Home Developing: With CineStill C41

When I decided to start developing my own film at home I hadn’t considered how much colour film I shoot. I got the CineStill C41 powder pack because the Df96 (for Black & White) was so easy to use.

Colour is not only a bit trickier to develop due to the temperatures you need but I have also found it is a lot harder to scan and process. I have a workflow for it now which I hope to improve as I develop more colour film.

CineStill C41 Developer & Blix

There are two parts to this kit; mixing up the developer and then mixing up the Blix. I did it as close to the temperature that I wanted to develop at as I could – this was made easier by an aquarium heater that I put in the sink. I filled the sink with some water and told the heater to keep it at 34c (the highest it will go) and it did a pretty good job considering it cost me £20.

Developing the film was a bit longer than the experience I had with the CineStill Df96 developer but not by much so still really easy to get 4 rolls developed in a morning with just one tank.

First Results

The first set of negatives that I scanned took me about 4 hours because I was fiddling around with the configuration for AGES. I am using a DSLR, then a combination of Photoshop and Lightroom. I didn’t have a macro lens or a proper light box. I am using one of those light boxes that people put transparent lettering on – it works better than you might think. For now.

Half way through editing the first 2 rolls of 35mm that I scanned I realised that they were both expired rolls that had been shot at box speed and developed as normal. The colours all had a purple hue to them and I realised that this might be why it is taking me so long to process them in Lightroom – they are always going to be a bit more purple than I originally expected.

Some of them were worse than others. The two portrait photos – in my opinion – are the worst of the entire roll.

Workflow Experiments

After spending quite a few hours taking photos of the negatives and processing them in a Photoshop / Lightroom combination I am now trying to find the best / fastest workflow for me. It is also important that I am not loosing too much quality in the workflow but also not having to deal with massive file sizes.

Photographing the individual negatives one at a time can take around 10 minutes – for a roll of 35mm film (with 36-39 exposures). That part is quite easy as I don’t have loads of options to mess with there. I have now got some Macro Adapters too which helps with getting a sharper result from the negative – although finding the right adapter and distance from negative took quite some time! I am using the smallest macro adapter ring on my 18-55mm lens.

Results

Pentax Z-1p | 35mm Kodak Portra 800 | CineStill C41
Scanning: Nikon D3200, Macro Adapter, 50mm Lens
Processing: Lightroom Classic – invert / crop – save as dng, Photoshop – Red, Green, Blue levels, save as psd, Lightroom CC – Clarity / Texture & basic light changes, Export as jpgs 2000px max length.

Pentax 645 | 120 Kodak Porta 400 | CineStill C41
Scanning: Nikon D3200, Macro Adapter, 55mm Lens
Processing: Photoshop (camera raw) – invert / crop, open in Photoshop – adjust RGB levels, export as tiff, Lightroom CC – light adjustments and sometimes clarity, export as jpgs 2000px max length.

Both processing options follow the same basic order:
1. Crop / Straighten
2. Invert
3. Correct RGB levels (individually)
4. Adjust lighting
5. Save out as jpg for sharing

Process Comparison

I have processed the same image in the two different ways to see which results I prefer.

I was surprised at how different these results are. Both have the same look after the first process of cropping and inverting. It seems it doesn’t matter if I do this in Photoshop with camera raw or in Lightroom Classic.

The second frame is the RGB levels. Option 1 shows the result of using Photoshop’s camera raw settings to individually change the levels. The second option shows the effect of adjusting the RGB levels individually once the file has been opened in Photoshop (not using the camera raw and thus not being able to save out as DNG).

In the final frame I have auto set the light but there is a massive difference in colour. The first option used the DNG file with the raw camera data still there for reference. The second option has only the tiff data to use and this also meant that I could not change between Adobe Colour, landscape, portrait etc, it simply said colour.

The second option seems more true to the colour of the very first frame where I simply inverted the colours on the negative, but I am not sure how much loss of data there has been and if the quality has suffered. As I mostly share online I don’t think it will really matter and if I was printing the image I would go back to the negative and do it in a darkroom.

Conclusion

I prefer the results of option 2 but I can’t help but feel like saving out as tiff instead of dng is losing me some quality or data that I need for extra processing in Lightroom before saving out as a jpg. For now I will continue to use the option 2 workflow as it is a bit faster and doesn’t require three pieces of software!

As always, any feedback is welcome because I want to improve where I can. If you have experience with scanning and file types I would love to hear your experiences.


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You can also find me in the following places:
Instagram: @sisboombah | Roller Derby Photography: @fillingthetime 
Twitter: @sisboombah
Facebook: @fillingthetime

I buy all my film from Analogue Wonderland. They are awesome, stock over 200 types of film, ship worldwide and give you points for every £1 you spend. If that doesn’t excite you then you must be dead inside.
If you use my referral link here to make a purchase you will receive a free roll of 35mm film!

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