Sunday, July 15, 2007

Color...DIY Style

One of the reasons I haven't shot a lot of color in the past is the processing costs. I don't like paying $4-$6 just to have a roll of film developed. I develop my own black and white (my half a darkroom), and this article by Alspix opened my eyes to new worlds of possibilities for color film. I have bunches of expired color 120 (C-41 and E-6), and what better film to experiment with than already "possibly" messed up film?! So I purchased the Nova Prospeed C-41 kit from Nova Darkroom, a UK photography supplier. This is advertised as a 1 litre "press" kit for the traveling photographer.
I received it, followed the directions for end up with two bottles: color developer and blix (a bleach/fix chemical).
Before I go any further...yes, I know I'm not going to get color accurate prints from this developer. I'm not looking for Walgreen's prints. I'm looking for whatever the hell I can get out of this stuff and to have a little fun! If the color is waaay off, more power to it. And, don't look to this article if you want to know how well it develops your Kodak Gold 35mm film, because all the film I use is outdated and usually has odd ISO ebay film, in other words. And, I also use odd cameras.
Okay, so a few "rules". Temperature. The toughest part, or at least the part that scares of most folks, is the temp requirements for developing color. The optimum temperature is between 34 and 41 celsius. For those like me, that means between 93.2 and 105.8 fahrenheit. In comparison, BW developer is usually at 66 to 72 degrees fahrenheit. That is hot water...or hot chemicals. Here, where it is hot most of the time, my chemicals sit at around 84F, so I don't have all that far to go for optimum temps. For my BW developer, I add refrigerated water. This color developer has to be used straight out of the bottle. Easy solution: I throw the bottles in the bathtub under the hot tap while I roll my film onto the reel. By the time I'm done, the chemicals sit at around 36-38 celsius, or around 98 fahrenheit. The rest is really easy. I mean REALLY easy. Easier than BW developing. It's like Diafine for color. You just use the appropriate time for the developer according to the chart, usually from 3 to 4 minutes, then 3 minutes in the blix, then wash with water. That's it! I use a photoflo, too, to avoid spots. Hang and dry. You are done. It's really that simple.
I vaguely remember developing color when I worked for a newspaper back around 1990, but I think I just stuck it in a machine. I was getting suspicious about color developing when, about six months ago, I was getting some rolls developed at a family-owned store and they told me it would be a few days. When I went to pick it up they said they hadn't started it yet, but to come back in 15 minutes. Uhhh...I thought it was more complicated than that. Nope. So now I just do it myself.
Is there a catch? Of course, but it depends on what kind of photographer you are. If you like everything perfect, perfect color, perfect whatever, you might have some difficulty with this part, as it could get very expensive. If you are like me and wing it and push things to the limit, you'll love this part: The shelf life of open chemicals is two weeks and develops 12 rolls. Uhhh...for 20 bucks plus overseas shipping, and you have to have 12 rolls to develop in that time limit. Not cheap. But...they lie. That may be optimal, but how optimal is this kit, anyway? The stuff lasts a long, long time. Mine is going on three months. Alspix developed a roll from chemicals that were a year old. Check his blog for the results. Looks pretty good to me. BW developer doesn't last that long.
Okay, enough talk, right? Let's see some results. I mixed the chemicals on May 3, 2007. I developed my first roll right away, as the water was already hot. The film was Kodak Ektar 25, expired June 1993, shot through my Snappy. So the ISO was 25, which is probably the reason why contrast is so high. I guess. Not too good with all that ISO stuff, actually. This is C-41 film, so it's the correct film for the developer.

Looks good! High contrast and grain, but who know how it would have looked if it had been professionally developed.
I didn't touch it for a couple weeks, and the next roll was developed on May 23, 2007. So we are at 20 days, past the expire date of the developer, but it's only the second roll. This film was Kodak Ektachrome 200, expired September 1994, shot through a Fujipet. This is E-6 film, so it is being cross-processed in the developer.

Not bad at all. Some are kind of red-orange. Alspix talked about a yellow cast to his film. I haven't really gotten that. Don't know how much of the color shift is from the old slightly outdated chemicals and how much is the xpro.
I didn't shoot any more color rolls until July. The first was a roll of Kodak Ektachrome 50, expired July 1991. This is slide film, so I was cross processing this roll on July 14, 2007. So the developer is a little over two months old, and this is the third roll through the chemicals.

Seriously? This stuff is supposed to last two weeks? This look mighty sweet, I think. And I'm not doing any color adjusting in Photoshop at all. But wait, it gets even better. The next day I developed a roll of Kodacolor II that expired date unknown. This was 127 film I ran through my Kodak Brownie Holiday (my first roll of color through this camera). It has a slow shutter, so the shots are usually blurry. But check out that color!

Leans towards the blue, but that's pretty common with expired Kodacolor. I don't think a professional film processor could do a better job! Expired film and expired developer. Magic.
I'll keep using this developer until it actually dies...oh yeah, did I mention you don't have to throw it out like BW chemicals (well, technically within 2 weeks). Let's see how many rolls/years I can get out of this stuff. I'll keep you posted.

INCOMING: Dude, it's totally like the future and stuff! The year is like 2056. We don't use months anymore, so it's like just a year, man! I (I mean 'we'...woah!) still use that color developer! This is my 3459 roll through it! The aliens came over last night, I shot this snap of Bob. He's so gnarly. Check it out, broham. He's totally high on life. Smell me later, dude!

Okay, I'm an idiot. No probs. Until next time.


  1. very cool. definitely something i need to try with the 1984 fuji film my lab hates.

  2. LOL, you crack me up Sean! I love this stuff, I definitely have to try it, must see if it's available in Aus. Thanks for a very interesting report on your experiment into colour developing.

  3. Anonymous4:03 AM

    yeap, this stuff lasts forever. I am 30 rolls in it (I have a diff kit, but the limits were the same: 12), and only on the last two rolls I started seeing yellowing, which went away with adjustment.