Do you do a test strip before printing each new negative

test strips are undoubtedly the best way of determining all the variables to get a good print. I started with test strips, but found that because you need test strips for both contrast and exposure time, it was a long process, and I was impatient.

There is another way, and that is to invest in an RH designs analyser pro. OK, this is not an insignificant amount of money, and you might want to persevere with test strips for now. However, once you get the hang of the analyser, you can get the print very close to right first time every time. I waste very little paper, and for me the best thing is I can have a darkroom session with a roll of negs and print out a selection quite quickly.

I am only a year or so ahead of you - I made my first print last year. It's surprising how soon you get a "feel" for the equipment you have, and then you can start getting consistent results. I follow the Ilford guides exactly and find they work.

I am nowhere near an expert, and the people on here with much more experience will give advice to refine the process, but for me, I needed to get to the point where I could reliably shoot film and get it to useable images without too much hassle. Refinement to perfection will come in time!!

Other tips? I had black specks on my negs that turned out to be crap in the water - a cartridge filter (5 micron designed for ponds) sorted that. Squeezee wash bottle from ebay with fotoflo mix is a great way of rinsing down the hanging negs. I find that working (ilford) print developer lasts a good week if put back in a bottle and sealed - certainly while you are learning. (despite guidance saying it should be ditched at the end of each session)