I attended a darkroom printing crash course by House Of Photography @The Deck. It was a single 3-hour course and costs SGD 42.25 per person. All materials are provided.
Previously I was worried that I would be overwhelmed by the techniques. But after I attended the course, I think it’s quite easy to do a basic print.
Of course, the course is just a beginner crash course. We were not taught the sophisticated techniques such as how to choose the right filters, etc. Furthermore, it needs years of practice to achieve very good printing skills and perfect prints.
Here’s a glimpse of the darkroom procedure:
We were introduced to the enlarger. As the name suggests, the enlarger enlarges your picture from your negative onto the paper. It uses a lens to help focus the image.
There’s a timer that helps to time the exposure time.
After the introduction and demonstration, the light was switched off so we can do the real work!
Besides printing negative, we were also taught how to print our contact sheets. It’s pretty easy. However, before that, we gotta test out the exposure time needed to make a nicely exposed print.
This process is called printing test strips.
So we will expose our negative for a range of time, ranging from 10 seconds to 30 seconds. Why this duration? I don’t know but it also depends on the height of the enlarger bulb, and whether you develop your black & white negative properly.
In another sense, it’s called ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’.
For example, if your negative is underexposed, you gotta increase your exposure time for the paper.
After the test print, we will see at which duration the exposure is the most ideal, for eg, 30 seconds. So we would use this exposure time to expose our negative.
The enlarger should remain at the same position.
If we were to adjust the enlarger, either enlarging or minimising the image, we will need to do another test print again. That is because the height of the enlarger also affects the exposure time.
Tedious process right?
Basically, to print a contact sheet, you lay your negatives row by row onto the light-sensitive paper.
Check every steps to make sure everything is in place. Then you expose it.
After that, you develop the exposed paper the way you would develop your black & white negative.
However, instead of doing it in developing tank, we do it in the developing tray.
In brief, we put the paper into developer for about 2 minutes, 30 seconds in stop bath, 4 mins in fixer and then hydrograde water and finally water.
The simple prints are out!
I have to emphasise again that whatever I learnt and did in this course was very basic.
The only ‘complicated’ procedure I learnt was how to do dodging and burning the darkroom way. But I didn’t get the chance to practise because the negative I chose to print was quite nicely exposed. haha!
Overall, is it fun?
But it gets a bit bored when you keep making mistake such as didn’t get the correct exposure time and your image turn out too dark. And the repeated process of developing, fixing and washing.
For this course, we didn’t need to bring our own paper. It’s covered by the workshop where you don’t feel that much pain wasting the paper.
The paper is not cheap. It’s about SGD 1 per piece.
This makes darkroom printing to be quite expensive. No wonder lesser people are doing it now.
In Singapore, there are only three places where you can rent the darkroom: House of Photography, SAFRA Mount Faber and Analog Film Lab.
I think it’s good for every film enthusiasts to have a glimpse of the process of darkroom printing. So, I encourage to go for the class, any where.
Knowing the process of darkroom will give you a full insight of how photographers in the past did what they did. It will also make you to be more appreciative towards digital scanning and technology.
However, I don’t see myself doing the darkroom print often, but if I have the mood, I would definitely choose the best work of mine to print.
Hope this blog post gives you a taste of what the course is like!