I have been doing a lot of research on whether household items can actually be used for developing film or not. There is a large debate on this topic for alternative process photographers. Below is an article written by Roger K. Bunting, who argues that you can use Coffee, Tea, or Vitamin C in the Darkroom, to successfully develop film. Soon I will be putting this to the test, and will post any results from the instructions below. Stay posted.
Coffee, Tea, Or Vitamin C
Kitchen Chemistry In The Darkroom
By Roger K. Bunting • Posted: Sep 1, 2003
A century and a half of research and development in photographic processing technology has given us some mighty fine materials to work with. The ease and speed of processing high quality black and white photos with today's materials is truly amazing. Developing agents with a wide range of capabilities are available from many different manufacturers. Could we ever manage without these commercial chemicals?
It may surprise you to learn that there are a number of common household materials that can serve as developing agents, and they can produce surprisingly good photographs. In fact, developers, stop baths, and fixers can all be concocted from products found in a typical grocery store. Will the results be as good as those produced with Kodak's fine line of chemicals? Not a chance. But it's interesting to experiment with these alternative formulas, and the results are often impressive.
Brew A Pot Of Developer
8 oz of water
Stir the ingredients until uniform, then develop film for 25 minutes, agitating every 30 seconds.
If the idea of working in a darkroom with the pleasant aroma of fresh-brewed coffee sounds appealing--don't count on that. The activator degrades some of the components of coffee, and the solution will soon take on the odor of the coffee pot you forgot to turn off the night before. Not the most pleasant sensation!
Developing With Vitamins
8 oz of water
Film development with either of these concoctions--the coffee brew or the vitamin C mix--is straightforward and simple. And what will you have in the end? A strip of negatives with all the requirements for producing good prints. The negatives may not have as clean and crisp an appearance as you're accustomed to seeing, but don't be deceived. A remarkable level of detail is there, and with a little effort you can generate prints of surprising quality. Try it and see.
Simple Stop And Fix
For fixing, ordinary saltwater will do. In fact, seawater was long ago used as the very first successful fixing agent. The process is slow, however, and very inefficient compared to the action of modern fixing solutions. It takes a lot of saltwater, but it can be done.
It's quite a satisfying experience to produce a good photograph from a film developed with only common household materials. And it's a thrill those guys with their digital cameras can never know!
Roger Bunting is a chemistry professor at Illinois State University. He is author of a book entitled "The Chemistry of Photography" (www.photoglass.com), and has taught a course in photographic chemistry for many years.