Darkroom Series – B&W Developing for Beginners

After writing a lengthy reply on a forum about getting started in the B&W darkroom, it occurred to me that there’s a lot of pages on the internet, and a lot of tutorials, which tell you all the important stuff you need to know when starting out. Which is very good and very informative, and of great use to all newcomers to the art of darkroom work (which is extremely important since our trade is not what you’d call “flooding the market” as it is). But, fine as many of these tutorials may be, none of them seem to tell people what’s really important, aside from things that are good to know but not critical. Cause from what I remember, my biggest fear when starting out was to somehow fuck all this up, and that’s not really that surprising, since the process is very arcane and parts of it has to be done in the dark so you don’t ruin your film etc. etc.

But, I’m here to tell you, it’s not hard. It’s fiddly (getting film out of the canister and onto a reel in pitch dark), it’s complicated if you like to make it so, but never hard, and in the end very rewarding.

First, what do you actually need, compared to what the pros are using:

  • A tank
  • Developer
  • Fixer
  • Water (Tap or Distilled, you choose)

That’s it! And that’s exactly what I had when I started out, along with some liquid detergent (the save the planet – non-perfumed stuff, mind you!) as a final rinse. And guess what, it worked just as well as what I use today;

  • Tank
  • Developer
  • Stop Bath
  • 2 Bath Fixer
  • Wash Aid
  • Wetting Agent

And all this extra stuff is mostly there because I like to mess about with these things, and as I kinda hinted at earlier I live in mortal fear of somehow messing things up.

So, this is my quite lengthy introduction into darkroom work, in my next post (probably within a day or two is someone actually reads this) I’ll go into developing your first roll of film. After that I’ll continue with more posts about developers and fixers and what not, depending on how bored I am and how inspired I feel.

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