First Darkroom Experience–And Some Tips!

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Although I missed my classmates and photography dearly this past Saturday, I will admit that it was a treat to be able to sleep in on Saturday morning. Spring Break Forever! Today I’m going to talk to you guys about last week’s class, and what I learned from my first time developing film in a darkroom.

I came into the city with my close friend Anna who also takes a class at FIT, and we met her friend from her class, Fiona, on the train. On our way to class we stopped at Gregory’s Coffee and Fresh&Co and spent some time catching up and chatting (I ordered a cappuccino and some green juice for during class—Anna got herself a little bottle of watermelon juice, and it matched her nails perfectly!). When we got to school we parted ways, me making my way into Pomerantz, and my friends heading to Business.

I came into this photography class with some experience in digital photography (all self taught) and absolutely no prior knowledge with film. 2 classes ago we spent about 2 hours walking around the city, specifically the flat iron district, snapping photos on film. Last class we spent the entire time developing our photos and learning the art of the darkroom—spoiler: it is not as easy as you would think. I had to leave class about an hour an a half early to make it home in time for my sister’s Confirmation, but I did have a chance to occupy the darkroom with 2 other classmates, and use the chemistry to develop my photos (my professor picked up where I left off—she dried and completed my development).

So the darkroom is A LOT darker than I was expecting—I thought my eyes would eventually adjust to the lack of light and I would maybe see the outline of what I was doing, but nope! Pitch black the entire time, which is probably better considering my claustrophobia would’ve kicked once I realized how enclosed and small the space I was in was. I shared my darkroom with 2 other girls, and we took turns cutting, rolling, and enclosing our film in our cages and tanks—thank God one of them has had experience with the darkroom before, because I could not open my film container with the can opener in the dark for the life of me. After a few attempts, we were all finally successful, and we triumphantly left the dark room after about 20 minutes—pretty good for our first time if you ask me. I then spent the rest of my class using chemicals to develop my film, and I left class with chemical stains all over my shirt and ID (if you close up on the picture of my outfit you’ll notice the stains). I put together a few tips to keep in mind while using the dark room to make your experience run smoother, especially if it’s your first time:

  • Wear practical footwear!! Seriously—I know it’s the Fashion Institute of Technology and outfits are a big part of peoples’ self expression and identity, but open toed shoes and heels in a dark room are just an accident waiting to happen—trust me. A girl in my class wears heels a lot, so she brings a pair of slippers with her to wear when working in the darkroom. If your outfit must include hazardous shoes, bring something to change into—and remember, the dark room is dark, so no one will even see your feet anyway!
  • Wear dark clothing—and nothing too fancy. This class is one that is interactive and artistic, which means that you are bound to stain something on yourself at least once during the class. The chemicals splash easily, and you usually won’t notice it on yourself until it dries. Don’t worry, it’ll wash out, but dark clothing is more ideal to hide the stain anyway.
  • If you have glasses, wear them! Goggles are mandatory when working with the chemicals, so it’s better to have perfect vision and eye protection, rather than having to wear goggles.
  • Bring your own scissors and portable can openers—It’s just easier to have your own set of tools rather than having to spend time in the dark room taking turns using the devices, while also blindly searching for them—and you’re pretty much hopeless if you drop something on the floor. Also, the can openers that I have used were not the newest or sharpest, making it harder for me to try to prod open my film case. Using a newer one can cut some time out of your darkroom use, which will make everything faster.

Next class, we will be reviewing our photos and discussing our final projects—something that I should really get started on. Let me know about your first dark room experience in the comments below!

Until next class,

~Francesca

Fresh juice aesthetics ft. Anna’s smirk

Some cappuccino love

A quick #OOTD–close up on my top to see some lovely chemical stains from photo developing

6 thoughts on “First Darkroom Experience–And Some Tips!

  1. i can recall many happy hours spent in my first darkroom, which was, by the way, our bathroom! sometimes rather difficult to keep the dark in… But then i moved it into the garage. here i installed light traps and generally had a more competent experience. It was there where i first learned the technique of solarization – still one of my favorite skills.
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