A new beginning: Darkroom tips and tricks

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by atenlaugh, Apr 21, 2005.

  1. atenlaugh

    atenlaugh Member

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    Next week at some point I will begin my darkroom (printing) adventures. It's wonderful, yes, I know. So, anybody who has anything to say about it can do so here. It can be serious, or fun, but hopefully fun either way. And hopefully I can learn a thing or two!
     
  2. glennfromwy

    glennfromwy Member

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    My rule number one: Keep an open mind but don;t go chasing magic bullets. There aren't any. Pick a couple of papers and a developer to start with. Learn to use them. After you develop some skill and think you have your combo down pretty well, it's time to experiment a bit, if you wish. You will hear all kinds of things about "this is better than that". Humbug! What's best is what works for YOU. Good luck and have fun!
     
  3. phfitz

    phfitz Member

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    Great fun and good luck with it. Advice:
    good music
    never take it too seriously
    chase down the light leaks
    paint the easels flat black
    keep it clean simple and easy

    I whole-heartedly disagree with glennfromwy, there are dozens of 'magic bullets' out there, they just don't work for anyone I ever met.
     
  4. akar

    akar Member

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    I found Tim Rudman's book, "The Photographer's Master Printing Course" to be helpful. But I am also glad I tinkered around without too much guidance for a bit first. So what if it took me more than a month to figure out how to use the masking easel the way it was intended? Hmm, well, maybe I am not the best one to be giving advice here...
     
  5. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Ahhh...it's like watching a baby stand for the first time...

    Do a safelight test.

    Put the enlargers lens cap on. Place a mirror under the lens. Turn off all lights in the darkroom. Let your eyes adjust. Turn on the enlarger. Put black masking tape over the many light leaks.

    Prepare for every question answered to reveal 10 more questions.

    ENJOY!!!

    Murray
     
  6. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    The best advice anyone gave me was to study good prints...by that I mean not printed reproductions but actual prints...

    If possible buy a good print by a master photographer...all of the technical knowledge and advice in the world will not do much good if you don't know where you want to go.
     
  7. kcarey

    kcarey Member

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    No tips or tricks- I just wanted to let you know you are not alone. I have 3 printing sessions under my belt and so far my biggest issue beyond not knowing a damn thing is DUST!

    I have learned that without a grain magnifier, I have areally hard getting anything in focus. I don't know if relying on it is going to be detrimental, but for now...its the only way I can be sure of anything before I print. Have fun. looking forward to learning along side of you. -Karen
     
  8. FrankB

    FrankB Member

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    Amen. Also...

    • Buy a large bin. Put it in your darkroom. Use it.
    • Read Les McLean's articles on split-grade printing. They'll save you so much heartache. (The single most useful technique I ever learnt!)
    • If your budget will stretch, get an RH Designs Stopclock Pro. Last time I looked these were on a 10 day money-back guarantee, however I'll tell you now that you won't want to part with it!
    • If you live in a hard water area, buy a jug filter and use it for all your film processing water. Watch those "dust" specs disappear from your prints.
    • Be meticulous about your chem dilutions, temperatures, etc. Eliminate chance variations wherever possible.
    • Keep records of your print sessions (print size, column position, aperture, exposures, filtrations, burns, etc.) It'll give you a start point for any reprints, and flag up if anything's seriously wrong.
    • Get out and shoot. Practice, practice, practice!
    • Get in the darkroom and print. Likewise!

    and finally...

    • Look at other people's work. Learn what a fine B&W print can be. Learn to see what you want to achieve. Then learn to achieve that result.

    I've heard it said that photography (in an incredibly simplistic way (and in men at any rate!)) is generally a three stage process:

    Stage 1: Shiny kit syndrome - the search for the latest camera with the most bells and whistles, buttons and functions, the sharpest lenses and the largest format.
    Stage 2: The search for the perfect technique - The perfect metering methodology, the ultimate development process, the surgically-precise dodge-and-burn, the last work in toning.
    Stage 3: The artistic stage - where the photographer attempts to convey an emotional response or message to the viewer.

    Personally I'm still cack-handedly embroiled in stage 2. However, I've seen photographers (on this forum) who've mastered stage 3, and I aspire (one day) to join them.
     
  9. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

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    about the dust:
    NEVER clean the darkroom ;-) - you only move the dust to other places..(vaccuom cleaning is ok and a wet cloth also, but the dust that stays over the enlarger is resting...doing no harm..)

    dust on film: I must be the only guy in the world (allmost) that uses a "centrifuge" as the last step in my developments. I can't live without it - and there is NO dust or chalk residue after that...
    you can buy one small one cheap. (I've just seen a few for about 40$, used)

    I don't know whether the name Centrifuge is common in USA but I made an attachment for you to look at - you know: the gizmo we use to remove most of the excess water after washing our clothes..
     

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  10. Glenn Mathison

    Glenn Mathison Member

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    I couldn't agree more.

    This is the main reason I decided to join the Print Exchange round 4 that is currently underway. And the prints I have seen so far have shown me just how far I have to go . . .

    Glenn
     
  11. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Stage 4: Fun and Games - trying out everything you can lay your hands on (papers, developers, toners et cetera) with the sole purpose of having fun trying new things. Must not be confused with "magic bullet chase", which comes under 1) and 2).

    This is must fun when you accidentally produce a great print. It is least fun when you realise you have no idea how you did it. But it's very rewarding when you find out (unless you find out on the last sheet of a discontinued paper).
     
  12. rogueish

    rogueish Member

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    GlennSYD is correct about the Print Exchange. You'll see some excellent prints and you'll have them in hand when you want to ask questions. I discovered I still had a long way to go. And still do. Hopefully there will always be something more to learn and discover! Check out the activities in the Members Organized" section. There are some really great things going on.
    Dust is the bane of all printers, some are just better at dealing with it. It's always the maids' day off at my place.
    Glennfromwy is correct in saying pick one or two papers and a developer and LEARN it.
    FrankB says be meticulous in your dilutions and temperatures. Be Consistant!
    Ask! Then ASk some more. "There are NO stupid questions" I have seen this phrase posted here many times.
    Don't feel bad if you put the paper wrong side up on the easel, then wonder why your print is so faint. Everyone (but me :wink: of course) has done it. Nothing like matt surface FB paper.
    Don't be cheap with your fixer and don't cheat on your wash times. Poorly fixed prints show it in very little time.
    Frequent APUG, if not for the knowledge, or the gallery, then for the humour.
    Happy printing!
     
  13. kex

    kex Member

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    i would suggest to get a decent enlarger lens..

    Schneider 50mm componar is a nice start..
     
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  15. Glenn Mathison

    Glenn Mathison Member

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    Easels?

    Anyone have any comments on easels?

    When I learnt at school we didn't have them. Since I started to get back into home printing a couple of years ago through acquisitions of 2nd hand gear, I have not picked up an easel so to this point I've neven seen one used.

    I gather they are mainly used to keep paper flat during printing and for moving the L's to crop. But anything else? These first two uses are easy for me to get around in other ways, so I'm wondering... New easels are quite expensive here in Oz so I guess there must be some value to them?

    Curious.

    Glenn
     
  16. jmdavis

    jmdavis Member

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    A good easel makes print production easier. A bad easel is a never ending source of frustration.

    I have what I consider a fairly good easel. It's a Saunders 4 bladed Universal (14x17) and I got it from the retiring LF photographer that I got my D2 from. It was not expensive (maybe $30 US). It's not as nice as the knob adjustable models (this one uses sliders), but it is square and immensly better than the two bladed easels (including a brand new one) that I had been using.

    Mike
     
  17. Dave Starr

    Dave Starr Member

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    I'm going to disagree, in a way, with several posters. There IS a magic bullet, and you already have it. It's called film and a darkroom. There's NOTHING like it. I call it a magical place where neat things happen.

    Tips........

    1. Be consistant; if you develop one print for 45 seconds, and another for 90, you're going to have problems. Pick a print developing time - I use 2 minutes - and develop every print for that time.
    2. Take notes. There's nothing more frustrating than looking at 2 or 3 prints from the same negative and not remembering what you did to get different results.
    3. Hang out here on APUG - there's so much knowledge here, freely given.
     
  18. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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  19. dphphoto

    dphphoto Member

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    Definately get a 4 blade adjustable easel. Saunders and Beseler make good ones. They're more expensive than the 2 blade type or the "borderless" ones. But the latter two types will drive you nuts; they're too cheap to do the job they're supposed to do.
    Check on eBay.
    Dean
     
  20. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    There are good two-bladed easels too. I have two - one good, one great. The great one keeps Forezo Museum perfectly flat, the good one is good enough for everything else.
     
  21. jvarsoke

    jvarsoke Member

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    Hmm. I can't make heads or tails of this advice. There are 3 primary variables when printing: distance (how high the enlarger is from the paper), fstop of the lens, and time. Considering that the distance is pretty well set depending on magnification and croping, then you must be adjusting the lens to get 2mins all the time. Since they are relatively interchangeable (ignoring poor lense quality in extreme wide-open / stopped-down states) is there a reason you prefer changing your fstop rather than your time?

    Or do you adapt with the secondary variables: paper speed, contrast, exposure (film density) etc?

    Is there something I'm missing?
     
  22. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    "Is there something I'm missing?" Yup... He said "develop", not "expose"... :wink:

    But I don't agree anyway! :wink: It depends on the paper and developer how long it takes to get a good black. Ansco 130 is much slower to get a black than Neutol for example and Ilford MGIV RC paper is 2 to 4 times faster to develop than the same manufacturer's FB. I generally use 5 times the first appearance time (the time when the shadows first start to appear on the print in the developer). I do agree however that consistency is a major key to success.

    Easels are pretty well essential for fibre paper and jolly useful for RC - you can keep RC flat with a bit of double sided tape in the middle though as they tend to curl "upwards" in teh centre. If you want white borders, get an easel.

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  23. stephen

    stephen Member

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    Serious tip: make sure that you have a spare bulb for your enlarger. They never fail at the end of the last exposure that you were going to make..
     
  24. B&Wenthusiast

    B&Wenthusiast Member

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    Darkroom Tricks and Tips

    I'm setting up a darkroom for my daughter and myself (we've been renting one). I'm really new at this; she's been doing it 3 years; so the assistance is greatly appreciated!

    Pamela :smile:
     
  25. haris

    haris Guest

    DUST! My biggest enemy too...

    My only solution is to pay attention when process negatives to keep dust out of them. Relatively easy for 35mm, but 120 film give me big problems. Then keep them in dust free sleeves. Dust out enlarger, negative carrer, lens... and area around enlarger just before printing. Take negatives out of sleeves and put them in enlarger just before printing. After printing imediatelly place negatives back in sleeves.

    And after all that attention there is ALLWAYS need for print retouching... :smile:

    No winner game :smile:
     
  26. b.raimondo

    b.raimondo Member

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    Keep a journal by your enlarger and write down your enlarger height, f stop and amount of time for your prints. It will be easy to reproduce what you did and what failed until you get the hang of it. Your notes are essential for going back to an old neg and printing it. Measure your chemicals carefully, don't eyeball. This can be a fatal mistake, I know. As far as dust, buy everything you can to clean and protect your negs, equipment etc. Vacumm your dry area don't use the air in the can. The darkroom is a magical place, hang in there.

    Betty