Notes for Basic Photography – March 12, 2003


-- Please remember to sign in and out of the darkroom any time you are using it.

-- Full instructions for film processing and printing (along with other info) can be found on the SAA Darkroom Home Page (see my web site for the address).

-- A reminder: although the darkroom is open 24/7, you may not use it while a class is using it. Check the web page for the course schedule.


Top 12 hints/tips for printing


  1. Keep the darkroom clean ! When you leave, trays should be clean and drying, sinks should be dry, water should be off, all equipment and chemicals should be put back where you found them, and prints should be hanging up or in the drying racks.

  2. This is a busy darkroom. Good darkroom practices are essential. Never open a door without either knocking first or making sure you won't create a light leak. Never turn the enlarger lamp on without a negative holder in place, to minimize stray light. Before you turn on the lights, be sure everyone (including yourself) has put away all light-sensitive materials. Do not contaminate work surfaces with chemicals, especially fixer. Work with the minimum safelight intensity that you feel comfortable with.

  3. Handle your negatives with care. Always hold them by the edges, avoid touching the emulsion. Be careful when inserting or repositioning them in the negative carrier. When you are done printing, place them back into the negative sleeve. DO NOT FORGET AND LEAVE THEM IN THE ENLARGER. Before printing a negative, inspect it for dust and spots, and clean it with compressed air, an anti-static brush, and/or cleaning cloths, if necessary. A few minutes spent cleaning the negative will save you lots of time and aggravation later.

  4. You can not judge the quality of a print under the safelight. After it is fixed, take it to the anteroom and look at it under the fluorescent light. The tones will change somewhat after drying (usually, prints look when darker dry than wet), keep this in mind and correct for it.

  5. If you use the last of a stock chemical, you are expected to mix more. All darkroom users should be familiar with the preparation of stock solutions. Pay close attention to these instructions – your mistake could ruin hundreds of prints.

  6. Note anything unusual in the log book. This includes shortages of chemicals, damaged equipment, messes left by other users. If you come across a problem you can't fix, make a clear note in the log book, so that other users are aware and the SAA staff can address it.

  7. Do not carry wet prints around without using trays, especially if they are covered in fixer.

  8. Thorough fixing and thorough washing (but not too much of either) are the keys to long print lifetime.

  9. Temperature is not crucial for print processing or washing, but you should check the water temperature to make sure it is near 70 F.

  10. When focusing the enlarger, use the largest aperture of the lens. For printing, f8 or f11 will usually give the best sharpness, while keeping the exposure times manageable. Remember to close the lens back down for exposure.

  11. Check the focal length of the enlarging lens. For 35 mm film, you should be using a 50 mm lens. An 80 mm lens will work also, but you will have to place the enlarger head higher for the same size print.

  12. Handle the enlarger with care. Many settings have stops or locks, so if a knob does not want to move, don't force it. Take care to hold the negative holder flat while inserting it into the enlarger, if it is tilted, it can scratch the condenser lens immediately above it. Be especially careful with enlarging lenses, they are quite expensive, and any damage will affect all users of the darkroom.