As quality digital photography has become more accessible than ever via mobile devices, senior Evelyn Lowry prefers to develop film by hand. Lowry experimented and perfected her means of developing and printing images, a hobby she turned into a business.
“I love being involved in the process,” Lowry said. “Participating physically in the development and printing process allows me to bring my photographic work to life. It’s so different from taking photos with an iPhone where you can see it instantly; the film is so much more rewarding.
Junior Donovan Mikula is a level behind Lowry in the way of photography.
“My class is at the point where our teacher, Ms. Wadsworth, is letting us do our own thing,” Mikula said. “We get shooting assignments with different themes and we can work with our photos however we want. I learned how to make a photo really dreamy, almost ethereal. That’s something you can’t do with an iPhone camera.
When the pandemic hit and in-person learning was no longer an option, Lowry decided to pursue her newly discovered passion from home.
“We have this bathroom in my house under the stairs and it has no window, so I made it my own darkroom; I would go there to load my movie. I was able to get chemicals from B&H Photo and mix the chemicals on my porch,” Lowry said. “Instead of having a real enlarger to print the images, I scanned them with a film scanner and used software to clean up the images.”
The development of home movies granted Lowry more creative license to the resulting printed images.
“Being able to do it myself rather than paying to take it somewhere else definitely saved me a lot of money in the end,” Lowry said. “I can go in and really play with colors and contrast and have total control over how the images look, which I really appreciate.”
The pandemic gave Lowry time to start his social media development and printing business.
“The business aspect came naturally,” Lowry said. “I thought it might be fun to print for other people, so I created the Instagram account to facilitate that. It was really surprising how many people wanted me to develop their film. gave me a chance to interact with people I probably never would have and allowed me to see so many random lives.
Through the use of a Google form, Lowry was able to expand its market of customers.
“The Google Form was the primary way for me to receive my orders,” Lowry said. “People would fill in information like how many movies they had and their contact details. I even had a few people send in movies from different parts of the country, which is really cool.
Film development is a time-consuming process, one that Lowry is still figuring out.
“It can take up to five hours to develop a roll of film,” Lowry said. “It was definitely a learning process. The most common error I found was that it was not a development error but an error with the camera and the images themselves. Now I really feel like I’ve solidified what I’m doing, but at first it was really nerve-wracking.
While Lowry enjoys the artistic and creative process of developing his own film, his friends express their appreciation for the physical memories his film has captured for them.
“Evelyn always brought her camera to record virtually all of our friends’ memories, whether on film or digital,” Emmy Freidman said. “I’m glad we have a way to look back on memories and be able to reminisce because sometimes it’s hard to capture the moment via phone.”
Lowry attributes the growing popularity of film photography, like disposable cameras, to a constant cycle of recurring trends from the past.
“We’re constantly going to follow trends and cycles of old things as they become more popular because that’s something we haven’t grown up with as much,” Lowry said. “Now you can just look at your phone and see the photo you took, but that’s not fun. I think a lot more people have realized how much fun it is to have really nice photos.
Lowry plans to pursue his hobby of film photography throughout college. She encourages others to try developing films for themselves and have fun experimenting with the process.
“Once you start doing photography, it’s hard to stop because it’s so rewarding,” Lowry said. “Digital photography is great, but there’s something really special about film photography. It’s simply the perfect type of photography to capture what’s right in front of you.