How do I make cheap B&W prints?
April 22, 2007 3:13 PM   Subscribe

I need a cheap way of developing and printing black and white film, but I have neither the space nor the inclination to build a darkroom.

In order to play around with film, I've bought a couple of film cameras (Olympus Trip 35 and an OM-10) and a bunch of Tri-X. Now I discover that professional B&W film developing is expensive (around 10 UKP). Making my own prints isn't really an option, but developing the negatives myself on a small scale would be possible (and cheap!), so I was thinking about budget negative scanners.

I guess I'd be looking for something under 50 UKP (secondhand probably), capable of scanning well enough to produce good 6x4s.

Am I out of luck? And if this is a non-starter, is there an alternative solution?
posted by ganseki to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Kodak makes a b&w film (BW400CN) which can be developed with the standard C41 colour process.
posted by kickingtheground at 3:25 PM on April 22, 2007

I think ganeski means that s/he intends to process his film at home, but is still looking for cheap PRINT options.

I don't know that scanning and inkjet printing (scanner, paper, ink, printer) is going to end up that much cheaper than printing your own B&W prints.

If you're going to be processing your own film, you'll have already bought stop-bath and fixer and jugs to store it in. So all you'd need additionally is some plastic trays, paper developer, a red lightbulb, photo paper and an enlarger. The trays and enlarger and things you can get for absolutely free from hobbyists that have turned digital. I see hundreds of them around.

I keep my supplies in a closet, and when I'm ready to print, I tape black garbage bags over the bathroom window, switch the bathroom lightbulb for the safelight bulb, set up the trays along an ironing board standing inside the bathtub, and put the enlarger on the sink (putting a piece of plywood down first to keep it level). It works perfectly.
posted by xo at 3:31 PM on April 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

You'll also want an accurate thermometer to measure the temperature of the developer, which helps you determine the development time.

I've scanned 35mm negs on an Epson 3170 flatbed scanner and on an HP Photosmart S20 scanner. The S20 gives slightly better results but is much more finicky to use. I haven't been very happy with either, but don't do enough scanning to make it worthwhile to get something better. They should do well enough for 4x6 prints. I imagine either of these could be found second-hand pretty cheaply.
posted by DarkForest at 3:34 PM on April 22, 2007

Here's an article you may find interesting about developing negatives with coffee or vitamins.
posted by kitty teeth at 3:44 PM on April 22, 2007

You can make contact prints in a bathroom pretty easily -- don't need an enlarger, and if the bathroom doesn't have windows or a skylight, you can usually make it dark enough with strategically placed towels. Unfortunately, 35mm contact prints are really tiny. If you don't want to go the scanner route, you might try an old 120 camera. Those negatives are 6x6cm, so contact prints are almost big enough to be useful. You may also be able to find an old 4x5 press camera, which would give you even bigger negatives.
posted by spacewrench at 4:55 PM on April 22, 2007

As far as chemicals go, take a look at Diafine. The great thing about it is that you don't have to worry about using a thermometer or stop bath. (Diafine uses water as a stop bath instead.) When I used to shoot film, I used HP5 and Diafine almost exclusively.
posted by o0dano0o at 4:58 PM on April 22, 2007

If you can develop your own film, you can always bring it into your local drugstore photo lab (or wherever) and get them scanned to JPEGs for a minimal fee. Fuji Frontier minilabs, at least, can handle scanning B&W film just fine; they just can't develop it.
posted by neckro23 at 7:06 PM on April 22, 2007

Seconding using a dark bag and tanks in a bathroom.

Also seconding diafine. It's amazing. After a few hundred rolls in hc110 or d76, diafine blew me away. Infinitely reusable (if you replenish the little bit that doesn't come back out of the tank) and no real concerns about time or temperature (beyond getting the developer a little above room temperature). Only thing to be aware of is that it changes the iso of your film. When I use it, I expose my tri-x at 1000 and the results are good. You end up with a little extra added grain (but much, much less than if you push tri-x with other developers). Diafine+tri-x also really seems to retain super-bright highlights even in direct sunlight while giving some latitude in the shadows. Watch what you do with light skin tones though. Diafine seems to add a lot of tone to light skin that can be problematic. Gives beautiful, beautiful tones to dark skin, though... I use the canon canoscan 2720u scanner. It was around 100$ on ebay a couple years ago. Doesn't work with a mac, from what I've heard. Here's a (self-link) couple of examples of shooting tri-x at 1000, developing in my bathtub with re-used months-old diafine without concern for time or temperature, and scanning with my cheapie scanner. Strong tonal range, highlights still have tone, tonal difference between cloud and sky, relatively low the horse picture, though, you can see the problem with light skin in shadow that sometimes happens. I've used the scans to make 11x17 prints (from Adorama, cheap but not bad; I've gotten assignments after showing a portfolio with those prints) that look good to my eyes.
posted by msbrauer at 5:39 AM on April 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Depending on where you live, there may be darkroom facilities that belong to a club or other community organization. If so, membership is usually reasonable and they provide the equipment and chemicals (but not film or paper). Go often enough, and it's way cheaper than commercial processing.
posted by tommasz at 9:41 AM on April 23, 2007

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