Darkroom secrets, tips and tricks

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hi,

Could you share here your darkroom secrets , tips and tricks about chemicals.
The thing that helped you for printing in the darkroom.
 
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sterioma

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Always check the paper box is closed before turning all the lights on. I have fogged a couple of boxes when I was first printing in my bathroom, and now it's an automatic reflex :smile:
 

relistan

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Top things I learned:
  • Keep notes on what you did to get the result you liked. Label and keep your test strips. I put them all in an envelope for each important print. Same goes for any burning/dodging templates I cut.
  • Make things as repeatable as you can by keeping temperatures, timers, filters, papers, developers as similar as possible until you have repeatable results and know what you want to change
  • Ignore the complaints about below-the-lens contrast filters and go ahead and use them. I think it might be more important on really big prints to use the above-the-lens filters, but the speed and ability to change filters easily makes the below-the-lens type well worth it.
 

Alan9940

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Good advice above. And, when you do start to make changes change only one thing at a time.
 

MurrayMinchin

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It is said that to be a master at anything you must make 2000 mistakes, so get in there and start climbing the learning curve!

My problem, back when I was making silver gelatin prints, was that being a father, spouse, and having a job meant that my darkroom time was episodic at best. I was also using pin registered sharp and unsharp masking techniques, so some days I'd be making various stages of masks and not even exposing sheets of paper.

How to stop making a print one day, then pick up exactly where I left off a week or more later?

I came up with a developer of my own (somewhere between Ansco 120 and Ansco 130...link below) which had good keeping qualities and which I kept in gallon sized mylar wine bags, the kind boxed wine used to come in. It would last for months.

By using a Zone VI compensating developing timer (has time/temp curves to adjust developing times due to temperature variations) and the emergence time of the films clear edge in the developer (to which a development factor was applied) I could come back to a print weeks later, or mix up a new batch of developer and be exactly where I was from the last session.


Also used the same developer for film...HP5 sheet film at 1:7 if memory is any good. (Doubtful!)
 
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Sirius Glass

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Top things I learned:
  • Keep notes on what you did to get the result you liked. Label and keep your test strips. I put them all in an envelope for each important print. Same goes for any burning/dodging templates I cut.
  • Make things as repeatable as you can by keeping temperatures, timers, filters, papers, developers as similar as possible until you have repeatable results and know what you want to change
  • Ignore the complaints about below-the-lens contrast filters and go ahead and use them. I think it might be more important on really big prints to use the above-the-lens filters, but the speed and ability to change filters easily makes the below-the-lens type well worth it.

I keep a bound notebook of all the darkroom work including film time, development temperature, chemistry status for the film development and similar notes for printing. I have found it helpful to use it for reference.
 

ic-racer

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With respect to chemicals. Because I do 'binge' processing, that is, I save up my film and do ten to twenty rolls or sheets at a time, I need chemistry that won't go bad between runs. So everything is liquid concentrate, one-shot, mix right before procesing, use it and dump it.

Any 'look' to my prints is due to lighting and printing technique. All I ask of a negative developer is that it produce reasonable speed and maintain even development throughout the entire image area.
 

pentaxuser

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Isn't there already a thread on this somewhere in Photrio? I must admit to not seeing any posts on it recently. Maybe Photrio never made it a "sticky" which is a pity if it didn't

pentaxuser
 

Sirius Glass

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@RalphLambrecht's book Beyound Monochrome "Way Beyond Monochrome" will answer questions for the beginner through expert darkroom processes and techniques. I still refer to it regularly. Plus he is still an active APUGPhotrio participant.
 

MattKing

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@RalphLambrecht's book Beyound Monochrome "Way Beyond Monochrome" will answer questions

Fixed that for you. :smile:
Some Kodak documents. They are dated, in that they reference many products that are no longer sold under the Kodak banner, but still contain useful information:
"Black-and-White Tips and Techniques for Darkroom Enthusiasts"
https://125px.com/docs/techpubs/kodak/o3-2002_02.pdf
"Darkroom Design for Amateur Photographers"
https://125px.com/docs/techpubs/kodak/ak3.pdf
"How to Process and Print Black-and-White Film"
https://125px.com/docs/techpubs/kodak/aj3.pdf
 

Sirius Glass

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Fixed that for you. :smile:
Some Kodak documents. They are dated, in that they reference many products that are no longer sold under the Kodak banner, but still contain useful information:
"Black-and-White Tips and Techniques for Darkroom Enthusiasts"
https://125px.com/docs/techpubs/kodak/o3-2002_02.pdf
"Darkroom Design for Amateur Photographers"
https://125px.com/docs/techpubs/kodak/ak3.pdf
"How to Process and Print Black-and-White Film"
https://125px.com/docs/techpubs/kodak/aj3.pdf

Ever since I washed my hands, I can't do nothin' wid dem! Thank you.
 

MarkS

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Use a citric acid stop bath, and an alkaline fixer like TF-5, to (mostly) eliminate that nasty darkroom aroma. Those make it a much more pleasant place to be.
 

Sirius Glass

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Use a citric acid stop bath, and an alkaline fixer like TF-5, to (mostly) eliminate that nasty darkroom aroma. Those make it a much more pleasant place to be.

TF-4 and TF5 do not require stop bath. I use stop bath for all other fixers.
 

MurrayMinchin

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I had read somewhere that Ansco 120 was superior to Selector Soft. The writer ended with something like, "If you don't believe me, test it and you'll never go back".

I had been using Dektol & Selector Soft separately & combined. That last comment about Selector Soft got under my skin and wouldn't go away, so I tested it, and never went back. The Selector Soft prints were muted, veiled, while the Ansco 120 prints were 'soft' yet still had vibrancy and distinct separation of tones.

That led to trying Ansco 130 (which was snappier than Dektol) and now that I was comfortable making developers from scratch, I dabbled around a bit and came up with 12/15 which worked for my images.

Lesson being...keep your spidey senses up at all times...watch and listen for the signs...follow tantalizing paths...scratch creative itches...there is no One & Only Way.
 
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MurrayMinchin

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Gotta love internet search functions!

The writer was Peter Schrager right here on Photrio, or APUG back in the day. See posts #'s 4 & 5 in the following link:

 

Pieter12

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A plastic bottle full of water (well, not quite full, it will expand) kept in the freezer to use to cool water/chemical solutions to the proper temperature. Conversely, an electric kettle to warm water to use as a double-bath to warm up cool solutions.
 

rcphoto

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Printing at night reduces the chance of little ones coming into your darkroom at poor times.
 

Todd Barlow

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To maintain as good a seal as possible for as long as possible, store plastic developing tank lids loose, not secured to the tank.
 

snusmumriken

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  • Choose exposure to get the highlights how you want them, then choose contrast filter to get the shadows how you want those. I learned this from Ralph Lambrecht when his book came out, after rather too many years of unsystematic flip-flopping.
  • Paying attention to detail (e.g. enlarger alignment) makes a big difference even with mediocre equipment.
  • Be nice to your working solutions. When printing, the main purpose of the stop-bath is not to stop development but to save the fixer from contamination. Give it time to get in there if using FB paper. Using two fixer baths (of which number 2 is freshly mixed) is also hugely beneficial.
 

MurrayMinchin

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Contact prints or sheets and first work prints (with no dodging or burning) at max black time can reveal many things.
 

MurrayMinchin

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Narrow test strips end up wasting more paper in the long run than wide test strips with lots of information.
 
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