Do you SOUP?

Do You SOUP?

Do You SOUP?

The question means much to those old timer photographers and to some who shoot film today. What was once as common a practice amongst photographers as Photoshop is today, those used to developing their own film will know the term and its reference to soup, and to those who do not use film cameras,  it is an enigma . . . So the question remains . . . “Do you Soup?”

and by this I mean develop your own film and possibly paper prints as well?   I find myself once again starting to shoot film heavily and mind you the cost of the film plus the cost of lab development is expensive . . . Granted I get it developed at the lab, they scan it for me to a CD and I have nothing else to do but review it and if their scan is clean enough I will just use the jpg to post process using the current fave editing software.  If I think it warrants a higher end (REZ) scan I will break out the scanner and do it myself . . .

Tools you need

  • film changing bag
  • Tank(s) and reel(s) for appropriate type films (I prefer stainless steel tanks and reels, some like plastic like the paterson version)
  • graduated beakers (only one 1000ml is needed if you rinse after mixing each chemical but 3 are better and if you are managing the temp then 3 are needed, I use 3)
  • a scale for measuring but it is not an exact science so you can use the volumetric method of so many teaspoon fulls, I prefer measuring with a scale in grams.
  • some plastic spoons for mixing
  • a few bulldog clips
  • if you have sensitive skin I suggest wearing some rubber gloves
Tank with 120 roll film reel, will also hold (2) 35 mm reels

Tank with (1) 120 roll film reel, will also hold (2) 35 mm reels

I have been itching to do some souping using Caffenol but will turn to Rodinol or Kodak D23 which are very easy one shot developers for different films, for pushing or end effects regarding film grain or lastly that old standby Kodak D76.   Now developing film is sorta ho hum to me almost bordering on tedium / boredom . . . as it was a necessity back in the PJ days when I rushed back to the newspaper to develop the days film, print it and make copy deadline . . . so I learned all the tricks, even did wet printing, pulling the film from the water bath with a quick pass (1 minute if lucky) through the fixer with the film and loading the still damp neg into the carrier and the enlarger to make a quick print just to make deadline, then the film was thrown back into the fixer with hopes it wouldn’t fade.   Always facing the possibility of exhausted chemicals if you were the last into the darkroom.  LOL . . . I even remember developing some pushed Tri-X in Dektol . . . talk about Grain, man that was grain . . . but sometimes ya did what ya did to get it to the paste up and make deadline.

graduated plastic measuring cups

graduated plastic measuring cups

The Chemicals

  • Washing Soda (Armour Hammer brand)
  • Instant Coffee any brand (Dollar store cheapest you can get NOT DECAF)
  • Vitamin C (ascorbic Acid)
  • Potassium Bromide (Kbr) or plain table salt (you will need more regular table salt then the Kbr)
  • a drop or two of dish soap
  • commercial fixer like Kodak Kodafix
  • distilled water or regular tap water


the chemicals

the chemicals

Anyway I have been gathering various Caffenol recipes mainly Caffenol – CM-rs and CL as well as Delta-STD most of which do really great at Stand development (the fall back is Rodinol @ 1-100 for stand development or a one shot mix of Kodak D-23) . . . So why Caffenol? well it uses mostly everything from the grocery store (except Potassium Bromide) you can even substitute iodized table salt for the Potassium Bromide and then everything is from the kitchen cupboard. Well the film developer anyway, the stop bath is water and the only store bought stuff is kodafix or Ilford Rapidfix . . . I guess I could go all out and mix my own but hey mixing the Developer is enough ya know . . .

Basic Caffenol- C-M, (C-L or C-H) recipes : Cheap Instant Coffee, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Washing Soda, add Potassium Bromide (or Table salt) to complete the formula . . .  all that’s left is a water bath (that’s your Stop bath) and a fixer like kodafix and your ready . . . you can buy photoflo if you want but you can also use a drop of dishwasher liquid which you’d use as the final wash.   There are so many directions on the web that I will let you find what makes you happy and I wont go into the methodology here.

Here is a chart from the Caffenol Blog that shows the Caffenol Recipes I am interested in experimenting with. Many more recipes and interesting information and fun stuff can be found at the Caffenol Blog

The main formulas


So what films am I intending to play with? ahhhh the list is long indeed, everything from good ol Tri-X to some obscure films obtained from the FPP store, which is the source of another great blog as well as a great bi monthly podcast . . . and lets not forget that great C-41 based films and you can even get away with souping Color C-41 in caffenol and ending up with B&W negs . . . mostly in 120 format, but I may give some of the odd 4×5 films a go in caffenol 😉

OK . . . where am I getting other chemicals like the Potassium Bromide? or the chemicals for D-23 (it is no longer sold by Kodak) like Metol? well from Amazon of course or if you want you can go to another good source which is Freestyle Photographic Supplies for your chemicals or complete kits that duplicate the older developers.

Back to the premise of this post and the path of exploration and play . . . . CAFFENOL . . . why? you ask, well it’s less hazardous, less caustic (not any less messy), but I can dispose of it without to great of a concern and it’s cheap.  In today’s world, film processing is more a specialty then a common service, even the local drugstore C-41 1 hour processing is disappearing.  So it is getting hard to get film processed, cheaply,  especially if you shoot a bunch of film.

Do a Google to find out about the amounts of table salt needed, but you only need this for fast film (ISO 400 and above) to prevent fogging.The Caffenol Cookbook has all the info to get you started and more.  I am just following recipes and the info I present here is nothing new (but only to me, and now possibly you).  I encourage you to play and explore photography and film if you desire, I hope this sparks your inner child to have some fun and step out of the confines of your safe world. . . . enjoy 😉

Ok I am off to shoot some film, and then play with the coffee recipes . . . I will post a follow-up to this post at a later date.  Right now Lunch is calling . . . catch you later . . .we’ll see what develops (sorry couldn’t resist the pun)

update: July 6th . . . . found a source of Sodium Bromide ($2.00 a bag for 56 grams (2 oz)) in the spa / pool supply department of Walmart . . . granulated and much cheaper then buying from a specialty chemical house . . . called “Brom-Start” this is used as a buffer in caffenol and high speed films, you can use table salt as well but just more of it.

Sodium Bromide Found a source in the pool department

Sodium Bromide Found a source in the pool department


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