First timer self processing ... so frustrating...

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by michael_peregrine, May 16, 2015.

  1. I bought a processing kit. Shot two rolls that had some terrific shots and I was apprehensive about trying to use these my first time out for developing at home, but in my mind it is not going to matter because every roll I shoot is valuable to me, so I might as well start with these.

    So first I got an old roll of worthless film I don't care about ever using and practiced multiple times getting the film onto the reel. The first time I watched as I did it, and then the next several times I practiced just by feel. Every time the roll went right onto the cartridge with no issues, so I thought "ok, it's time to do this."

    First roll would NOT feed into the cartridge. Got bent to hell and misaligned. I literally tried for an entire hour to get the thing to work and when I finally realized the film had been destroyed in the process, I gave up. Ok, one ruined. I knew that was a possibility going into this, so I can deal with that. I'll try practicing a few more times and then give it another go with the other roll.

    Nope, both destroyed - same exact issue with the next roll. Tore it to pieces inside the bag and cut my finger in the process. So frustrating. Anyone want to buy a developing kit?
  2. About 5 years back I boxed up all my darkroom stuff, donated to a thrift store. Then I got the bug again, have been developing a few (well, very few) films lately. Only thing:
    I bought a new 35 mm canister, and it's got a different locking mechanism. My old real had a clip at the center. As long as you were reasonable careful with alignment, got the leader cupped and in there, pushed down the locking spring and fed the leader in, you were set.
    My new reel has a couple of hooks you have to snag into the sprocket holes. With every roll I've had a heck of a time getting it right. Start to sweat, getting exasperated. I've persevered, but I'm kicking myself for giving away my old canister.
  3. SCL


    After using other systems for many years I got a Paterson system last year and found it was a piece of cake to get perfect loading every time.
  4. I'm using a Paterson 4. There are actually two different reel types with this kit, and I tried one of each on the rolls of film this morning. I've pretty much lost every ounce of confidence. I had watched about five videos with different tips on YouTube before trying this, and along with all the practice, I'm just dumfounded as to what went wrong. It exhausted every bit of my patience and then some. Next time I'll just rip the roll right out of the back of the camera and save myself a couple of hours. What drives me totally nuts -- I'm ambidextrous and don't favor either hand over the other. Play piano with ease and type over 110 wpm. But this made me feel like I was trying to take my first steps after losing the feeling in both legs. Guess I'm just going to need more time and practice and more heartbreak over losing photos before I get it right.
  5. Hi Michael,
    I have shared your frustrations, more than a few times <grin>. So some suggestions.
    1. Take your sacrificial roll (old, worthless roll) in the changing bag and practice. Loading in a changing bag and loading in opened air with your eyes closed is different.
    2. When you load your film, cut the tongue off the film, then handling the film by the edges, go to the end of the roll and cut the plastic 35mm spool off the end before you load on the Patterson reel. The spool causes more problems at the end if it is still present. Load from the end of the film forward, just to keep from moving to the other end again.
    3. Keep the ears, the place were you feed the film on the Patterson reel, straight up. I find they tend to migrate toward me as I rotate the reels. This can cause feed problems . Use the finger of the non-rotating hand hand to hold the roll of film down and position it in relation to the reel, but lightly so you do not scratch the film.
    4. Be sure the rubber cap for the Patterson tank is in your changing bag. If you run into problems, just put the film, off the Patterson reel in the tank and put the rubber top on the tank. The tank is now light tight. You can open the bag, remove your hands, and take a break.
    5. Take a break if you run into trouble. Open the changing bag and air it out. If you take more than about 5 minutes to load a reel, humidity begins to build up in the bag due to perspiration from your arms. This causes the film to become sticky and exacerbates the problem. By take a break, I mean more like half-an-hour or more. Heck, with the film in a light tight tank, you can take a day or two, if you want.
    This really is a matter of confidence. If you think you can do it, you can.
  6. Sorry to hear about the frustration. Film developing is quite easy, and everyone here will be glad to help you work through any problems, so don't give up.

    Let's start with terminology. What "cartridge" are you talking about feeding film into? A roll of 35mm film can be referred to as a cassette, magazine or cartridge. But the thing you put the film into to develop it is called a reel, which then goes inside a tank. I'm not accusing you of using the wrong word but asking in case your processing kit came with something other than a standard reel and tank. If it came with something unusual, that could be the source of the problem.
  7. Thanks for the good suggestions. I won't give up just yet. Have a feeling that once I get the hang of it, it won't be a problem. Just discouraging right now and needed to vent the frustration this morning.
  8. I use stainless steel tanks and reels with the center clip for 135 and 120, Jobo tank and reel for 4x5.
    Once your hands have been in the changing bag for 5 minutes or more the temperature inside the bag rises. As the temperature inside the bag rises your hands and wrist sweat more increasing the humidity inside the changing bag. As the humidity rises the film emulsion becomes sticky and the plastic reels become harder to load as they transfer any moisture they have to the film. (a +1 for Brooks #5)
    Standard changing bags are the worst for this and pop up changing tents are a little better. I use a Photoflex Changing Room, .
  9. After about 50 years (not continuously) using a Nikor 35mm reel, last year I tried to develop a roll of 127.
    I have a Paterson tank, but as noted above, my hands started to get sweaty, and the film sticky.
    Eventually, I got it in, but not quite right. In two places, the film contacted the previous turn. (They weren't especially valuable pictures, so it didn't bother me all that much.)
    But yes, years of experience doesn't guarantee that film will go into the reel easily.
    My first years were with a Yankee-II tank, and without a changing bag.
    But I think that sweat had built up in the changing bag over consecutive uses, without completely airing it out. (I also use it for spooling from bulk 35mm rolls.) It doesn't take much to make film sticky.
  10. Yeah, that's exactly what happened here. After a few minutes of working, my hands were sweating and the film was very sticky. This is really helpful for you to point out. The points about taking a break when the bag is hot are on the money.
  11. AJG


    Buy some outdated film and practice some more before you try your important film. I've taught beginning photo classes for a long time, and the anxiety is a lot harder to deal with than the actual loading of your film on to the reel. Once you get proficient at this, a roll of 35 mm film shouldn't take more than a minute or two to load, and the over heating problem will vanish. Good luck!
  12. I've got the lluxury of a windowless
    powder room. Makes things easier.
  13. I started using stainless steel reels over 50 years ago, after continuing problems with plastic reels. After a little practice, stainless is easier to load because there is less friction and the reel is open from the sides. Stainless reels can also be a little damp, whereas plastic reels must be bone dry.
    Most stainless reels have a clip on the core to hold the film. In my experience, using the clip tends to buckle the film, and once buckled, it is very hard to continue loading the reel. Now (and for many years) I hold the leading end of the film straight inside the coil through the open ends of the core, and wind the reel guiding the film with my other hand. There's more than enough friction between the reel and 5' of film to keep it from slipping without the clip.
    I don't use a guide, which tends to scratch the film. It's easier to just cup the film slightly with your hand. Undeveloped film is coiled tightly. I use my little finger under that coil as a guide to straighten the film as I load it. It's easy to hear and feel if the film buckles, but it's not always easy to guide a buckled edge into the groove. You have to back up a turn or two or start over. Do it right the first time, and you won't be banging your forehead on the wall.
    Changing bags are hot and your hands tend to sweat, especially if space is limited. If you can set up a dark room, life is much easier in the open. If not, consider getting a changing "tent", which is larger and has a frame to keep the fabric from collapsing around your hands. If you're brave enough to tackle large format film in your kitchen, it's much easier if you have a changing tent. Also use vinyl gloves to keep your fingers from sticking and leaving fingerprints on the emulsion.
  14. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Before I had a darkroom I would load the film in a dark closet. If no dark closet then wait for night and load the film in a room with the lights out, curtains drawn and shades down.

    I have always used Paterson plastic reels. It is so easy to just ratchet the film onto the reel. I've never understood the thinking that if something is more difficult it must be better. Sort of like medicine has to taste bad to be any good, I suppose.
  15. For 35mm, I recommend a Paterson tank and reel. You can get the film started on the reel in the daylight.
    For medium format, get a brand new plastic Paterson reel copy, available from any of the major mail order houses (best $9 you will ever spend on a darkroom accessory). It will have a HUGE built in plastic guide as compared to the Paterson.
    Save the steel reels for when you feel like punishing yourself!
    It takes a while to get used to loading steel reels - I've done it for years - but do it now just to sort of not lose the touch. Most of the time I use the plastic Patersons.
    Don't give up - just change your equipment for now - it's cheap as dirt on the used market. But DO get the new plastic reels if thinking of moving up to medium format.
  16. I, too prefer stainless reels. Its kinda like Canon and Nikon :). I have tried plastic, but went right back to stainless.

    I have never used the center clip, hooks or whatever. Just jammed the end of the film into the center of the reel and held it until I had wound on the first turn and it seemed to hold itself fine. Maybe I've just been lucky, but I developed two rolls for the first time in 40 years and they came out just fine. Digital thermometers are great! Changing bags, too.
  17. Just thought I would come back and update this thread. I finally shot another roll of B&W, and guess what. My negatives are drying now and they look great. Got them on the reel first time this time (I used the Patterson reels with the larger feeders, which worked much better). The whole process went smooth as silk this time. The roll I have in the camera right now is pushed two stops, so that will be a fun thing to do this next time around.
    Thanks again for all the helpful suggestions in this thread. I applied them successfully this time. :)
  18. AJG


    Glad it worked out for you--show us some pictures!
  19. Well, don't expect anything spectacular here. :) This was a test roll (didn't want to ruin anything good this time). They are a lot more contrasty than when I send film out for processing, which probably has something to do with the developer or time I'm developing them. But in all I'm pleased for the first honest attempt (after the disaster).

    Next time I'll allow more drying time. These were scanned quickly with a cheap scanner, and I have a better flatbed to use next time too. Going to have to work on ways to keep dust off the negatives. If you can think of more tips, I'm all ears ... thanks.

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