Film photography has recently made a resurgence, despite constantly advancing technology, and photographers are choosing to shoot and develop their own film for everything from portraits to to landscape. While it may look daunting to DIY, setting up your own darkroom to develop your film isn’t as complicated as it sounds, as long as you have a space for it.
Here is a step-by-step for making your own darkroom:
1.Pick your place. First, you need to choose a location with outlets for your darkroom. This can be any room you can make light-tight, be it a spare bedroom, spacious closet or basement. A room with no windows is preferable, but if you choose a room with windows you will need to black it out, using either blackout curtains or blackout sheeting to tightly cover them so the room is completely dark. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to confirm that your room is light-tight by turning off all the lights and letting your eyes adjust, if there is even a small crack of light, you will be able to tell.
2. Split the room. You should designate a “wet” side and a “dry” side of your darkroom, because this will make the developing process much smoother. The dry side should be the side with the outlets, and the wet side preferably closer to a water source. Both sides will hold different key elements to processing your film.
3. Get the right equipment. First you will need a table for both the wet and dry sides.
For the dry side, you will need:
- film tank and reels
- grain magnifier
For the wet side, you will need:
- a funnel
- 4 trays
- 4 pairs of tongs
- film clips
- graduated cylinder
- necessary chemicalssij
4. Set up your equipment. You should arrange your equipment so that the process will flow smoothly, meaning items should be placed where they are easily accessible and allow you to move seamlessly into your next step. You will want to set up the dry side near an outlet so that you can use your safelight to illuminate what you’re doing without interrupting the developing process. The wet side should have an area where you can hang photos to dry.
5. Set up your chemicals. You will need to lay out your four trays which will hold four different substances. The first tray is the Developer, second is the Fixer, third is the Stopper bath, and the last is a Washer try filled with water to rinse to prints. Developer and Fixer chemical solutions can be purchased at mostly any photography specialty store, and for the Stopper bath substance you can use either acetic acid, pickling vinegar or a specialized premixed stop bath solution. Once these trays are laid out you should label them properly and assign/label a set of tongs to each trays—these should not be mixed.
Now that you have your room set up with a completely blacked out interior, a dry side with the essentials, and a wet side with the essentials, you are ready to start developing your photos! If you’ve done it before, then get to it. If you are new to developing film, check out this quick how-to video to get the ball rolling: