Developing your film at home, is that a better option?

So you started shooting analog again, or for the first time if you are not old enough, most probably you started by having your film developed at one of the few remaining labs in UAE (Click here for reference), but then you start to struggle with one or more of the following problems:

  • The machine is broke or out of chemicals.
  • Only c41 is supported.
  • If the lab take B&W film, it takes more than a week to have it back.
  • You may live far away rom the lab and its quite a drive to get there.
  • No E6 slide developing (special post on this subject is on the way).
  • Scanning quality is not so good (again, separate post on that subject is on the way)

Not to mention facing quality issues with the development it self which few members of our group report from time to time like stains or finger prints on film, yes i received my film once back from the lab with finger prints all over it.

Personally, it took me couple of visits to local labs in UAE and my mind was set that i should have my film developed by my self at home, and here are the reasons why:

  1. It is not that difficult: Yes, believe me when i say it, it may look intimidating but once you do it once, you quickly realize how easy it is to develop your own film, if you are the type of person who would change a light bulb on his own rather than calling an electrician, then you should definitely try to develop your own film.
  2. It is much cheaper: Just do the math if you don’t trust me on this one.
  3. It saves your time: unless the lab is next to your home or work location.
  4. You can control the developing process: This is one of the major points, if you do any sort of pushing and pulling, the lab will charge you extra for that but more chance in UAE of telling you that they don’t do it from first place.
  5. Getting the real power of B&W: If you like to shoot B&W, then by all means you should develop your own film, being able to adjust you developing time, type and concentration of your developer, and many other factors that play major role to the end result of B&W image, all this will unleash the true power of B&W film, this will also be covered in a separate post as it cannot be covered in few lines.
  6. E6 slides: Till the time of this post writing, only one lab in Sharjah will develop E6, you may refer to our post about places to develop your film here, you might have to do it yourself for any of the previous reasons though.
  7. Cross processing: No local lab in UAE will do that for you as far as I am aware, so again you have to do that yourself.
  8. Large format: Till the time of this post writing, only one lab in Sharjah will develop 4×5, you may refer to our post about places to develop your film here, you might have to do it yourself for any of the previous reasons.

Note: If you shoot 8×10 or bigger, I have doubt that you need to read this article at all, God bless you.

So where to start once you decide that you want to develop your own film.

1- Watch others do it:

YouTube is full of educational videos about how to develop your own film, just make a small search you will get plenty of those, actually all I ever needed personally to get it all figured out was to just sit and watch every YouTube video on the subject.

If you are the type of person who like to interact with the instructor, ask questions or even have a hands on before you commit to buying equipment and chemicals, then you can do one of the following:

  • Join a friend to watch him develop: you can do that through our FB group, few of our group member are welling to host friends while they develop their own film.
  • Subscribe to a film developing workshop: it’s not so frequent in UAE, but from time to time GPP or Tashkeel organize such workshops, so better to stay tuned for that or email them asking about next workshop.

2- Buy the tools and Chemicals you need (This is covered in detail here)

3- Practice loading film to day light tank.

This step is very important, you have to have a practice roll of film, use it to practice while lights are on or outside loading bag if you are using that method, next close your eyes and repeat, once you get stuck, open your eyes and see what went wrong, you will find different types of tanks and reels for loading film, you may check with friends if you wanna have some hands on before buying, it is also important to take your time at this step before you move on, otherwise you may land in bad situation with important film roll.

4- Write down your developing times.

You can get recommended developing times for each chemical by downloading its data sheet, an easier way is by using an online site called Massive Dev Chart or even easier by downloading their app (links are in their site).

The App. also helps you time your developing duration and agitation routine, it is a paid app but highly recommended.

5- Mix Your chemicals

This is an easy step but you need to be aware of the following:

  • Tap water in UAE changes from one location to another as it is all processed seawater, you can use it to mix your chemicals but a better option would be bottled water or even better distilled water.
  • The temperature of your developer is very critical, B&W is usually developed at 20 degrees Celsius for which you can use ice bath or keep your developer in the freezer till it cools down, other chemicals for C41 and E6 developing require 100 degrees Kelvin for which you will have to have a worm water bath.

Very Important Note: Always store chemicals away from children, make sure they cannot reach it while you are not attending them and always read the Material Safety Datasheet for any chemical you use and follow its instructions, this is for your own safety and your family too.

6- Develop your first roll

Now all you have to do is to go ahead and develop your first roll similar to what you seen and practiced, chances are very high you will be successful should you follow all instructions mentioned above.

7- Repeat from step 3 till you master it.


If you have any questions please feel free to post a comment bellow and we will do our best to help you.



Abdalla Kroosh.




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