A new beginning: Darkroom tips and tricks
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!
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!
Great fun and good luck with it. Advice:
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.
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...
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.
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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...
Originally Posted by atenlaugh
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.
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
Originally Posted by akar
- 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!
- 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.
about the dust:
Originally Posted by FrankB
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..
I couldn't agree more.
Originally Posted by Donald Miller
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 . . .