Monday, March 19, 2012

An Introduction to Setting Up a Darkroom

DarkRoom_8863
Darkroom, by: Bruce Garner (submitted to the KEH Flickr group)

Today we're explaining the initial steps to setting up an at-home darkroom, for developing black and white negatives and prints. The black and white and color developing processes are very different, and black and white is by far the easiest to develop yourself and do in your home.

These materials are more focused on 35mm, but the basics are all the same for 35mm, medium format, and large format. If you're interested in developing medium or large format, your film developing process will be slightly different, for example you will be developing your film in trays instead of on reels in tanks. You will also need a different enlarger lens and larger negative carriers for printing, so decide what format you will be working with before sourcing your materials.

darkroom-shelf
Darkroom shelf, by: Bruce Garner (submitted to the KEH Flickr group)




Main/ initial supplies:
General-
Counter space
Sink with running water
Darkroom timer
Hand towel
String and clothespins for hang drying film and prints
Graduates (measuring beakers)- x1-3
Developing chemicals (developer, stop bath, fixer)
Scissors
Funnel
Sharpie permanent marker

For developing film-
Film developing tank and reels
Developing thermometer
Can opener or film retriever

For printing-
Enlarger
Enlarger lens (50mm lens for 35mm film)
Negative carrier
Printing Easel
Grain focuser
Safe light (red/amber light)
Developing trays- x5 (+ water siphon)
Tongs- x5
Your choice of printing paper
Paper cut into strips for 'test strips'


Secondary or optional supplies:
Gloves
Apron
Squeegee (if doing fiber prints)
Paper safe
Printing Filters
Dodge and Burn tools (homemade)
Paper cutter
Film or Print dryer
Toning supplies
Sink faucet hose
Mini fridge


Sourcing supplies: Some of your basics like scissors and a hand towel can be purchased anywhere that carries these regular household items. Photography specific items for your darkroom can usually be found in a variety of places including the darkroom section of KEH, eBay or Craigslist, local photographic developing and supply businesses, or online.

Freestyle Photographic Supplies carries pretty much everything you would need online. PhotoMFA has a directory where you can search for places that carry darkroom supplies and search by location for local places also.

0809-6
The darkroom counter, right side, by: shotgun1a (submitted to the KEH Flickr group)

Basic Steps:

1- If you don't already have any experience developing and printing, our suggestion is to take a class first to get some experience before trying to set up a darkroom and learn to develop and print on your own.

2- Source a space to create your darkroom. It can be big or small, but you must be able to make the room completely dark, must have electricity, and preferably have running water in it. Clean the space and light-proof the room. This may include covering windows and any other cracks of light coming through, even from around the door or cracks in the walls. You may also want to consider adding some type of ventilation to the room, such as a range-hood extraction type fan to prevent breathing in too many chemical fumes.

3- Purchase your supplies.

4- Install a safe light. Divide the room into separate 'wet' and 'dry' areas.

5- Set up your stations and supplies. Your set up is determined based on your space and preferences, so each darkroom will be a little different. We're not going to get into where every little item should go, as this is a step that is up to you and why we recommend taking a class first.

Darkroom at home, by: Larry Wilson (submitted photo)

Want to see more photos of darkrooms? There's a Flickr group for that! Check out The Darkroom Portraits Group.