Summer project #4
As we move forward in the digital age, it may become harder and harder to find photo labs that will process film. In that case, analogue enthusiasts will have to resort to creating their own darkrooms. Fortunately, setting up your own dark room is fairly inexpensive, only requiring some effort to evaluate what you have and how you can make it work. Developing your own prints is cost-effective, and it is extremely satisfying to see your photos materialize in front of you. Some photographers have turned sheds and garages into dark rooms, or even their bathrooms. So, how do you get started?
1. You will need a suitable room. To turn a room into a dark room, it will need to be light-tight, have running water and electrical outlets, and some type of ventilation system. To block out and light leaks, you can nail wood over cracks in the walls, tape layers of black plastic bags over windows, or stuff strips of felt into cracks. If there is a crack under the door, stuff towels into it or install an exclusion strip. You will need running water to wash your prints free of excess chemicals, outlets for your safe lights and enlarger, and room to store your chemicals and hang or spread out your prints to dry.
2. Arrange your room into separate areas for wet and dry procedures. If your sink is located on the left side of the room, it is ideal if the outlets are not close to the source of water both for safety reasons and to eliminate spills. Keep your chemicals separate from your completed prints or your store of photo paper.
3. The problem of proper ventilation can be frustrating, but is very necessary. Fumes from developing chemicals can cause serious health issues, if you are exposed to them for very long. If you plan to spend your weekend developing your images, you may find yourself with an extreme migraine. You can install a standard ventilation fan like those used in bathrooms with little effort.
4. The color of the safe light you will need to get will depend on what type of films you will be developing-some require a red light, while others can be used with a more amber colored light. You will need to do some research and experiment in order to find the correct wattage to use.
5. There are other bits and pieces that you will find useful in your new endeavor of processing your own photos–timers, thermometer, towels for drying your hands off, measuring cups, tongs, trays, clips, fans and other things that you may discover that you need.
Wherever you decide to set up your dark room, be sure to always clean up all chemical spills right away. This is especially important if you decide to set it up in your bathroom or near food preparation areas. While there are many factors to consider, setting up your own dark room can be very rewarding. For the DIY photographer, this project can be on-going–you can always improve your dark room or find better ways to do things. Are you up for the challenge?