Advise about setting up a darkroom
January 2, 2004 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to finally get around to setting up my black-and-white darkroom this year. Any tips, tricks, advice or web sites to share? Think it can be done for around $500 (preferably less)?
posted by JoanArkham to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
good idea. when it comes to black and white, digital is ovverrated -- silver gelatin is the way to go

by all means don't get cheap reels and tanks -- you'll have to replace them.
a good used enlarger shouldn't be too expensive, try your local pro shops and eBay

I like X-tol for Tri-X and Plus-X

here you'll find sound advice

Kodak Polymax Paper and Oriental Multigrade are very very good -- you can even try some weird stuff like lith prints
posted by matteo at 11:48 AM on January 2, 2004

Should be a breeze to be able to get the equipment for way under $500! Everyone's so jazzed about digital that people are virtually giving enlargers and all the other stuff away on ebay.

Setting up the room may be more challenging - you need shelf space, electricity, a place that can be blacked out, running water and a drain. If you can pull those together, you're set!
posted by jasper411 at 12:19 PM on January 2, 2004

Do you have a dedicated darkroom space? Processing film in a blacked-out bathroom is no problem and you can pick up most of the kit you might need for under $100. But when it comes to printing, having a permanent space for thoughtfully arranged wet and dry benches makes an enormous difference to whether printing is a joy or a chore - and consequently the quality of the result. Renting darkroom time elsewhere is another possibility.

Another thing that's really important when printing is decent ventilation. Different people have different tolerances for things like pungent stop-bath or fixer fumes, but it can get uncomfortable pretty quickly in a small unventilated space.

Print sitting down. I've always found this made for a more relaxed and considered approach, but for some unfathomable reason many darkrooms are not equipped with a chair or stool.

Dust control can be a major pain. Prevention is always better than cure. Never be tempted to leave a negative unsleaved or a cover off the enlarger when not in use. Carpet or curtains are a major culprit and cause static.

Control variables. There's lots of possible causes when you're not happy with your prints and it's tempting to try changing all sorts of things about your process in an attempt to improve. Change one thing at a time.

If you're a perfectionist, go to a gallery where there's some outstanding prints by an expert on show, to see how good it can get. Then get depressed about your own efforts... that's how it's always been for me, anyhow.
posted by normy at 11:33 PM on January 2, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks! Wow, these questions scroll by fast...

Anyway, I do have a corner of the basement picked out, so it won't be much trouble to get the room ready, just a curtain over the door. No running water yet, but I'm going to try and get some plumbing work done later this year.

Unfortunately, I have to share space with the laundry, so I'm sure dust/lint is going to be a problem.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:42 AM on January 5, 2004

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