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Building A Darkroom At Home

Contributor ,

orking in the darkroom is a hallmark of being a photographer, as well as a great way to grab a little personal time to really focus on your craft.

There's something to be said about a door that literally cannot be opened and the impact of having no interruptions can have on your work. Sadly, we can't all pop down to the local darkroom any time we want, so a better alternative is to build one right in your own home.

Location, Location, Location
Sheds, garages, and extra rooms are all fine places for a darkroom. Just bear in mind that the materials are a bit hazardous and do carry a smell, and you're going to have a far easier time if the place you choose has access to running water. In addition, wherever you choose, you must make sure it is completely free of light so it's best to pick an area with no windows and can be used exclusively as your darkroom. For this reason, your best bet is probably a shed with plumbing and electricity, or the basement. You can also set up a darkoom in an unused bathroom however this might be a bit cramped.

Your Darkroom Supplies
Most of what you need for your own darkroom is pretty basic and won't cost you too much. Excluding whatever it takes to lightproof the room you use, you can get by with the following:

* 3 Trays big enough for 8x10 paper
* 3 Sets of tongs
* Chemicals (see below)
* Enlarger and timer (see below)
* Easel
* Darkroom light

The only expensive things you need are the enlarger, which you fortunately only need to purchase once, and the chemicals, which will need to be refreshed now and again. You can get an enlarger for around $200 and a basic timer for about $150, and they should last the life of your darkroom.

The chemicals, on the other hand, are a little more complicated. Most chemicals are available in either powder or liquid. With powders you have to be careful as they can become airborne and do require mixing however they are easier to store. Liquids on the other hand, are easier to work with but are more expensive than powders and take up more storage space.

At a minimum, you'll need to buy some developer, fixer and some stop bath. It's a good idea to purchase or mix small quantities as these chemicals will go bad over time (developers go bad more rapidly than the others), and keep them in dark areas in plastic bottles (your hands are almost always wet in a darkroom and glass isn't a great idea). A darkroom light will help you see while working with your paper but please know that a darkroom light can still ruin undeveloped film so only develop your film in complete darkness.

The Darkroom Setup
Once you have the chemicals sorted and all of your supplies in order, you're good to go. The best darkroom setup should have a "dry side" with your enlarger and a work bench and a "wet side" for your chemicals. It's also a good idea to have a sink at the end of this table for the final rinse - if you have extra cash they make special "always running, always full" sinks that are absolutely stellar for this purpose. I would also highly recommend a lock for the door to prevent friends and family from accidentally ruining your work, but be sure it is easy to open from the inside in case of a fire.

Once you have all of the supplies you need, you can really set up your darkroom in any place that's protected from light. Figure out what works for you and soon enough you'll be printing your own photos in no time.

Autumn Lockwood


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