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How Do You Process 35mm Photo Film?

If you’ve had the film from your 35mm printed and processed at the neighborhood labs, have ever wondered what happens? In this blog I’ll take you on a the inside of the entire procedure.

To start, get your favourite old camera out. It’s the one you picked up at an op store or at a garage sale. It’s the one with Lomo on the back or Leica across the top?

In any case, it’s in existence and you could be able to put it to use. Take a film of your choice, and spend your morning or afternoon shooting your favorite subjects.

After you’ve completed your shoot, the gratifying sound of the film being rewinded will be music to your ears. While smiling, walk into the local lab to have your stunning photos processed. You should be smiling because you’ve taken pictures on the original camera’s sensor, film! ….and absolutely nothing can compare to the original, isn’t it?

Your film has been taken away. It is now your turn to continue your journey while the team at the film lab move forward and turn your masterpiece into memories. The journey of your film’s favorite character is getting ready to start.

The second part of this story will cover what happens after you have left. You will meet the lab technician.

The initial step a lab technician must take is to pull the end of the film from the canister exposed by with the film picker. It is sometimes one of the toughest actions as older cameras can stretch the edge of the film inwards on the film when winding.

In the moment, the film is sensitive to light, therefore it’s not as if the canister could be opened during daylight hours to solve the bent film issue. This portable box for dark film was designed to solve this exact issue.

If the technician isn’t able to pull the film’s end out using the film picker, or the special lab tape, then the film is placed in the dark box. The canister is opened with pressure to be manually rolled to create a 35mm temporary container.

After the film’s end is removed, the film canister is put in a holders that allow the top that the film is cut in a square.

After being cut the film is glued to a leader card with special tape that won’t come off during the 35mm film developing process. In this photo, the leader card composed of a flexible, transparent plastic.

Two films may be attached onto the sides of the card that is used as a leader. It is essential to adhere tape to sides of the leader card and the film to ensure that no film is ripped off during the process of developing. The leader card has small rectangular holes in its center. The holes are connected to sprockets that allow the leader card to follow the film through the machine.

It is crucial that the films of one customer aren’t mixed with those of another customer. To prevent this from happening the unique serial number known as twin check is attached to the customer’s purchase and the film that corresponds to it. The numbers are then identified after the film has left the machine.

The film is now ready for Processing.

A leader’s card can be placed centrally and the machine shifts the leader card in the direction it is inserted.

The door to the machine is opened. When the leader card is in line to the silver horizontal plate, the door can be locked and closed, and allow the machine to be light-tight.

One of the most terrifying possible scenarios in the present time for the film industry is an electrical blackout. I’ve experienced it countless times. In the event of a power blackout, the machine is shut down and the film that is not developed gets stuck in the tank or bath.

I ought to have mentioned this at the beginning… The fact is that it is essential that a properly maintained photo lab runs control strips before the beginning of each day, or every second day in case they have an active lab. This is vitally crucial. After the control strip is designed, it’s measured using the densitometer. The densitometer’s results are used to calibrate the machines, making sure that the the chemistry and colours are accurate.

At this point, the film has been fully and completely entered into the machine for processing. The film is going to undergo an evolution from undeveloped to developed by a series in processing tanks (baths) located inside the processing machine (the interior of the machine as follows).

This process is known as C-41 processes. The various steps that the film must traverse across the machines are detailed in the following paragraphs:

1. Process: developer The developer creates an image of silver within the film layers of the emulsion by generating a latent image after exposure to the film. Then the developer – that is locally oxidized through this reaction – mixes with couplers that are incorporated into the emulsion, and creates dyes that are colour-based. The amount of dye produced is proportional to amount of silver images produced.

The second step is bleaching This bath transforms the metallic silver image created in the process of development back into silver halide to enable the fixer to take away any silver from the mixture.

3. Fixing This process dissolves both the bleached image, as well as the undeveloped, unexposed silver halide that was originally within the film’s emulsion that is later washed away by the wash.

The process 4 and 5 is washing A water wash , which is commonly used in larger processors is a process that removes the processing chemicals and other by-products from the film. A proper wash water rate and temperature is crucial to long-term stability of the dye.

Process 6: Stabilising It contains an agent for wetting as well as other chemicals that are propriety and provide an even drying process of the film as well as long-term stability.

7. Drying This is when the film gets heated in order to evaporate any moisture.

When the film is done running through the C-41 procedure and the technician has cut the film from the leader, and then is able to hang them on a stand, which is often called a tree. The film is then hung at the right to be in the order.

After the technician from the lab has weighed the sample roll of photo paper (called paper control strip) using the densitometer then printing and scanning the roll of film that has been developed is possible.

After the film has been scan at a high-resolution the negatives will appear as color positives on the screen (good photo labs use an calibrated screen to make sure the color and exposure are accurate).

At this point, that a skilled lab technician can adjust every image using a distinct keyboard. The different quantities of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow can be added or subtracted from every photo to ensure that the colour is accurate. Additionally, adjustments are made for the exposure of each photo. Printing negatives from negatives is a art, and that’s why you must ensure that the technician who prints your images is well-trained in this field.

You now know the process of making the film roll from the moment it is shot until being printed. It takes some time to learn for new workers and if processes aren’t properly followed, it can go horribly wrong. In my own experience, I’ve been privy to a number of disasters involving certain labs losing film negatives, negatives not being cut correctly or, perhaps, worse film being sent to the wrong person.