New To Making Prints - Any Advice?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by verian, Sep 9, 2013.

  1. verian

    verian Member

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    I plan on setting up a darkroom in my garage so that I can develop and print. There are quite a few 'full' darkroom kits on ebay at the moment which aren't overly expensive and allow me to get started without a significant investment. Does anybody have any advice as to what to look out for, any general pitfalls or general tips when setting up a darkroom. All advice most welcome. Thanks.
     
  2. Jesper

    Jesper Subscriber

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    You should be able to make prints and get experience with almost any enlarger. Just make shure that it has all the parts that you need. The lamp may be broken and hard to find, there should be a negative carrier, a lens etc. Apart from the enlarger you need some trays and some tongs. There is really no limit to what kind of gadgets you can find for your darkroom but you can stat out small. If you buy "a complete darkroom" you will probably get all that you need except paper and chemicals (even if they are included you should get fresh supplies). I think the important part is to make shure that the enlarger has all the parts since spare parts can be expensive and hard to find.
     
  3. LikeAPolaroid

    LikeAPolaroid Member

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    Get LED red safelights, forget those tungsten dim lights. Osram makes the Parathom P 1W which is what I use. I have two and it's not a dark room anymore :smile: I did the fogging test and I am safe for at least 30 mins. Use only red safelights.
    Get citric acid as the stop bath, do not use vinegar or acetic acid. It's odorless and cheap.
    Get those odorless fixers (I use Rollei RXN, or Tetenal Odorless), that are also easier to wash away from prints
    Get an electronic timer, do not buy those old second-hand analog timers as they count very unreliably.
    If possible, get those inox tongs instead of the plastic ones.
    Stick with one paper and one developer for a while.

    As you are new to making prints: learn how to do test strips. It's the most important part of the process. Some do with f-stops increments, some do with a linear one. Whatever works for you it's OK. E.g. I do a linear strip but then work in f-stops on the print. To each their own. Start with wide strips and then learn where to put them on the print. Learn how to judge the whites and how contrast changes the blacks (and the whites). You will need to train your eyes, but it will pay off.
     
  4. Hatchetman

    Hatchetman Subscriber

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  5. mesantacruz

    mesantacruz Subscriber

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    LED Red Safelights are a +1 from me too... so don't spend on a safelight with filter. ( i recommend getting any light fixture and using the red led from superbrightleds.com, since they have the nm/wavelengths).

    As for ebay, like anything else, it's a hit and miss, but you have to think about shipping especially with equipment as old as darkroom equipment. I recommend you look around at local sales (craigslist, local ebay, etc.) as it will let you see the actual condition of things.

    I also recommend you look at other threads, which have sprung up concerning this, and see what some people have come up.
     
  6. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Plan, plan and plan. Think of your safety first. Plan on good ventilation and a safe electrical system. Think of your workflow. A poorly planned darkroom is dangerous and not productive. Learn from other people's mistakes.

    What I suggest is use a rental or a school darkroom first to see the layout.
     
  7. ianth

    ianth Member

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    Keep every thing very simple and basic ~ Use one film and one dev (HP5 and ID11 or Tri-x and ID11) a box of 5x7 and three dishes ~ small enlargements are nice to carry with you ~ do not worry about the enlarger or lens too much ~ print boarder-less ~ keep every thing clean ~ use multigrade paper without filter! (try 5 secs at F5.6) and get your film processing right ~ Try this ~ rate your 400asa film at 320 and develop stock for 7 minutes at 20 degrees ~ and the magic? expose all of your first film at 1/125 ~ F8.0 ~ you have nothing to loose and....I have taught this for 20 years and every time my students have had a big smile on their face!!
     
  8. ROL

    ROL Member

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  9. Mark Feldstein

    Mark Feldstein Member

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    Welcome to the party !!! You've gotten some solid advice so far. Cleanliness is really important to processing. B&W processing is really straightforward for film or prints and really enjoyable too. But when you've got to combat dust, insulation and grit falling into trays or processing equipment or blowing in the wind it becomes a real battle.

    So, what I suggest is that you go down to some home center or lumberyard and score a roll of 6mil visquine plastic in either black or translucent. (Black might allow you to work in the daytime) It's pretty heavy duty and should handle large construction staples well. Try and confine a small area of your garage and enclose it, ceiling and sides too. Slit a doorway flap in it so you've basically built a tent and use an air purifier / cleaner inside along with a small fan to move air. Ventilation is important while you're working.

    You can even make a film drying area inside a small hanging plastic frame (like PVC pipe) with a plastic sheeting for sides, kind of like a narrow vertical tent. Oh, and when you wash film, don't forget hypo clearing agent AND photo flo to prevent streaks and curling of your negs.

    After you get it all cleaned up as best you can, vacuumed and dusted, keep your equipment clean and maybe stored with plastic sheet covers over work surfaces. You'll be much happier for it and your work will really benefit.

    I've processed and printed film in all sorts of terrible work environments from motel bathrooms to tents. Dust and dirt is the enemy. Minimizing it really helps the enjoyment and productive level. :cool:
    Mark
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2013
  10. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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  11. verian

    verian Member

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    Thanks for the advice Jesper. 'In Full Working Order' is a pre-requisite of any purchase I may make and I also need negative carriers for medium format, which limits my choices as most for sale seem to be 35mm carriers only, although I may find one that I can still get MF carriers for.
     
  12. verian

    verian Member

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    Thanks for the advice. Lot to think on there but will take it on board for sure. I'm starting with no working knowledge of the process, just some theoretical, and will certainly be going for test strips.
     
  13. verian

    verian Member

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    Thanks mesantacruz, I don't think we have Craiglist or ebay local in the UK, but if I do buy a complete kit I would be collecting it so I will be able to see what I'm buying before handing over any money.
     
  14. verian

    verian Member

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  15. verian

    verian Member

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    Thanks Mainecoonmaniac, I have been to my local school and had a little look around at their darkroom, by chance rather than as a special visit. There's also a local camera club that has access to darkroom facilities, I might have a look at that as well.
     
  16. verian

    verian Member

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    Thanks Ianth, when I actually get set up and ready to go I shall be referring back to this post to see if I can work through this :smile:
     
  17. verian

    verian Member

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  18. verian

    verian Member

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    Thanks Mark, good plan. I hadn't considered sealing an area off like that, it will make it much simpler than what I was planning on! Dust will be an issue to start with without a doubt as it's an old garage (currently full of things destined for the skip) so I have quite a bit of cleaning ahead of me. It's a joint project with my son who is starting a photography qualification course at school and is one of only two in the school who are planning on using predominantly film, and the only one touching Medium Format, as a teenager he won't be happy about it, but he will be getting the vacuum cleaner out!
     
  19. verian

    verian Member

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    The hunt for an enlarger is ongoing. It's a bit of a minefield really as a lot of people don't actually seem to know what they are selling and can't answer questions in any depth.

    I actually bought and paid for one, a Rollei, but the same evening I received a note telling me that the item had already been sold in the shop and they hadn't had time to take it off the web :sad: I did get a full refund of course but it was frustrating.
     
  20. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    Setting up in your garage - exactly what I have done. First, think about power and water. If you already have power in the right place, then great, if you haven't then (in UK) strictly you should get a qualified electrician to do it, just like I did :wink:. Now water. If there is any way you can get cold and hot in to your garage you will benefit. In anything but summer your cold water will be coming out the tap at prob 10-15 degrees ish, and mixing some hot to get a good temperature for development is usually necessary. If you can't, think about a little water heater - you can buy little electric ones. UK garages are usually single skin brick or concrete. What I did was build a stud-wall "box" inside including a suspended floor with all sides insulated, so my box became a dampproof membrane on the outside, insulation and plasterboard inside. Keeps the cold and damp out and makes a really nice working environment. I realise this costs a few £££ but if you are handy, it isn't too bad. I even learned to skim plasterboard when I did mine. I will never be a pasterer but the end result is really good. If your garage is part of the house, it's going to be easier. Think about fitting an extractor fan for some ventilation. Finally, the one thing that is hard to buy is a sink. I made mine out of ply with epoxy coating. Spend some time. Make it a nice place, and you will actually want to use it. If you need more info you can always PM me.