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:


I Started My Own Darkroom

August 8, 2018

I started my own darkroom with the equipment I bought here

I’ve wanted to talk about one of my highlights of 2018 (the year I also got married). I bit the bullet and started my own darkroom.

Getting the Equipment

For some time I had wanted to learn how to develop film and make prints and last year I enrolled in a darkroom course. I enjoyed it all thoroughly, the hands-on process, the trial-and-error of exposure and colour and the results at the end. I came away determined to get back into a darkroom, processing my own film and experimenting with prints. But I’ve not had the opportunity since. London seems to have higher demand (and higher prices) for dark room usage than Edinburgh.

On Monday I hired a car at King’s Cross and drove the 2+ hours to Ipswich, where I bought a selection of wet- and dry-side darkroom equipment that had come up from one of my Gumtree saved searches.

The JOBO CPE-2 processing tank with which I started my own darkroom

Jobo CPE2, for processing film and prints.

I’d been looking for a reasonably priced Jobo unit, like the one above. And when the advert for one of these plus a selection of other great equipment came up, it was too good to resist.

One of my main goals when I started my own darkroom was printing

Durst M670 Colour Enlarger.

While the processing of film is my first priority, the ability to make prints at home is an exciting thought. I loved the stories Michel Gondry told about making huge prints when he was young in his childhood house in France in his Director’s Label DVD. For that matter, the scene in Ghostbusters 2 where they make prints of Vigo in the darkroom (before they become engulfed in flames) also fascinated me.

Next steps

There are many interesting items within the collection and I don’t know what they all are. I’m going to take a look at each of them over time as I add them into my process. I’ll likely blog about some in the future too. Fortunately, Michael (the previous owner) kept the majority of manuals and boxes for everything – as well as keeping it all in great condition. Google and YouTube have lots of tutorials, manuals and information available too, but I’m open to any tips or advice.

All the helpful film clips, tongs, thermometers etc. with which I started my own darkroom

Lots of publications to give me confidence when I started my own darkroom

Michael also gave me lots of magazines (some are above) and books (not pictured) he was no longer using. I think I got a bargain and can’t wait to start using the equipment.

My next step is to get chemicals and shoot at least a couple of rolls of film that I’m okay with not coming out right. This actually doesn’t sound too easy a task!

I’m delighted I started my own darkroom and I’d love to hear about your experiences and if you have any questions!