Setting up my own darkroom for B/W prints
Old 03-13-2007   #1
Morca007 is offline
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Question Setting up my own darkroom for B/W prints

I'm finally going to make the jump to film only, and since there aren't any good labs around here (also since film developing is pretty expensive for a student), I want to set up my own darkroom to develop black and white prints.
I found these guides to work from:

I've never done any film developing before, so, does anyone have some tips?
Also, anyone care to reccomend a kit?


*And in the right section this time, too.
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Old 03-13-2007   #2
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You're a student... Can you take a B+W class?
That's not the route I took, but if I did it again I would. Here's why.
Developing and printing is definitely not for everyone; I eventually took a certificate course, half of which was B+W. To my knowlege I'm the only one of about 30 students still haanging out in the darkroom.
I started out when I was basically given a nearly complete setup; developing tanks and reels, enarger, timer, all that stuff. So I set it up and started fooking with it. First I developed some film and used a film scanner, photoshop and inkjet printer. Later I tried out the enlarger and made a few wet prints, all from reading old books and online resources for instructions and troubleshooting.
It was image quality that made me stick with the darkroom and still is, though the difference is shrinking.
After that I took the course, and learned a bit more from watching experienced hands at work.
Life in the darkroom isn't that cheap and is very, very time consuming. You'll eventually want to work with fiber paper and toning and all that business, and I figure I have to spend 8 hours in the darkroom to make 5 really nice copies of a single image.
I'm a slow printer, but not that slow.
You'll probably never print a whole roll of film, it just takes too long; going to the store and getting 24 prints back from a roll of film is just not how life in the dark works.
What ever you choose to do, enjoy, be creative.
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Old 03-13-2007   #3
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NL2377 is offline
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Im going to have to agree with everything that bryce said... If you can, do give it a try first before you jump in w/o experience... it's a whole different world. Some love it, some hate it. I've got a love/hate relationship w/ it. obviously the love still prevails because Im printing on silver rather then ink. Do yourself a favor though, and take a class or meet up w/ someone and give it a try before you dump your money into it and find yourself in a rut. darkroom printing IS expensive, and VERY time consuming...

best two words of advice: get yourself a radio for the darkroom... and try to pick a place other then your bathroom to do it if you've got roomates, cause it's a PITA when you've got to clear things out so that one of them can drop a load and then you've got to print in the scent of feces.
Nicholas Leak, TN

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Old 03-14-2007   #4
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LOL @ NL2377

I got all that stuff some time back as well. I don't expect to wet print every image at all. Most are fine just scanned, photoshopped and printed.

It's more about the process then about th eresult with me.

I can recommend it though. It's fun.
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Old 03-14-2007   #5
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As above, take a course. When you're sure you want to continue (for me it was three days into the course) search around locally, darkroom equipment can be had for next to nothing these days.
Mark Bowerman

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Old 03-14-2007   #6
Morca007 is offline
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Heh, by student, I mean in high school, and unfortunately, we don't have a school darkroom.
For right now, I'm not even thinking I'm going to have to do very many prints, I'll mostly want to scan negatives.

Thanks for the advice.
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Old 03-14-2007   #7
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Do it. I print in my "guerilla darkroom", it's a spare bathroom. I don't have an enlarger so I make contact prints via a bare bulb and reflector, if I need enlargments I make digitaly enlarged negatives (not perfect yet but I'm getting better). It's alot of fun and the results are very satisfying.

Good Luck!
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Old 03-14-2007   #8
40oz is offline
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I use my bathroom to load the developing can, and do the rest in the living room or kitchen. Developing is easy.

I don't know any kits to recommend, but the basic stuff like a thermometer, cheap digital kitchen timer, developing can, and measuring beakers are all pretty reasonably priced even bought separately, considering how long they will last you.
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Old 03-14-2007   #9
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I develop b&w at home. No darkroom, just a changing bag to load the film onto reels and into Paterson tanks, and the kitchen worktop for the rest of the process. I scan my negs and print them on an inkjet, don't have the room for an enlarger. It's all good fun, and the results are worth the effort.

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Old 03-14-2007   #10
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I agree with Ian. I would recommend getting a changing bag and just learn processing the film which is 2/3 of the battle. Then scan in the negs and either make prints or upload them to a site that can do that for you. The price of print processing has really come down and it is making darkroom work uneconomical. I have even had prints made at Walgreen's and found good results except for the cold-tone, glossy paper they use. Scanning negs has cut down my darkroom time considerably. It allows me to sort out the klinkers where before I had to waste a print in the darkroom to make that decision.
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Old 03-14-2007   #11
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Like your guides but they dont exactly match my experience:
Popping a commercial cassette needs a tool like a swiss army knife, or crown cap bottle opener, and the warm liquid you feel is blood...
If your darkroom has strip light it will glow for 10 minutes or so, after it is switched off.
Dont bother with hypo eliminator or stop bath, ues plain water for stop bath, if you use fast fixer and the ILFORD multi bath wash you wont use much water, even for archival quality.
If you live in a hard water area you will have problems, move to soft water area is the best solution, clean zqueegee will work after photo flow or similar detergent, if it is not clean you will not get scratches but tramlines.
But dont be put off dev your own film should work first time.
Then you may want to know how much you can save by bulk loading and using plain hypo, in two bath, Rodinal at 1:100 etc. You will be able to burn film like it was newsprint.
The dev is easy printing (or scanning and manipulation) requires artistry and dedication, HCB had a master craftsman print his.
For the last 13 months I've only used a Kiev (or Contax), apart from folders, Fed's, Zorki's, M2, etc.,... and a digital to record dismantle sequences...
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Old 03-14-2007   #12
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Hmmm, I don't really need to print at home, as most of it will just end up on my DA account, or printed at Mpix, so this idea of developing in a bag seems attractive. I'm not very familiar with the process, so, what exactly would I need to do to make negs like that?
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Old 03-14-2007   #13
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What I do is simple: I put film and Paterson tank in a changing bag. I pop the film can with my thumb. It's easy to do with both Efke and Lucky film. Don't know about other brands as I don't use them (most are too expensive for my taste).

I nowadays develop in coffee and soda ( http://shardsofphotography.blogspot....rch?q=caffenol ). I used to develop in Rodinal or D76 but it doesn't do anything for me. The coffee and soda appeals more to me, makes me feel more involved with the whole process and stirs my sense of wonder.

I simply work on my kitchen counter, and let my 9-year old daughter help me. It's so simple even she could do it. I let the developed film dry in my bathroom because it's the only place where it's out of the way. I clip a small clothes hanger to the bottom of the film to straigthen it. I must get me some demineralised water for the final cleansing spray because I now always have film with drying marks.

When finished, the film is scanned and stored in sleeves.

Printing is done by my prefered local (mini) lab. They print on mat 20x30cm Fujicolor Crystal Archive paper for a mere 2.50 euro. Glossy is 2 euro. These prints are what I send out on the RFF print swaps, enter into contests and hang on my wall.
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Old 03-17-2007   #14
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I recently got my teenage daughter interested in developing -- I have a (very) small darkroom at home, but she doesn't use it. Now she is totally on her own with it and having a great time. I found a set of negatives from her Holga hanging the other day and 2 or them were pure dynamite. She hasn't had the time to learn how to print yet (the joys of junior year)-- but she has been perfectly content to scan her stuff.

As a bunch of folks above have said, just go with a relatively large changing bag, a good basic tank system (my girl seems to prefer Patterson), a few graduated cylinders and/or rubbermaid beakers, some containers to store solutions, a thermometer and pick a set of chemicals. Keep it very simple at first, maybe start with Kodak D76 or HC-110 (very economical).

Dig around on the Kodak and Ilford sites (Ilford has a very nice set of tutorials here : )

I bought my daughter a copy of "Into Your Darkroom Step-By-Step by Dennis P. Curtin and Steve Musselman" and she found it very useful.

Much of this stuff is avaiable on ebay and if you are in or near a US city, craigslist is a fantastic source for used development gear.

Best of luck,

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