a trial run.
  • For some time, I’ve wanted to do my own film processing and printing. Last year I did a fantastic darkroom course at Stills in Edinburgh, tutored by Caroline Douglas, where I got some hands-on experience in developing my film, printing contact sheets and making final prints. I’ve been eager to do more, but have unfortunately just been dropping all my film rolls off for processing and getting others to make prints for time-saving and ease. Tomorrow, I’ve booked a rental car to drive a couple of hours north of London to buy a collection of darkroom equipment and I’m exited. I’ll write about what I get and what I’m doing as I go along.
  • Yesterday, photographer Lachlan Bailey posted an instagram story about how he got started in the industry and the mental health issues he faced. I really appreciated it and you might too – he has it saved as a ‘highlight’ on his profile.
  • For the next couple of weeks I will also be babysitting mother and will update on that too.
  • Finally for today, I started running again yesterday – a nice, leisurely 7k – which felt good and I’m looking forward to carrying it on and trying to get back to run fitness so I can enter races again in the future.

I hope you’re having a nice weekend!