Make your own film developing chemicals from household items

You don’t need much to develop photographic prints at home.

As more of us across the globe are sheltering in place, photographers who use the outside world as their muses are staying home. Brendan Barry’s large format photo adventures usually take him on the road—he’s the guy that turned a shipping container into a giant camera—but these days he is finding ways to stay busy at home.

soda wash, coffee grounds and vitamin c powder
You can make film developer at home with soda wash, coffee grounds and a bit of vitamin c powder.Brendan Barry

Last week Barry put together a tutorial on turning a room in your house into a camera obscura. After making that video and showing folks how they could shoot and print photos he realized not everyone would have access to darkroom chemicals. Luckily, you don’t need much to make your own at home.

In the new video Barry shows you how to combine coffee grounds, vitamin c powder, washing soda and salt to create a developer and fixer to make darkroom prints at home. The concoction that will act as your developer is called caffenol; you make it by combining washing soda, warm water, coffee, and the vitamin c powder. If you can’t find vitamin c powder, crushed up tablets will work as well, just add a bit of boiling water to help the dissolve in the mix. To create the fix you will simply need to dissolve salt in warm water. Now you are ready to make some darkroom prints.

Brendan Barry develops a print from his camera obscura using his homemade chemicals
Brendan Barry develops a print from his camera obscura using his homemade chemicals.Brendan Barry

In the second half of the video Barry shows the stuff in action, developing a contrasty black and white print that he has taken with the camera obscura he set up inside a room of his house. It’s a fascinating process and one that you can easily replicate at home. Check out the full video above.

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