How do you make money with your darkroom?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by thedancefloor, Jan 13, 2012.

  1. thedancefloor

    thedancefloor Member

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    I really liked the thread: How do you make money with your medium format camera?
    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum51/98590-how-do-you-make-money-your-medium-format-camera.html

    It's one thing to be a great shooter and market your photography, but I think that there might be a larger market for the person who can make prints for other photographers. My local lab has stopped doing B&W for a few years now, and they've told me that people are still asking about it.

    What would be the tools and resources you'd need to run a profitable black and white lab?
     
  2. Ryuji

    Ryuji Member

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    If you are in any business you know this, but people keeps asking about stuff that they have no intention of paying for.

    I didn't make much money but made some by inventing Silvergrain family of b&w processing chemicals. But that's not something I suggest to others...
     
  3. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    You can make money by making coffee shop with 4-5 darkroom that you can rent by an hour. If I have a starting capital - I would try this: you can just rent, you can rent and teach ...
     
  4. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I process film for a few locals who don't have their own dark rooms. None of my clients desire to do their own as they either don't shoot enough black and white, or don't have the space to justify the outlay for dark room gear. I also print for about half my clients, the rest use hybrid workflow methods.
     
  5. Steve Roberts

    Steve Roberts Member

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    I don't think I'd want to get into printing other people's work as pretty much everyone left in analogue photography is by definition keen and discerning. I know that if anyone else printed my shots I'd be thinking "Could have done with dodging/burning/being lighter/being darker/cropping here", etc.. Renting out a darkroom might be a better bet especially if it's your own that you have anyway and if like mine it's actually only used for a small fraction of the time it could be. Then there's the matter of who do you rent it to and do you trust them not to nick the family silver or (even worse) dip into your stash of paper?

    Steve
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    it is a matter of knowing how much your materials cost and charging something you can live with.
    all you really need is a darkroom and the materials you use to print and process your own work.
    and keep in mind, that you might have to print a few different "versions" of a print at first,
    until you and your clients are on the same page interpretation-wise.

    good luck !
    john
     
  7. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    A darkroom is kind of like a house or a boat - it's a hole in the ground/water that you pour money into. Unless you can offer a specialty service that people can't get elsewhere (say platinum printing or other alternative process support) it's highly unlikely that you can earn a living with a darkroom. Make some money? maybe. Maybe even make enough to clear a small profit after your expenses are recovered. Anything more than that is somewhere between flying pigs and frozen inferno.
     
  8. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    To make a little money, start with a bigger amount of money. Seriously though, if you could process batches of rolls of film, it might be worthwhile. Figure an hour of labor for any processing, plus chemicals, sleeves, etc... It wouldn't be worthwhile to do 1-2 rolls for someone at a time. 3-5 rolls, perhaps.

    I'd let the customer scan them if they want to. You could make a little money teaching them how, but otherwise scanning other people's stuff is drudgery. If you're good at it, teaching would probably be the steadiest way to make money at it. A local adult ed program or community college might hire you if you don't want to do the billing yourself or if you want to get your name out in the community as a competent instructor.
     
  9. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    There's probably potential to save money by not doing something more expensive like drinking alcohol or browsing ebay.
     
  10. Ryuji

    Ryuji Member

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    Even if you could print money in your darkroom, you can't beat the Federal Reserve Quantitative Easing and now the "twist" operation.
     
  11. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    Even if you're a great printer, I doubt you'll make much money, if anything at all. The greatest printers in the world still struggle to survive and even then, they have to adjust to market demands in some capacity (offer film/print scanning services, teaching photography workshops, etc.) and do not strictly do printing and film developing in the darkroom. I hope Bob Carnie will chime into this thread at some point with his experiences in Toronto and his knowledge of the printing industry.
     
  12. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    I have heard a wooden boat described as "a hole in the water, surrounded by wood, into which one throws money." I'd describe my darkroom as something similar.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 14, 2012
  13. gary mulder

    gary mulder Member

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    No prospects here. I build my self a wooden boat AND I have a dark room.
     
  14. Robert Oliver

    Robert Oliver Member

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    Great timing on this thread... I've been crunching the numbers for the idea of taking over a rental darkroom here in San Diego and trying to figure out if I could make it fly.
     
  15. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Sorry I cannot answer this one properly.... I did not get into printing for the money. The OP knows or should know if it will work, no matter what the economic situation is - good times come and go, its the OP's desire to make it happen is what's important. If you have to ask how to do it I doubt there is much chance of success IMO, I started Silver Shack in a recession, 20 years later we are in another one.


     
  16. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Robert - a dangerous line of work- If it is a digital rental area maybe.

     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The rental darkrooms that seem to be most successful around here are ones that are associated with existing communities of potential users - especially if there are nearby photo schools with facilities that have limited capacities.

    Low overhead is apparently critical!
     
  18. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I have a darkroom because I like to use it. But I did find someone here who wanted silver gelatin prints from old glass negatives and didn't mind what I charge. Maybe I charge too little, but it covers supplies, daycare (to give me the time to do it), plus some. I don't always have stuff from him to print, but when I do it's sorta worth it.
     
  19. thedancefloor

    thedancefloor Member

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    Thanks for the responses everyone. I plan to shoot weddings and offer 150 or so FB 5x7s etc. So I'm thinking that while I'm at it, I could be printing for other photographers too.