Darkroom Techniques:

No one is a complete photographer until he or she gains a fundamental knowledge of darkroom practice. This course is designed to provide your students with that knowledge. It covers the basic aspects of black-and-white film processing, printing, and enlarging. Students who finish the course should be well acquainted with the functions and purposes of darkroom equipment and darkroom procedures. Moreover, students should be able to complete all the steps in black-and-white photography by themselves, from purchasing the film to mounting the finished print.

Your students need no prior knowledge of darkroom techniques, but they will need some previous picture-taking experience. Students who have completed the course in Basic Photography are well qualified to take this course. They will also need a camera and several rolls of black-and-white film.

You, the teacher, should be familiar with the techniques of processing, printing, and enlarging. If you feel you are a bit rusty, reading through the course outline and the material included may help refresh your memory.

Your students also will benefit from reading some of the Glossary of Photographic Terms. You will find that the course will progress more smoothly if your students have some understanding of the material to be covered at each meeting.

Near the end of the course, some students may wish to practice in the darkroom during time other than meeting time. In this case, try to arrange some period when they can use the darkroom with or without supervision.

There are good reasons why your class should be fairly small. First, each student should have access to all the necessary equipment. (Ideally, there should be an enlarger for each student; but if this is impractical, several students can share each enlarger.) Second, as darkroom practice in the beginning stages requires individual supervision, you won’t want to spread yourself too thin. Ten students is reasonable.


For Film Processing

  • Processing sinks with hot and cold running water (a single faucet is advisable)
  • Tanks for roll-film processing
  • Timers
  • Thermometers for processing tanks
  • Film clips or a drying cabinet
  • Graduates
  • Negative envelopes or sleeves
  • Sponges
  • Film squeegees
  • Scissors
  • Chemicals

For Proof Sheets

  • Printing frames or enlargers (an electric exposure timer is recommended)
  • Safelights and filters
  • Paper safe (optional)
  • Timers with a sweep-second hand (if no electric exposure timers are available)
  • Camel’s hair brushes

For Print Processing

  • Sets of four trays of adequate size (at least large enough to process 8 x 10-inch prints)
  • Print paddles, tongs, rubber gloves (optional)
  • Tray thermometers
  • Chemicals

For Enlarging

  • Enlargers with appropriate lenses and negative carriers
  • Electric exposure timers (recommended)
  • Masking easels
  • Dodging utensils
  • Safelights and filters
  • Camel’s hair brushes

For Chemical Mixing

  • Graduates
  • Storage bottles
  • Funnels
  • Rubber gloves
  • Stirring rods

For Finishing

  • Print washers or trays
  • Print-drying racks or a mechanical dryer
  • Dry-mounting equipment
  • Mounting supplies: tissue, boards
  • Print rollers or squeegees

For Spotting

  • Camel’s hair spotting brushes
  • Supply of spotting dyes and toners


  • Cool, clean storage area


If you use only a single developer (such as KODAK Developer D-76 and KODAK Replenisher D-76R) for film and a single developer (such as KODAK DEKTOL Developer) for paper, you will find that students can accustom themselves to darkroom procedures faster with less confusion. You can have the same stop bath and fixer for both films and paper if you use ones such as KODAK Indicator Stop Bath and KODAK Fixer or KODAFIX Solution. Equivalents can be used for all Kodak products mentioned.

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