Working in the Darkroom


first i should start with saying that most darkrooms have a safe light on a reddish or yellowish coloured light in order to make being in complete darkness so dangerous and to provide some light so that developers can see what they are doing., but the light will not damage or sabotage the light-sensitive paper this is why you have tone careful which lights are installed into your darkroom.

The Enlarger

The Enlarger does what it says on the tin, when you have used your small negatives they are slotted into a film carrier which slides into your enlarger just below the enlarger head. when the enlarger head shines the light, the light shines through the negative exposing the correct image you have placed in the film carrier. the image then appears ‘larger’ on the easel at the bottom as it is shon through the enlarger lens, this image is usually very blurred so on the side of the enlarger a focus knob is used to focus in and out to make the image the desired effect of the photographer. when you have done this you obviously do a step test and then when you have your correct exposure time you turn off the light and use the light sensitive paper again but a larger full piece of paper to create your final image, then the timer is used to expose the image correctly.

enlarger enlarger

Developing Negatives.

most of the time when developing i used a developing bag as i find it disorientating being in pure darkness all the time. so using a light proof bag is easier for myself personally so.

  1. the first step is to take the film canister, your film real and the developing tub and place them all in the light proof bag and put your arms into the bag.
  2. then you remove your film canister lid releasing the film into the darkness of the bag.
  3. then it is time to transfer the film onto the film real by placing i on to the opening slightly bent and then easing it into place then it will easily spin round until completely covered.
  4. you then put your film onto the tube which is placed inside the developing tub.
  5. then the tube is placed into the developing tub and the light proof insides of the tub are screwed into place along with the lid on the tub.
  6. you’re ready to come back out ito the daylight.


FullSizeRender-3FullSizeRender-1 FullSizeRender-2


now time for developing.

150ml of water with 150 ml of developer added into funnel making sure its 20degrees agitate consistently for 30 seconds and then twice every 30 seconds after that. the twice every 30seconds was for a whole 13 minutes.

the developer was then tipped out and 300ml of stop bath to stop the developing process for 30 seconds after that it is tipped out.

then fixer is added (350ml) and the agitating it for once every minute for 5 minutes and then that was tipped out and a contrast running water source was run through the funnel for a wash.

the developing process was now complete and the negatives are ok to be removed from the light proof container to be dried in the drying racks ready to be used.

What is a step test?

low contrast print

as you can see the image above shows a test strip below a correctly exposed image, i would not have been able to create a good image with out correctly making a test strip by exposing the paper to 3/4 seconds and each line represents where the light has been exposed. the lighter the strip the less exposed it was so counting up in 3s which is why i did for this test strip it goes to 21 seconds at the end but i only used a 15 second exposure as i believed that on the test strip this was the correct exposure. without a test strip we would just bee guessing and this is not an efficient way of working in the darkroom.

Understanding contrast.

Contrast is the amount of separation between the bright tones in an image and the dark tones in an image. High contrast images have white tones and black tones and few grey tones in between. Low contrast images have a lot of different grey tones, but no true whites or true blacks.

low contrast extreme high contrast extreme

If an image has too much contrast is will look like a bad photocopy. If an image doesn’t have enough contrast it will appear muddy and is often described as being flat. as you can see i have given some examples here of contrasts high and low contrasts (high contrast is to the right and the low contrast on the left).

film can affect how much contrast the end resolution the dark room has if you have a underexposed negative with low density the image is difficult to see and this creates a low contrast print but this can sometime be fixed in the darkroom by going up a contrast step on the enlarger using the dial on the top of the enlarger. sometime though sadly if when taking the image the exposure was too underexposed the film ca be too far gone and ruined to be fixed.

med contrast print

this was this first print i did and was done at a contrast level of 2.5; exactly in the middle of the contrast metre. i did my step test and 4 seconds each time and chose 16 seconds as my exposure time from the step test results, i love how you can see all the detail in each part of the picture. i was particularly proud of this image as it was something i found interesting and beautiful ad i captured it well in focus correctly exposed post shoot and i also developed it well first time so yes i enjoyed taking this image very much and it made me fall in love with the darkroom i got a great satisfaction with just standing and enlarging in a darkroom i found it very relaxing. the outcome of working in the darkroom i got was a new found respect for film photographers as so much care goes into each image they produce and it is actually a long and compicated process but with a fantastic outcome.

low contrast print

this was the last contrast that i did and was set at a contrast level of 1. the step test was exposed for 5 seconds each time and i eventually came to the decision to use an exposure time of 15 seconds for the final print. the shades and tones look very faded in this print (as i prefer a much punchier and focused black and white image) i don’t really like low contrast photographs. doing step tests i found to be so very helpful in finding which exposure time looks the best and it is so much better to test on small pieces of light sensitive paper.


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