Darkroom Refresher


It has been a good while since I have used a darkroom so it was great that we got the chance today to brush up on darkroom procedure.

First thing to remember is to use red light only. That means no mobile phone calls, illuminated watches and the like. Any extra source of light can have a negative impact on your images.

The Enlarger itself is a relatively simple piece of kit. No fancy settings to get a grip of and if you follow a few simple procedures you will get the most out of your negatives.


The image to the right is a diagram that I pulled from Wikipedia and shows the enlarger composition in simple terms.

The Negative tray should easily slip out of its holder to on the underside of the enlarger head. You can then insert your desired negative and slide it back to project the image onto the baseboard.

The enlargement lens sits under the negative tray/film carrier and can be opened and closed to adjust the light that is used when exposing your image. Open it up a stop to increase the light and down to decrease.

To make the image that is projected larger you move the elevation knob to raise the enlarger head, conversely you move the head down to make the image smaller.

Micro Focus Finder

The focus knob allows you to fine tune the image and for even sharper images you can use a Micro focus finder. You put this on the baseboard whilst focusing your image and it magnifies the grain. In order to create a sharp in focus image you must be able to identify the grain when looking through the eyepiece.

Once you are happy with your image placement and focus you can then add the photographic paper to the easel. You must ensure that your paper is correctly aligned in the easel to prevent wonky borders. A tip is to make sure that you set the rulers at the side a few millimetres short of the size of the paper, this way you get a neat border around your image.

You should always make a test strip in order to gauge the correct exposure timings. This can be done by taking a sheet of photographic paper and cutting it into strips an inch or two wide. You then take a strip of thick card/notebook and cover the paper. Set the timer for the desired time increments, lets say 5 seconds, and then press the exposure button on the timer.

The light will stay on for 5 seconds and then go off. At this point you move your piece of card to reveal a bit more of the photographic paper and then press the exposure button again. Rinse and repeat a few times. You are then ready to develop your test strip.

The image to the left shows the amount of developing solution and time needed to develop both resin coated and fibre based papers.You follow the timers indicated for the type of paper you are using. Once you have finished the process you can take the test strip out of the room to analyze the results.You should be able to see the progression of across the image for the different exposure times as this image shows :

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