How to make your own developer and fixer from the stuff you have in the kitchen

Mar 30, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

How to make your own developer and fixer from the stuff you have in the kitchen

Mar 30, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Last week, photographer Brendan Barry showed you how to turn your room into a camera obscura using only the stuff you can find at home. And if any of you decides to take analog photos with your “room camera,” you’ll need developer and fixer for the photographic film. Here’s some good news – you can also make these without leaving your home. In the video below, Brendan will show you how.

YouTube video

Experienced film photographers among you have maybe even tried developing film or photographic paper with homemade alternatives like beer or coffee (caffenol). What I find interesting is that there’s even a special craft beer formulated for developing Kodak 8mm film. However, if you’re new to this, Brendan gives very detailed and clear guidelines in his latest video.

The video is a perfect addition to the one teaching you to make a camera obscura from your room. It shows you how to process photographic photo paper using homemade developer and fixer. So, if you decide to take photos with your “room camera,” this is how you’ll make the chemicals without leaving home.

For the developer (caffenol), you’ll need coffee granules, vitamin c powder/tablets, and washing soda. You can even make washing soda from baking soda, but I can’t tell if it would work for the developer. For the fixer, all you need is table salt and some warm water. These recipes aren’t only quarantine-friendly, they’re also cheaper, more readily available and environmentally friendly, as Brendan notes.

Now, the possible problem is that you need photo paper if you want to shoot with your “room camera” from the previous video. “I don’t know how to make this with stuff I have in the kitchen I’m afraid,” Brendan notes. However, if you have some paper in stock – perfect. It can even be out of date, or even color paper (but it will turn out sepia). If you don’t have any, perhaps you can order it online.

Still, if you want to skip the photographic paper entirely, it’s worth noting that these mixtures also work for black & white film! If you’ve wanted to set up your own darkroom for a while now (like I have), now’s your chance. :) If you have some black and white film to shoot with, perhaps you can try and develop it yourself with these homemade mixtures.

If you’d like to discover some more ideas that bring together photography and kitchen, check out this link. And of course, make sure to follow Brendan’s work on his website and Instagram.

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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8 responses to “How to make your own developer and fixer from the stuff you have in the kitchen”

  1. Joost Avatar
    Joost

    thats awesome! My problem is that I go through bits where I want to develop myself, and then the chemicals are in the corner for the rest of the year- such a waste! thanks for this

    1. Dunja0712 Avatar
      Dunja0712

      That’s the main reason why I still haven’t set up my own darkroom- chems are insanely expensive and they’ll likely go to waste because I don’t shoot b&w film that much. So I definitely want to try this!

      1. SilntObsvr . Avatar
        SilntObsvr .

        Get your fixer at the pool supply (see my other comment) and you can develop film with Caffenol for well under a dollar a roll, and the dry chemicals keep a long time.

  2. Terry Gardner Avatar
    Terry Gardner

    How many prints can be developed before developer is exhausted? Are you using fibre based or resin based paper?

  3. SilntObsvr . Avatar
    SilntObsvr .

    As I suggested to Barry on his YouTube channel, if you have a swimming pool or spa and use chlorine to keep the water clean, you can probably make a much better fixer. The chemical you buy to reduce chlorine in the water is at least 90% likely to be pure sodium thiosulfate (the other possibility is sodium sulfite, which is still a better fixer than table salt — look at the safety declaration on the label to see which). Sodium thiosulfate is the original fixer. Mix 60 grams in a liter of water, and it’ll fix a couple rolls of film (mix it stronger and it’ll last longer, up to 240 g/L is good for a dozen rolls or more). Even better, the sodium thiosulfate will work in about ten minutes, as opposed to overnight or longer. Works on paper and film, just like the Caffenol.

    Sodium sulfite will also work, but you’ll need about 100 g/L and you’ll need two baths at that strength, and an hour or so in each bath — and it’ll be exhausted when you’re done. Fortunately, every time I’ve been to the pool supply, the chlorine reducer has been the thiosulfate — I’ve only been told it can sometimes be sodium sulfite.

    1. Brent Fisher Avatar
      Brent Fisher

      Also the yellow bottle of AquaSafe which makes tap water safe for aquarium pet fish will work as a fixer. And yes, I did the test with salt water…you need to add a lot of non-iodized table salt almost until there’s some left at the bottom and the salt water needs to start out really warm. Salt water takes about 51 hours to fix a roll of black and white film.

  4. Giles W Bennett Avatar
    Giles W Bennett

    this is great! i normally hate (and refuse to watch) youtube videos thank you for making this informative and watchable :-) I had been researching caffenol and found most posts over complicated. Cheers
    Giles

  5. Garland Avatar
    Garland

    My son is teaching a class to 12-year old kids using pinhole cameras. I was wondering if baking soda could be substituted in the developer for washing soda, which is a higher pH and more caustic (don’t want to burn the kiddies!). If so, what would be the ratio?