I am a US citizen spending about a year in Germany and I've been shooting black and white film (ilford delta 400). I'm nervous about my film being in someone else's hands so I would prefer to develop all of it by myself when I get back home. The only thing is that I don't know if the extra months of sitting around in my room here will affect the quality of the pictures, or how getting through customs might add to that. Is it better to just get the film developed by someone else here instead of 8-16 months of waiting?

film type: Ilford Delta 400 professional

conditions: my room, usually room temp or a bit under, can't keep it in a tiny german refrigerator.

I'm not a professional, nor am I selling any of these photos, so a minuscule level of fading isn't going to put me off. I still would like the photos to look nice since I put a lot of money and time into them for a 16 year old using whatever is left of her babysitting money.

Thank you for your time

Edit: I am in no way trying to suggest that I am more skilled or experienced than German film developers, I'm simply nervous about handling the situation in regards to my B1 understanding of the German language and the fact that I don't have too much money or time.

  • 9
    I'm intrigued by your quote "I'm nervous about my film being in someone else's hands"...If using an exact film/developer combo isn't your reason for waiting to develop - then your best bet is to use a reputable lab to process as soon as possible. Processed negs > potentially fogged/degraded negs any day.
    – OnBreak.
    Jan 4, 2018 at 17:51
  • 4
    I have some, both B&W and colo(u)r, which I shot the night the Berlin Wall fell, at Checkpoint Charlie, and have not yet gotten round to processing. This question remind me of it, and has motivated me to have it processed. Here's hoping ... Jan 5, 2018 at 11:30
  • 1
    I thought it better to ask in a separate question. @adrenaline, you might want to keep an eye on it. If mine will be ok, then yours definitely will :-) Jan 5, 2018 at 11:37
  • Related article for much older negatives... petapixel.com/2015/01/16/…
    – Doug
    Jan 5, 2018 at 12:38
  • 5
    Now might be a good time to switch to digital. That gets around all these problems completely. Jan 5, 2018 at 14:18

10 Answers 10


Ilford Delta is a pretty common film. I am certain you will be able to find a reputable lab to develop it somewhere around (you do not mention where exactly in Germany are you spending your year).

On the other hand, you should not have a problem developing it yourself in a years time. To maximize your chances you should keep it cold - in a fridge, or even better freezer.

Frozen film keeps well for years - there are records of exposed film recovered from failed polar expeditions after tens of years (the most famous probably S. A. Andrée's Arctic balloon expedition of 1897 which was found and successfully developed in 1930).


Last I checked Germany was rather up there in the photography world.

But anyway, I would be more concerned about carrying undeveloped film back through air travel.

X-rays and film do not mix. You can put them in a metal box, but you would need to pass that for inspection to the security folks to not go through the X-ray machines.

While storing it, you should also keep the rolls inside foil or a metal box. That will help prevent the film form exposure to background radiation that can also fog the images.

  • 2
    Yes, I had a terrible experience with x-rays damaging a roll of film I had prior to processing it. First and last time! Jan 5, 2018 at 3:28
  • Let's not propagate this myth. As long as you don't put your film in checked baggage you should be fine. Most X-ray machines for carry on baggage are film safe for several passes. I had film X-rayed several times in Cuba of all places where they totally snubbed my requests to scan it by hand. No problems. Exceptions would be ultra high speed film (>800) or film that you intend to push ridiculously.
    – bvy
    Jan 5, 2018 at 18:15
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    @bvy.. unfortunately is very much depends on the airport and the age of the equipment. Still better to get the negatives developed locally,
    – Trevor_G
    Jan 5, 2018 at 18:17

It's always good practice to develop the film ASAP after exposing it. But given the parameters here, I think you'd be hard pressed to notice anything different about the developed images. My regular backlog is already at six months, and I don't think twice about it. Keep the film in a cool, dry, dark place.

The one exception I can think of here is Ilford Pan F Plus which has notoriously bad latent image keeping. With that film, I wouldn't even wait a week.

  • 1
    I am glad I am not the only one with such a backlog... I still have a few rolls of Acros from last July sitting in my freezer :) Jan 4, 2018 at 17:56

Yes, you can develop it later, but the results will be dependent to some extent on how well you kept its environment under control - temperature, humidity, light exposure, etc. For best results, I think putting it back in its original canister to block additional light and for sealing, and then keeping it in a temperature controlled environment would be best. Different films are more or less forgiving, but there have been stories of people getting at least usable, if not pristine, images out of undeveloped film found in an attic after years.

But I feel (opinion/preference - no scientific evidence to back it up) that getting it developed, at least to the negative stage, as soon as possible after shot just simply removes a whole lot of variables and provides the best possible chance of preserving the images in the best condition they can be. If you treat it well, you may be able to put off processing, but given the uncertainty of events during that delay, seems like at least less potential risk, if not a real increase in safety.

  • Your 'feel' does not make much sense. Giving the film for development to an unknown lab will add a lot of unpredictable variables to the outcome. Keeping exposed Delta 400 for about a year before development should on the other side be a non-issue.
    – jarnbjo
    Jan 5, 2018 at 10:49

In some areas you can also rent darkrooms (if this is also the right word in english). Try to google "Dunkelkammer mieten" (in combination with your location). In bigger urban areas you will find some. E.g. Berlin seems to have a couple. Even a "community darkroom" for just the cost of a low donation.

  • +1 There are a lot of analog photo communities around Germany. Try searching Facebook for local groups in the area where you are staying. I'm pretty sure you'll find somebody who is willing to allow you access to his darkroom. Jan 5, 2018 at 10:43
  • You don't need a darkroom to develop film.
    – jarnbjo
    Jan 5, 2018 at 10:53
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    @jarnbjo not need but if you rent some i asume, that the materials/equipment and especially the chemicals are also included, otherwise it would be pointless, to rent a room with "no windows" and lightbulbs for developing ;) So you get around to buy huge masses of material, equip and chems for much money.
    – Horitsu
    Jan 5, 2018 at 11:16
  • I doubt that consumables like chemicals and paper are included when renting a dark room. With the almost endless variations of b&w chemistry, you would anyway need a lot of luck if a lab had the chemicals you prefer on stock.
    – jarnbjo
    Jan 5, 2018 at 11:35

As others have noted it's certainly possible to develop film 1-1.5 years after exposure. The quality of the image is dependent on how well the film has been stored (colder is better). The film should be fine going through the typical carry on x-ray machines a couple of times, but if you're paranoid (and I tend to be) politely asking for a hand check of your film usually works.

You've got several potential options available to you:

  1. Wait and develop it yourself when you get back home. This carries the risk of the image turning out fogged/damaged if the film isn't stored well.
  2. Have a film lab in Germany develop it. I'm not aware of any (never been to Germany myself), but I'd imagine there are at least a couple in the larger metropolitan areas. This of course runs the risk of the lab not developing it properly, or in a fashion you don't like. Maybe having them develop a roll or two as a test would be warranted. If you're really concerned that they'll develop it in a strange way, just ask them! The labs that I've occasionally used were more than happy to describe their b&w film process.
  3. Develop it yourself in Germany. You could either bring developing chemicals yourself (sounds iffy), or buy some in Germany. Mail/Internet ordering would be another way to obtain them. BUT you'll need to look into ways of properly disposing of them. This seems like it could be difficult, especially if you're not a citizen/permanent resident (the disposal sites around me ask for some proof that you live in the town and are thus paying taxes for the service).
  4. Send the film to someone you trust back home for storage. International shipping may be prohibitively expensive here. And you run the risk of the film being x-rayed and getting fogged.
  5. Send the film to be processed at a mail order lab. Ilford has a mail order lab in the UK, and there's bound to be others closer to where you'll be staying. This obviously has both the risks of having a lab develop it (see #2) and shipping the film (see #4).

Of course you can develop the film a year later.

When I was young I had my own developing (closet), I successfully developed a roll of film my dad had from England that was more than 20 years old! (And it was sitting in a shoebox in his closet for most of those years, never in a fridge).

The roll of negatives came out perfectly. Don't sweat it!

  • 1
    I've developped a 25 years old 8mm film as well and it wasn't even in the shoebox - I can see the tape shadow on the last image.
    – Crowley
    Jan 5, 2018 at 12:04

Yes, you can develop the film a year later. I used to work in the photo lab - as a photo lab tech - at St. Louis Community College - Meramec. It's fun to develop your own black & white film! I highly recommend it! I wouldn't worry about fading. You can easily fix the contrast using an enlarger.

If you want to get even more fancy, scan the printed photo - or take a photograph of it with your phone - and then import it into Adobe Photoshop. There you can correct anything in the photo! Including scratches, dust, fading, etc... Digital imaging - using Photoshop - is a lot of fun too!

If you don't have access to Photoshop, there are a lot of people on the web or at a community college who can help clean photos up. Cleaning up a black & white photo is the most basic skill, which one learns in a digital imaging 101 class. There is usually a lab tech in a digital imaging lab, who is always willing to help out too.

Save your babysitting money & process the film when you return home. Your photos will look great!


I've developed film fifty years after exposure, and several times twenty years or more. "Found film" is a somewhat recognized sub-hobby of thrift store camera shopping.

That said, sooner is generally better. Is it possible you could buy a bottle or two of one of the currently available monobaths (developer and fixer all in one bottle), a developing tank, some negative pages, clips, etc. and a dark bag and process the film yourself before you return? Processed negatives in a negative page are impervious to x-ray damage in airports or other security -- even if the customs people are completely ignorant of what film isa, just hold them up to the light.

The tank and dark bag part of this will easily fit in a case for the future, too.


35mm film negatives are the ultimate archival medium. Digital technology shelf life is limited. Good luck with hard drive issues, etc.

35mm film cameras were built to last, digital formats break down much quicker, expensive to repair than 35mm.

Photography was made to be captured on 35mm or medium format film. Digital tech. a branch of photography.

  • 1
    This doesn't answer the question, which is asking if their B&W film needs to be developed shortly after shooting, or if it will still develop ok a year after shooting. While film archives well, undeveloped film degrades over time.
    – scottbb
    Jul 29, 2020 at 3:35

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