How to Use Film to make Black and White Prints


PART ONE – ‘Making a Start’. An extract from the chapter ‘How to process Black and White Film at Home’.

This is what you need:

1. A daylight processing tank and spiral.

2. Three chemicals: Developer, Stop Bath and Fixer. Wetting solution is handy especially if you live in a hard water area.

3. A thermometer is a must, funnel and measuring cylinder will make for an easier life. Wipe clothes and medical gloves sensible. Nail scissors are handy.

4. Find somewhere dark to load the film… inside a cupboard, under the stairs, anywhere reasonably light-tight and not too dusty. Wait until night time if you are really stuck, once the film is in the daylight tank it will happily sit around until you are ready to process, next morning, sometime over the weekend, if you ever get sometime for yourself! The main thing is to spend a good few minutes in your new loading area before you start messing with the film. Let your eyes open wide in the darkness so they can see if any light is creeping in. Mobile phones that burst into alert with a bright flash of light need to be avoided, glowing power indicators on computers are easily overlooked. Sometimes your eyes can play a memory trick on you so your brain thinks it can pick out details in the darkness, try wiggling your fingers in front of the detail you think you can see. If you can count your fingers you have probably left the light switched on! By the way when you are working in the dark keep your eyes open… bonkers I know but I actual did work with a good friend called Louis who happily processed a batch of film with the lights left on and his eyes tightly closed! In the dark practice finding where you have placed the lid, spool and film before you start in earnest with precious exposed film. I use a tray or washing-up bowl to keep it all together because if you are not used to working in the darkness it can all be a bit uncoordinated at first.

If finding somewhere dark doesn’t work for you then get online and buy a daylight changing bag.  All the film and stuff is made nice and dark inside the bag and there are two light tight arm cuffs so you can poke your hand is and do the business. Saves a lot of messing around but make sure you give the bag a vacuum clean on the inside because even a single speck of dust stuck onto the film emulsion will cause an annoying see through pinprick on the negative which will enlarge into a big black spot when you make the positive paper print.

I work from home with a limited budget. Nearly all my equipment is second hand and found on eBay. By ‘making a start’ I mean no complications, a direct route for anyone to follow and end up with a nice easy result. From there you can either get into difficult darkroom stuff or spend your time finding lovely people and interesting things to make photos of.

Coming soon: PART TWO – Safely on the Spiral and into the Tank.

This entry was posted in How to Tips.

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