Film Developer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

A film developer requires little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and job requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

A film developer uses chemicals or a processing machine to turn photographic negatives into enlarged prints. Many developers have to interact with clients in a retail setting, ensuring they properly fill orders and comply with any development specifications. On-the-job training is usually sufficient for success in this role, although there are photography degrees and certificates available at the postsecondary level which can provide advanced insight into the field.

Essential Information

Film developers create prints from negatives using traditional darkroom procedures or photographic processing machines. Depending on their job setting, they may act as both retail service agents and equipment technicians. Many in the industry learn their skills through on-the-job training. However, college courses in photography may help film developers gain a sharper understanding of their work.

Required Education High school diploma or GED certificate and on-the-job training
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -32.9% for photographic process workers and processing machine operators
Median Salary (2015)* $26,590 for photographic process workers and processing machine operators

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Film Developer Job Description

Film developers create photographic prints from raw film using chemicals, highly technical instruments and, in some cases, photographic processing machines. Some work in darkrooms, while others occupy a retail setting. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many professional photographers, especially those who work in black and white or with special effects, use traditional darkrooms to develop their own film ( Those who work in a retail setting operate computers, printers and other machinery to develop film.

Film Developer Duties

Some film developers act as customer service agents. They take orders from customers and listen to special requests. They then adjust machine settings to ensure those requests are met. They also inspect the incoming negatives and film and outgoing photos to achieve the best possible results for their customers.

Film developers may also work as film development equipment technicians. They measure and mix the chemicals used in the development process and fill tanks with the mixed chemicals. They load machines with paper, film and negatives and monitor the development process. Developers maintain equipment by regularly cleaning the machinery to remove chemical solutions used in development.

Film Developer Educational Requirements

The BLS states that many film developers learn skills on the job within a few months. However, to understand the processes behind their work, film developers might study photography in a collegiate setting. Photography programs at many schools lead to a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree.

Regardless of their duration, photography curricula aim to teach students the fundamentals of taking and producing pictures. They include courses on the process of capturing shots and the technology behind the industry. Lab and studio experience is often a part of these programs, giving students first-hand knowledge of film development.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists employment outlook or salary data for film developers under the category of photographic process workers and processing machine operators. It said employment opportunities in this category were expected to show a sharp decline from 2014 to 2024. The median salary for this career was $26,590 as of May 2015, the BLS found.

If they are not in a dark room, most film developers work in a retail environment where a machine is used to process photographic prints. Photography programs typically teach students about camera technology and how to develop film through lab and studio experiences. The BLS reports that there will be a drastic decline in job openings between 2014-2024, with opportunities decreasing by nearly 33%.

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