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Thread: Newbie Question - Should I develop film myself or send it to a lab?

  1. #1

    Question Newbie Question - Should I develop film myself or send it to a lab?

    I recently acquired a Cambo SC2, and I'm looking forward to getting into the world of large format photography! I've had lots of questions and several of the answers were found on this forum. There is something I couldn't find much information about, though.

    In y'all's experience, is it more cost-efficient, consistent, and less risky to develop film yourself or to send it to a lab? For now, I'm planning to go to a local lab, but I'd like to develop film myself someday depending on how serious I get about LF and on future finances. The local lab develops 4x5 for $5 a sheet for B/W and C-41 (not sure if that's a good deal or not), and I will have my own scanner for when I get the negatives back.

    Any thoughts, experiences, and tips are appreciated!

  2. #2

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    Re: Newbie Question - Should I develop film myself or send it to a lab?

    -For $5 you can develop several sheets of film. There is no better time than now to learn to develop your own film. Will te 1st ones be perfect? Maybe not, but they will be yours.
    I don't know where you are, but get yourself some HC110, which is a liquid film developer. Dilute a small amount to Dilutions "B" as indicate on the bottle. A total of 32 ounces after dilution will probably be plenty. Also buy some "Quick" fix, by whatever name. Follow directions for diluting a small amount of this. It can be reused, the developer can not. Sheet film can be developed in trays whether or not they are designed for photography. I learned years ago using my mother's pyrex dishes.
    There are plenty of "How to's" on You Tube. Use the simplest one you find.
    Welcome to the wonderful world of Large format photography. Have fun!!!

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    Re: Newbie Question - Should I develop film myself or send it to a lab?

    I sent all of my film out to a lab until a couple of years ago. Itís convenient but expensive. Now I only send color film to a lab. Developing B&W film is actually easy. There is an initial investment needed and after that it is quite an affordable endeavor. I use a Stearman 4-sheet tank, four 500ml beakers, and a couple of recycled gallon jugs for water. Changing bag to transfer film fin to holders and from holders to developing tank holders. All else in daylight. A timer is needed... and some way to hang the film to dry. Beyond that... chemistry. I shoot FP-4+ mostly so use ilford chemistry. One shot. Ilford (and others) have educational material on the basics. Easy, fun, and very satisfying.

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    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie Question - Should I develop film myself or send it to a lab?

    DIY it is actually easy

    refinement to perfection is the hard part

    and the fun part

    Life is short. do it now
    Images vastly preferred

    not game trying to


    focus


    In Time

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    Re: Newbie Question - Should I develop film myself or send it to a lab?

    If you have a watch or electronic phone that displays the time, that can be your timer; you need nothing fancy for film developing in that respect, if you are developing in a daylight tank. If developing in trays, which must be done in complete darkness, a mechanical timer or similar will do it. Time your developer and complete it when the timer dings or whatever. Stop and Fix can be approximated by counting seconds if necessary. If using a rapid-fix solution for the fixer, you can turn the lights on after half the fix time is up.
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
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    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie Question - Should I develop film myself or send it to a lab?

    I have counted seconds silently for all steps, when I didn't have a timer

    The trick is to just start doing it

    You will make mistakes

    Practice makes perfect

    is something I was told long ago

    A towel against the bathroom door will stop light

    Bathtubs work

    I have used an enlarger on the sink or toilet
    Images vastly preferred

    not game trying to


    focus


    In Time

  7. #7
    Benjamin's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie Question - Should I develop film myself or send it to a lab?

    Start by doing the black & white yourself.

    It's not a huge investment: a few plastic graduates, a measuring syringe, a beaker, a development tank for 4x5 (I use the Stearman SP-445). No need for a dark room, a changing bag or tent will do. The rest is chemistry - a bottle of highly concentrated developer like Rodinal, HC110 or Ilfotec HC wil last you quite a while + stop + fix + wetting agent.

    I use two apps, Lab Timer and Massive Dev Chart. (I also have The Unofficial HC 110 Helper app on my phone but haven't tried it yet.)

    It's not just that you'll end up saving money, it's that you'll learn to experiment and develop the photos the way you like them. I don't mind sending my colour photographs to the lab, but I've never been quite satisfied with the way some have handled my B&W.

  8. #8

    Re: Newbie Question - Should I develop film myself or send it to a lab?

    Thank you guys for the advice! I will watch videos and look into setting up a darkroom or getting a changing bag, and the equipment/chemicals needed. I found a development canister and 6-sheet drum to develop in that looks good.

    I figure that there are a lot of video/written tutorials out there, are there any that are particularly good that you'd recommend?

    Sightly off topic, but how do home scans compare to professional lab scans?

  9. #9
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    Re: Newbie Question - Should I develop film myself or send it to a lab?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gingikinz View Post
    Sightly off topic, but how do home scans compare to professional lab scans?
    There are many, many threads about scanning in the Digital Hardware and Digital Processing subforums. Please read those and follow up there if you have questions.

  10. #10
    Steven Ruttenberg's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie Question - Should I develop film myself or send it to a lab?

    Develop your. Do everything from start to finish. But film, load film, take shot, develop, scan, etc.

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