Is it hard to setup a darkroom?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by snaggs, Apr 18, 2005.

  1. snaggs

    snaggs Member

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    It all seems kind of daunting, I love shooting film, and a friend gave me his enlargers etc... I just dont know what to do with them and how to set them up in a normal house.

    Or given I have a large format printer (24"), should I just not bother?

    Daniel.
     
  2. clogz

    clogz Subscriber

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    Warning: developing and printing your own pictures may lead to a lifelong addiction!

    Just start, trial and error etc. Lots of people here that are more than willing to answer your specific questions.

    Good luck

    Hans
     
  3. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Hi Daniel

    There are some simple books on how to set up a darkroom as well lots of threads on this site. good books- The Darkroom Handbook (Dennis Curtin and Joe DeMaio) - Darkroom 2(lustrum press).. These books helped me in all stages of setting up darkrooms, I have made a few!!!!
    There is nothing more peaceful than watching a print emerge in the tray with the red lights on a good sound track going and a half dozen old milwalkees to amuse yourself.
    You do not need a lot of space , go to the darkroom portrait thread and you will see some pretty ingenious designs.
    I encourage you to try this, I also have a large format printer, but I can tell you there is no comparison between the experience and the final output of a darkroom to inkjet.
     
  4. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Snaggs,

    Search the darkroom portraits thread (in the darkoom section). There are lots of photographs of home darkrooms. Lots of folks have temporary darkrooms that set up and take down easily. Be creative. If you have a place to work where you can leave your enlarger set up all the time you will be more likely to use it. For years I would carry my enlarger in and out of a bathroom. Fortunately, (after a small addition to the house) I now have a closet in that bathroom where it can stay permanently. Everything else still has to be set up and taken down each session, but I print at least twice a week.

    It's a lot of fun, but as noted above, maybe a little too much fun.

    Neal Wydra
     
  5. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    A small functional darkroom is not hard to set up. If you look for books on darkroom design from the 70s and 80s you will find lots of options, from a closets to built in darkrooms. If would ask myself the following questions:

    1. How often will I use it?
    2. How much space do I have?
    3. How much do I have spend on plumbing, electrical, ventilation?
    4. What else to I need (other than an enlarger) to set up a dark room?
    5. What will the operating expenses be?

    The one advantage of a digital system is you can stop to attend thaings that come up. When you are in the darkroom you are in the darkroom.

    Paul
     
  6. mikeb_z5

    mikeb_z5 Member

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    Snaggs,

    If an idiot like me can do it, anyone can :smile: GO FOR IT!

    Mike
     
  7. mikeb_z5

    mikeb_z5 Member

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    Exactly why I love the darkroom!

    Mike
     
  8. jmdavis

    jmdavis Member

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    While it is true that you can simply stop doing the digital work, do you want to. Once you are deeply into something, do you want to be disturbed.

    I will occasionally answer the phone in the darkroom. I can usually continue processing a print while on the phone. But, I am also happy to tell callers that I can't talk because I'm working in the darkroom.

    My darkroom is 35 sq. ft. It has a dry side with Beseler 23c and a D2, The wet side is actually a counter top I built myself and a laundry sink. Because each side is only 5 ft. in length, I built a tray stack to process 11x14's. I could probably use it for 16x20, but it would be tight.

    It has plumbing and a darkroom fan and was built by partitioning a utility room.

    I paid for the lumber, laundry sink, adorama darkroom fan, white paneling and prehung door. I scrounged the cabinets at the landfill (someone was dumping 1980's kitchen cabinets after a renovation) and made the counter tops out of a damaged 4x8 sheet of Melanine type shelving ($19) and some nice oak trim.

    All of that said, my first darkroom in the 80's was a temporary one in a bathroom. It worked fine for the time.
     
  9. FrankB

    FrankB Member

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    It's *really* easy and needn't take much space.

    As you've already got the kit why not give it a try? If you find you don't like it then you can always go back to your printer. Alternatively you may end up like me and be even happier to print than shoot!

    The best darkroom-setup-and-printing-manual I've seen (by a long way) is Tim Rudman's "The Photographer's Master Printing Course" (ISBN 1-85732-407-2). Don't let the title put you off; he starts from the (very) basics and even has some example darkroom layouts in there. The book then goes into basic printing methods and on into more advanced controls, but remains very readable throughout (and no, I'm not on commission!).

    Again, why not give it a try?
     
  10. Max Power

    Max Power Member

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    It's dead simple and IMHO well worth it. I'm lucky and happen to be able to do basic carpentry so I created a 6x6 ft room in my basement. The ideas for the dry-side counter and wet-side sink all came from 'Build Your Own Home Darkroom' which I got for a few dollars on Amazon.

    You already have the most expensive stuff, which is the enlarger etc...Now you just need to build a space.

    Kent
     
  11. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Afternoon,Daniel,

    Ditto all the above, especially the comment by Mikeb z5! That covers my situation exactly.

    Konical
     
  12. KevinR

    KevinR Member

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    Really pretty easy. I converted the laundry room in my basement into a darkroom. Trays get set up on the washer and dryer and run to the wash tub for the print washing. Got a screw in safe light and just unscrew the rest. The biggest expense was the enlarger and timer. So if you've got that, man your almost there.
     
  13. titrisol

    titrisol Member

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    Looks like you have the basic equipment, so why not giving it a try.
    You may want to start using your bathroom as darkroom, or a basement for that matter
    As long as you can get water, electrivity and fresh air you'll be in business.

    If you are just starting don;t bother about painting walls, etc just yet. Try to develop a feeling and see if you want to go deeper into it.


     
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  15. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    My first black and white darkroom was my bathroom. I placed the enlarger on top of the toilet, the tub held my trays.. My prints from then are just as good as the ones that I make inside of my dedicated dark room. The only difference is comfort, bells and whistles.

    Any darkroom is better than no darkroom and free enlargers sound mighty nice to me!
     
  16. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    If you use a temporary darkroom like many of us here then I'd recommend the bathroom as it's much easier than the kitchen. It's much quicker to set-up and return the room to it's original use, plus much easier if your caught short :wink:
     
  17. josephaustin

    josephaustin Member

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    Nothing screams darkroom like a basement!!! I set up my darkroom in November, and have had a blast with it ever since. I have been taking photographs with 35mm and medium format for about 4 years seriously, after setting up my darkroom, I have learned more in a shorter time then I would have thought possible. I also bought a 4x5 camera, not all things about digital are bad Darkroom equipment can be had for a song now!!
     
  18. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    If you are talking B&W then all the above applies. If you are talking colour, then your problem is going to be the pong from the chemicals unless you have a daylight processor such as a Jobo and the more complex processing cycle. As suggested, setup in the bathroom and give it a go: worst case is you blew a few beer tokens on chemicals and paper, best case (or possibly also the worst case :wink: ) is you are hooked!

    For B&W work, get no-odour stop bath (citric acid based) and a low-odour fixer and life will be much more pleasant in a temporary bathroom/darkroom with no, or limited, air extraction (I use Fotospeed products, but they may not be available in your location - lots of other makers do similar products). Agfa Neutol WA developer has a low odour (almost none that I can detect), has excellent dish life and is economical.

    You definitely need a book to get the basics down - try your local library.


    Have fun, Bob.
     
  19. Rlibersky

    Rlibersky Member

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    Watch out darkrooms are very addictive. I start in a 3x3 closet walking across the basement to a laundry tub to wash. I'm on my fifth build now. (My wife can't stay in one place for more then a few years) Built this one around the 8x10 enlarger. Hope we stay here a while.

    Don't stress out about it. You'll probably enjoy it. Good luck
    Randy
     
  20. joeyk49

    joeyk49 Member

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    What' really coool about the darkroom...is that everyone has to stay out till I say its clear..hehehehehe, which is for HOURS!!!

    I squeezed mine into a 5x8 foot corner of my basement. It really wasn't that hard. A few 2x3s (I'm too cheap to use 2x4s) a piece of cheap luan plywood for wall skin and a sheet of regular plywood for workbench surfaces.

    The toughest part was running water. If you've got hot and cold and a drain, you just need to tap into them. I used an old stainless steel sink tha I had ut in my shed. You can use extension cords for power, but I tapped into a circuit that was in the basement and added a coupke of recepticles.

    Just remember, once you turn to the dark side, you may never go back...muah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!
     
  21. skahde

    skahde Member

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    Daniel,

    there were times when I was to busy or distracted to set up a darkroom although I had everything at hand. It's a small step. Looking back, not having one is harder by far. If you can do it, don't hesitate.

    Stefan
     
  22. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I used my kitchen as a darkroom through several years of semi-professional photography. It had the added benefits of A) forcing me to do the dishes once in a while to get access to the sink, and B) forcing me to clean up and put away the darkroom gear after each session so I could make dinner. Or breakfast, as the case might be... The power cord for the enlarger also blocked the door to the refrigerator where I kept my beer, after some initial irritation I decided this might be a very good thing indeed!
     
  23. Adrian Twiss

    Adrian Twiss Member

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    The hardest part for me was visualising the layout. It took a lot of scale drawings and the much valued assistance of a friend with a CAD machine to get the layout finalised. I decided to dedicate a spare bedroom as a permanent darkroom. I was lucky to have 100 sq ft to play with and still found things got rather snug when all the equipment was installed. It took me over two years (mainly because of distractions) but it was worth it in the end.
     
  24. Maine-iac

    Maine-iac Member

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    It's not hard. Large closets, bathtubs, etc. can all be used. My first darkroom was in married student housing in grad school, and it was a shelf installed over the bathtub. Enlarger and timer and paper were on top; trays went in the tub underneath. Worked fine (since I was a seminarian, being on my knees to run the paper through the trays was good training anyway!)

    The only hard part was for my wife who was pregnant at the time, and as she grew in size it got harder for her to thread the 18" gap between shelf and tub rim to get in the bathtub, but hey, she made it, and so did our first child. :smile:

    Larry
     
  25. eagleowl

    eagleowl Member

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    warning!!!!

    Setting up a darkroom is surprisingly easy,and the basic processes of developing film and printing the images becomes pretty much second nature fairly fast.
    But I will give you this warning:every darkroom-mine included-seems to develop some strange kind of time warp.
    I go into it for what feels like a 30 minute session,and when I come out,the rest of the world has advanced 5 hours or more!
     
  26. mark

    mark Member

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    Ain't that the truth! I went into work one morning, 8:00am, closed the door to the darkroom and walked out for a mid morning break at around 3:30 pm. God I miss that job. They went digital anyway so I would have moved on by now. But I still miss it.

    This has been a great thread. I was about to ask the same thing and this popped up. I have learned a lot. I have turned my classroom into a darkroom but it is a very large and flexible space. I was having difficulty visualizing how to set it up in a small area.