To Darkroom Or Not To Darkroom, That Is The Question.....

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by mtbbrian, Jun 17, 2006.

  1. mtbbrian

    mtbbrian Member

    Messages:
    309
    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2005
    Location:
    Salt Lake Ci
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I am in the process of buying a new home, and the one that I bidding on has a space that I am thinking could be a darkroom.
    Assuming I get this house, it would be anywhere from a few years to many years before I would able to get the darkroom up and running.
    So before I get my hopes up and all that, I am wondering if a darkroom will be viable.
    I know I could get some great deals on equipment, but what about film, paper and chemistry?
    Thanks!
    Brian
     
  2. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Dear Brian,

    We've decades yet, perhaps centuries. Prices will go up; the number of suppliers will go down; but I can't see 'real' photography disappearing, any more than motor-cars made horses extinct.

    And don't assume that the darkroom will take long: a few days is all you need for a REALLY GOOD working space.

    Admittedly, the first room we refurbished in our present house (bought 3 years ago) was the wine cellar, now a darkroom. The wine has to live in the old stables, which are actually cooler than the wine cellar; both are carved out of the side of a hill. There's a picture of this darkroom (and some previous ones) in The Photo School at www.rogerandfrances.com, the free module called 'Our Darkrooms(s)'.

    As we say in France, bonne chance et bonne courage!

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  3. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

    Messages:
    1,691
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2004
    Location:
    Saratoga Spr
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Brian -

    In spite of the gloom and doom you read in some posts, and in spite of the pompous pronouncments by Kodak, chemical photography is still a viable proposition. To be sure, you won't find darkroom supplies at your neighborhood Walmart, and probably not at a camera store (assuming that your town still has one of those), but supplies are available and can be ordered over the internet.

    And it is my belief that this situation will continue for the forseeable future. Digital has displaced chemical for almost all commercial photography (and as the Editor of a magazine, I have an appreciation for the value of digital), but in the art world I believe that there will continue to be enough interest in the finely crafted print to keep materials available from speciality suppliers.
     
  4. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    You can catch the last train, and now it's leaving. That's how l look at the scene of darkroom photography.

    My darkroom is a little over a year old with a lot of items I bought new in the beginning. Simply I want them to last. Now everytime I buy consumarable items that I like to use for a while, I always try to buy them in slightly larger quantities than I used to.

    So, keep everything in your darkroom investiment simple enough, so that you won't have to panick as much when something goes wrong and/or disappears in the market.


    Good luck.
     
  5. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

    Messages:
    2,725
    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    Location:
    Woonsocket,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I'll add that creating a darkroom need not be an all-at-once thing. You can start doing film developing with a developing tank, a room that's dark (in which to load film into the developing tank), a handful of different chemicals, a thermometer, a few bottles, and a few other odds and ends. It's very helpful to have a sink at which to do the actual processing. As you progress with darkroom activities, you'll probably want to start printing. That takes more equipment -- an enlarger, an easel, trays or drums, more chemistry, etc. It also requires a light-tight space that's big enough to hold all this stuff (or at least the enlarger) -- but in a pinch, you could make do with a space that's just partially light-tight, if you use the darkroom only at night and if you can minimize other household lights, street lights, etc., from lighting up the darkroom. This is the way I worked for a while. I didn't even have a sink in my "alpha-test" darkroom; to wash prints, I had to walk them out to the laundry room. This was a pain, but it let me get my feet wet (not literally, fortunately). I've got prints I made in that makeshift space hanging on my walls, with no plans to take them down.

    Overall, the two biggest structural tasks in preparing a darkroom are making it light-tight and in providing plumbing. If you've already got a space that does one or both of those things, then you're halfway there. The plumbing is likely to be the most expensive part of this. I paid $500 to have a utility sink put into my darkroom. This isn't an ideal sink for a darkroom, but it's usable. A dedicated darkroom sink would probably at least double that cost. By comparison, I put up my own drywall for much less -- probably between $100 and $200. Of course, you could save by doing your own plumbing or spend more by paying somebody to light-proof a hopelessly light-leaky space; it's your choice. I was comfortable trying drywall, but not putting in a new sink.

    As for buying all the equipment (enlarger, tanks, drums, etc.), if you buy new it'll be expensive. If you buy used, you can probably get everything you need, even including a starting supply of chemistry, for $200 or so. Some people luck out and find everything for free, being thrown away by a newspaper, school, or some other organization that's dismantling its wet darkroom.
     
  6. david b

    david b Member

    Messages:
    4,031
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2003
    Location:
    None of your
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I am in the process of building a darkroom in the 2 car garage of my new house.

    I had water lines installed and will be putting up two walls that will easily come down if I need them to.

    I pondered the digital realm and just could not get myself to do it. I love traditional photography and plan to work from home when the kids start arriving.

    I am not one bit worried about the materials. I am in my late thirties and feel certain they will be available for a long time to come.
     
  7. mmcclellan

    mmcclellan Subscriber

    Messages:
    462
    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2005
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, M
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    In my job, I move internationally roughly every two to three years, and I have had a darkroom in every place I have lived. Can't imagine living without one! You can always manage to set up something with a weekend or two of work and it will serve you well.

    Film, paper, and chemistry will be around for our lifetimes; don't think we're going extinct. :smile:

    Get that darkroom going and enjoy life!
     
  8. papagene

    papagene Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    5,297
    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2004
    Location:
    Tucson, AZ
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Darkroom... Darkroom... Darkroom... !!
    Can't you hear it calling you?! Don't be afraid, photo materials will be when you want them.

    gene
     
  9. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

    Messages:
    1,627
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2003
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I just finished a new darkroom. Eleminated 2 bedrooms and a bath for it. Darkroom, Darkroom, Darkroom!!!!
     
  10. donbga

    donbga Member

    Messages:
    2,084
    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2003
    Shooter:
    Large Format Pan
    You are far to optimistic Roger, it takes more than just a few days to build a REALLY GOOD darkroom.

    The first step is to assess your space and then draw or sketch the layout of your space. You will be better off thinking and planning before rushing to construction. My advice is to purchase or build as large a sink possible. You can never have too much wet space.

    From looking a the pix posted by David B I can tell you his sink is too small.

    Also think about things like where to put drying racks, do you have enough electrical outlets, lighting, storage for chemicals, trays, space for a microwave, and so on.

    Don't forget about flooring issues and paint. If you want your darkroom to be comfortable take the time to plan it and build it.
     
  11. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
     
  12. david b

    david b Member

    Messages:
    4,031
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2003
    Location:
    None of your
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I agree with Don. Go for the biggest sink you can and plan out the entire space. Make sure to look at the darkroom portraits posted here.

    As for my space, I have a 6 foot sink that will hold four 12x15 trays. For now this will work.
     
  13. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,303
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2006
    Location:
    Rural NW Mis
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    The first darkroom I ever worked in was a 4x6 foot closet with a pass-through to a deep sink. Half of the six darkrooms I've improvised over the past 40 years didn't have running water. Instead, they had walking water. I walked in with jugs of water, and walked out with pails of waste. That didn't limit the quality of the prints. Professionals must be efficient to be competative, and need better darkrooms. Us amateurs don't.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

    Messages:
    9,051
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    So long as you can get a light tight room, you can have a darkroom. I made the first prints in mine a few weeks ago after a year or so of occasional weekend work converting my roof space.
    I have not yet plumbed in the water or the waste to the sink but use the carry a bucket in and out system as mentioned above (up and down a ladder in this case!).
    I have some spare time at the end of this month so I think I will get the plumbing finished then.

    Steve.
     
  16. mtbbrian

    mtbbrian Member

    Messages:
    309
    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2005
    Location:
    Salt Lake Ci
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    What about the availability of color materials?
    RA-4 chemicals and paper...
    Brian
     
  17. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

    Messages:
    1,376
    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2005
    Location:
    Oshawa, Onta
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I never drank the Vanilla Coke when it came out... I knew it would be gone sooner or later... why suffer?

    Come on, don't be silly. I print in a tiny bathroom. People on here do more and better work than I do in closets. If you have room and means, get a darkroom. Enjoy it. My money is on the paper and chems outliving you and I - but even if that is not the case, I don't see the point of this "why eat, it will all be shit by tomorrow" attitude. Its not like a darkroom will cost you a kidney or your firstborn. Its not an investment, its an expenditure. You will not get your money back.
    This thread is kind of pointless, quite frankly. Product availability is a constantly discussed issue on this site - there is a dedicated forum dealing with it - what answer exactly are you looking for? You either want a darkroom - in which case you will build one no matter what is said here, or you do not want one badly enough - and you won't build it. This kind of reminds me of all those brilliant people who are contestants on "The Price is Right", mouths agape, eyes darting from one person in the audience to another - only a bit worse, because the right answer is yours and ONLY yours to know for sure. Or do you want a guarantee? If so, for how long? From whom? At this point, making real photographs is a matter of desire and preference. If you don't want to do it badly enough, you will just end up with a digital camera sooner or later and polute the net with your bad experiences in the darkroom. If you want to do this, you will not even entertain the option.
    Do you ask people what food you like?

    Peter.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 17, 2006
  18. raucousimages

    raucousimages Member

    Messages:
    825
    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Location:
    Salt Lake
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I am in salt lake PM me and let's talk. I have built several darkrooms (12 or so) for the US Navy, U of U, myself and a bunch of photographers. The question is not, darkroom or no darkroom. But where, when and how to build a darkroom. If you have the chance to buy the space now and build later, go for it. At least you will have the option later.
     
  19. wfe

    wfe Member

    Messages:
    1,284
    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2003
    Location:
    Coatesville,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Brian,
    My suggestion is to carry on with your traditional efforts if in fact that is your passion for as long as possible. My plan is to continue until I am unable or the materials are no longer available. In the mean time I refuse to expend any energy worrying about it. Whatever you decide is right for you is fine but go at with passion and make wonderful pictures.


    Regards,
    Bill
     
  20. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,561
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Location:
    Pacific Nort
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If you put in a small darkroom you will soon wish that you had gone larger, just like photography always moving up until one day you realize what size fits you. Unlike film size though it's a bit harder to make the darkroom in the house larger after the fact. Only you can say if you need a darkroom. Without it what can you do? Use a lab, that's restrictive. If you are going to do B&W then a home darkroom is a must. These are the hard decisions. As for materials and supplies read the posts and check out the formats you are interested in. No one can reassure you that everything will be available for years to come but for the committed, not institutional, a few years is better than nothing at all. My guess is the run out is going to be longer rather than shorter.

    Regards,
    Curt
     
  21. DBP

    DBP Member

    Messages:
    1,896
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2006
    Location:
    Alexandria,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Don't worry about the effect on long term resale either. Any space that is a good dedicated darkroom will appeal to many hobbyists, who have other hobbies where they need countertop electrical outlets, running water, stable work surfaces, and good ventilation. I've had wood workers tell me mine would suit them pretty well, and having spent significant chunks of my youth making models I can assure you it would be good for that too if I just stow the enlargers and switch out the safelights.
     
  22. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    You can however have a darkroom that's too big: our last one was. Then we overreacted...

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  23. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

    Messages:
    3,894
    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2003
    Location:
    Middle Engla
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    How can anyone live that long without a darkroom? :confused: Is it possible?
     
  24. raucousimages

    raucousimages Member

    Messages:
    825
    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Location:
    Salt Lake
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    The darkroom I built as a teenager in my mothers basement next to my room was billed as a walkin closet when she sold the house. The darkroom in my last home was a "work/storage room with sink" in the garrage. My current darkroom was built to be a large storage room when I leave. With a bit of planning a darkroom can be used for other things or at least easily remeved later. I am going to build a larger darkroom on the other side of the basement next year. It will be framed in as a bedroom with window. I will just drywall over window, when I sell I will open and finish the window and then it is a bedroom with a real strange electrical layout. A darkroom will add value to a house if it is done well.
     
  25. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,108
    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Location:
    Daventry, No
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I had the chance this weekend to visit the photographic premises of Chambre Hardman who practised portraiture in Liverpool for a living from the 1920s to the late 60s. He employed up to 15 people to process film and prints on his premises which had previously been used by private medical consultants. None of his darkrooms were custom made and given his throughput both the film processing( mainly 5x4) and prints rooms were surprising small. He had simply blocked out the light from normal size windows. He only had two taps in either room and his print room had a home made wooden sink lined with lead. It was probably 2ft x 6ft.

    Incidentally well worth a visit for APUGers who happen to be making a visit to Liverpool. The tours are timed and need to be booked in advance via the National Trust but can be booked at quite short notice.

    So if he could run a business for about 45 years in such premises, I wouldn't worry about conversion problems. His premises could be reverted back into normal rooms in a matter of hours if required.

    pentaxuser
     
  26. Mongo

    Mongo Member

    Messages:
    960
    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2004
    Location:
    Pittsburgh,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm moving in with my fiance' at the end of the month, and I'll be without a darkroom for a while. The main reason is that I want to do it right, from first crude sketch up through the finished room. I'll use the months during which my darkroom takes shape to file my negatives...something that should have been done years ago.

    In my current house, the kitchen has been the darkroom. Living alone, nobody was ever bothered by the huge enlarger on the table. I rarely ate in, so it didn't cause me any inconvenience. Your living situation often dictates your darkroom size. As has been mentioned a number of times, many pirints have come out of a bathroom or a closet. Others convert large areas of their homes.

    As to you original query: I'm sufficiently convinced that film will be available for a very long time that I'm going to build my "dream darkroom" in my new home. Plus a room for matting and framing. And storage space for my cameras. My fiance' was so convinced that when she built the house last year, she had drainage and water pipes run over to where I'll build the darkroom. (Now that's true love!)

    Build the darkrrom...you'll be happy that you did.

    Be well.
    Dave