What is Darkroom Photography? [Simple Guide]

Dark Room Photography

Darkroom photography is a style of photography that uses long exposure times with very low-light or little light levels. Although the genre’s name may sound suspicious, it is more than just taking pictures in a complete darkroom.

Some photographers even use them as street photography! It is an extremely popular form of photography that deserves more recognition. The technique has been used by many famous photographers such as William Klein and Tim Walker.

The term “darkroom” comes from the fact that a darkroom is usually lit by filters that block out most of the regular light. Darkroom are usually a black box with little-to-no lighting. The photographer has to rely on other means like long exposure and slow shutter speed to capture light trails, stars, and other creative elements.

Beginners Guide To The Darkroom

Many people do not realize their digital cameras have a “darkroom mode in the digital age.” The darkroom paper setting enables longer exposures times for night-time photography and other things.

Darkroom Photography is different than light painting photography. Light painters use flashlights and other forms of artificial light to create their photos. Dark Rooms Photography relies on the existing light to create long exposure photos.

Darkroom Photography is also different from star trails photography because it uses slow shutter speeds instead of long exposure times. Star Trails photography is popular because long exposure times create long trails instead of streaks.

Darkroom Photography came out of necessity. The Photo agencies of the 1950s and 1960s needed to catch the stars in the night sky but were too afraid to use flashlights for fear that the flash would ruin a shot. Theory tells us that stars are actually a fairly large mass of gas, dust, and rock that rotate around our planet at a very high speed.

They only appear stationary because of how light travels through space. The photographs of these stars are called streaks. If a photograph uses a long exposure time and on a large amount of light, the streaks turn into long trails. This is what dark room and complete darkness are all about!

It is very important to use many tiny flashlights or lights like fiber-optic lights or LED lamps with high-powered settings to get a trail. The smaller the light source, the longer the trail will be.

How To Set Up A Darkroom

Set Up A Darkroom

1) Find a Good Location

The best place to set up a darkroom paper is in a room with minimal light, usually with windows or doors covered so no sunlight will enter. The best locations are garages, basements, and other areas that are not commonly used.

Give the space a thorough cleaning, so there are no light sources. It can be done by covering all lights and electronics. Remove all light sources, such as curtains and blinds, to ensure no unwanted light enters the space.

It would help if you used dark cloth to cover the windows and doors of the darkroom. Try to use curtains or heavier drapes that have no light transmission.

2) Get all Supplies

Make sure to have all the necessary supplies. The process of developing photographic film or photographic prints is the same, regardless of the type of material. You’d need black ink, film negatives paper, grey cardstock, brown photographic paper, and a white/clear sheet.

You will also need a place to put your chemicals and other small containers to mix stuff up.

Also, make sure there is an area to put your hands with gloves if needed. Make sure all the lights are covered.

3) Choose a Spot To Fix Your Photos

Light is required when developing film or prints. So, make sure to place a light source near you to develop your photographs. Darkroom photography requires a dark space setting, so use the source to help you in the process.

4) Develop Your Film or Prints

As long as your shooting film or prints are good quality and there are no scratches or other defects, chemical solutions can be developed.

Some chemical developers have either natural ingredients or chemicals that can be found in a pharmacy. These solutions should be warm to fix your images. Each process may take different times depending on the fixer and instructions given by the manufacturer.

5) Get Your Prints

You should have a professional-looking photograph at the end of the process. Get your prints and enjoy the results! You can also develop artwork using different techniques and light-sensitive materials.

Darkroom Photography Tips

Darkroom Photography Tips

Most darkrooms are now obsolete in camera shops, with the rise of digital photography. But, still, it is one of the most important steps that every photographer has to learn.

Some college programs even require students to have a homemade darkroom just to learn more about the process of how a photograph is created.

Here are some tips and tricks that can help you achieve great darkroom photography:

1) As much as possible, avoid touching film and paper. When handling them, use tweezers to put them in and out of their containers.

2) Vacuum the floor regularly. Any dust will be attracted to your film negatives and prints, which will make them dirty.

3) Remember that the chemicals used in darkroom photography are highly corrosive and can cause serious damage. Make sure to handle it with care.

4) The temperature inside your darkroom should be monitored. Most chemicals react to heat; thus, making them less effective.

5) Keep cleanliness at all times because you don’t want unnecessary dirt and dust in your photos.

Do Photographers Still Use Darkrooms?

George Eastman created the first camera film in the late 1800s. Celluloid, a plastic substance coated with a photosensitive compound known as silver halide crystals, was used in the early days of camera film to take pictures.

Darkrooms were the name given to the unique rooms where film photography was developed. Digital photography has made darkrooms less common and less required than in the past. Professional photography studios, universities, and photography schools still have them.

Why Are Darkrooms Red?

In the darkroom, a safelight is used to prevent the paper from being overexposed by light while expanding a negative. As the name suggests, safelights are typically red light or amber light bulbs in a red light or amber filter housing.

This kind of photographic paper can only be illuminated with red light or amber safelights because they do not generate the wavelength of light harmful to black-and-white enlarging paper.

The color enlarger in the dark and the color paper processing machine are the most frequent methods for processing color film darkroom paper with other, fainter colors, and mainly yellow LED lights.

What is not allowed in the darkroom?

Nothing that emits light should be let in, and the lights must never be turned on without permission or until all photogenic light-sensitive materials have been tucked away and no one is working in the room, as the first rule of the dark chamber stipulates.

The light-sensitive paper will be revealed if the room is exposed to a light source other than red light. As a result, all prints will become black.

Make sure there is no contact with skin or face by using tongs instead of your hands while working with setting and development chemicals.

When in the chamber, be cautious since it is a dark space and chemicals are everywhere, so running or other idiotic behavior is out of the question.

Is darkroom photography hard?

It depends. It may take a while for some people to get used to using the darkroom, especially since it is not as advanced as the digital camera. However, if you want to learn more about photography and enjoy developing pictures the old-fashioned way, it won’t be too difficult.

A darkroom is not needed for home photography since all you need are your photos and a good photo printer that can print directly from your personal computer or laptop.

Final Words

A darkroom is one of the most important pieces of darkroom equipment for professional photographers. Developing film and prints depends on the quality of film or paper you use, and there are a lot of concerns when it comes to protecting the integrity of your work. Therefore, developing a darkroom can be challenging, but seeing your finished photographs will be worth it in the end!

So, when you’re developing your film and prints, don’t be afraid to join the darkroom! It’s not that hard and it’s pretty interesting in the end. Just make sure to have some fun with this amazing photography process!

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