Passing along the love of film photography


My 13-year-old son just successfully developed his first two rolls of film.  It has probably been close to 15 years since I developed my own film, so I had to do some research to refresh my memory on the whole process.  I ordered chemicals from Freestyle Photo (Arista developer, stop bath, fixer, wetting agent, Kodak hypo clear).  Once we mixed up chemicals, the process was so easy that I’m now excited to shoot some film and develop more.

He had shot the two rolls of Tmax on a recent vacation using my old Pentax K1000, after he told me he wanted to learn how to shoot film, develop and make prints.  This K1000 was my first ‘real’ camera, a gift from my parents when I was a little older than he is now.  I used it through high school, college and for many years after college until getting my first DSLR.  It made the process even more meaningful to me by having him use that camera.

I taught him how to spool the film onto the metal developing reels, but I spooled these ones for him (inside a changing bag).  That’s something that takes practice to get good at, and I didn’t want to risk these first rolls of film.  Next time he can try spooling his own.  I have one of those plastic spools that you rotate and it pulls the film onto the spool, but I don’t like the tank with that one, so I used the old stainless steel tank and spools.  There’s kind of an art to spooling film on those metal reels, but once you get the hang of it, they work great.

His negs are now dried and hanging in the laundry room.  It looks like he nailed the exposures very well, and has some good negatives to work with.

Our next step is to light-proof the laundry room and set up the enlarger to teach him how to print.  It will be interesting to see how much patience he has for the printing process – and how much patience I have after being in the ‘digital darkroom’ for so many years.

I’m thankful that he wants to learn how to do this.


11 Comments on “Passing along the love of film photography”

  1. jim says:

    That’s really cool. I had by first darkroom experience at just about his same age. I went on to work at a little weekly newspaper all through his school. I made a few dollars for each image they published, but the real gift was all the film, paper and chemicals I wanted, plus 24×7 access to the the darkroom. We had an 8-Track player in the darkroom. I must have listened to Billy Joel’s “The Stranger” and “52nd Street” hundreds of times.

    While I would never entertain the idea of printing in a darkroom again, developing and printing is a magical process that teaches you a lot about shooting, in a way I’m not sure digital can.

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Awesome. What a great experience at the newspaper! I didn’t step into a darkroom ’til college, but spent a lot of time in it for those years. We’d listen to ’80s alt-rock on cassette all night — the likes of the Cure, Love and Rockets, the Smiths. I wonder how many hours I spent in that room.
      Didn’t think I’d ever set up my home darkroom again, but now I’m excited to.

  2. Shaun Nelson says:

    Very cool! I’m trying to convince my 11-year old son to develop some film with me because it’s “scientific” and involves mixing chemicals and “chemistry.” You should have your son write a post about his experiences.

  3. Stephan Pot says:

    Wow, this made me smile. What pleasure for him, for you both!

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Thanks. I loved seeing his smile and his curiosity as he unspooled the first roll after the final wash, and examined the images.

  4. Ron says:

    Flashback of our high school days!

  5. Bob Dungan says:

    Sounds like fun.

  6. Jim Grey says:

    I’ve always wished one of my sons would get the photo bug. Alas. But how cool is it that your son gets to use your first “real” camera.

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Yes, it’s a joy. He hasn’t taken interest in all of my hobbies, but I’m glad he’s interested in some.

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