Black and White Photography

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download





Developed black and white 35mm film, cut into strips of 5 or 6* Multigrade RC Glossy black and white 8" x 10" paper (I recommendIlford)* cardboard/black card at least 5" x 7" grain focuser scissors/paper cutter Enlarger/lens safe lights enlarger timer/light switch clock/timer 35mm negative carrier

(* represents materials not normally supplied in the darkroom)


Some people like to wear a smock or gloves, but they are not necessary. Remember to wash your hands often and DO NOT TOUCH your mouth or eyes.

The chemicals are arranged in a large sink in consecutive order: Developer:Changes the chemical structure of the emulsion on the paper to create the dark areas on a photo.

Stop Bath:Stops the developer from working so the image doesn't get any darker.

Fixer:"Fixes" the image on the paper, making the photo light safe after 30 seconds.

Wash:A continuous flowing bath of room temperature water to rinse off excess chemicals.

PLACING THE NEGATIVEPick a good negative A good negative to print is in focus and has a good range of dark and light areas (technically known as dense and thin). Remember this is a NEGATIVE the dark areas appear light, and the light areas appear dark. Decide how you want to crop the photo and how you want to frame it. Center the image if you are using a border and think about composition when you cut out regions of the negative.Set up your negative Place the negative with the shiny side up (the top of the curl) and upside down in the negative carrier. When you hold the carrier up to the light the negative should fill the open space and be upside down.

Open the enlarger head by turning the knob on the left (or by pulling the lever towards you, depending on the type of enlarger).

Put the negative carrier in the opening downward at a 20-degree angle. The carrier will fit snuggly in the grooves made for it.

Close the enlarger head and make sure it sits flush with the negative carrier.Composing and Focusing Your ImageOpen up the lens There is an aperture ring on the lens, just like on your 35mm camera. Turn this ring all the way to the leftSLOWLY WITHOUT FORCE. You will feel the clicks at each setting, usually at 4 (largest opening), 5.6, 8, 11, 16, etc.

Once you can't turn it anymore, the aperture is all the way open. This lets the most light through, making it easier to focus your image.Compose Adjust the height of the enlarger by turning the crank on the right side. This determines the size of your photo and how you are going to crop it.

Frame the image in the easel because this is where your paper will go when you print.Focus Focus the image by turning the knob on the right.

Place the grain focuser on the easel to magnify a specific area and to check focus around the whole image. I like to check the focus of defined edges and high detail areas.EvaluateScan the image and decide where to place the first test strip. Pick an area that has important detail and equal lighting on the length of your strip (I make my test strips 1 '' x 8).

You may need to make multiple test strips in different areas to get an accurate result with some difficult negatives.Stop down lensOnce you have focused the image and have everything set the way you like it, it is time to stop down the lens. We do this by adjusting the aperture to a smaller opening. I generally print at 2 clicks down, which is at F 8.0. This allows 1/4 of the light allowed at all the way open (F 4.0). Adjusting the aperture to a smaller opening lets you have more precise timing, making it easier to get an exact exposure. Turn the aperture ring as you did before, but this time 2 clicks to the right to get the desired effect. You will notice the light getting dimmer.MAKING THE TEST STRIPPrepare the paper Turn off the light and pull out a piece of paper.

If you haven't already, cut the paper into 1-1 inch strips the short way (this produces more test strips). Your test strips should be around 1" x 8" if you are using 8" x 10" paper.

Place the strip on the easel (in your predetermined area) with the shiny side up.

MAKE SURE YOUR OTHER PHOTO PAPER IS AWAY IN A LIGHT TIGHT CONTAINER.Expose the paper Take your black card (or cardboard) and cover the entire test strip except for roughly 1".DO NOT TOUCH THE PAPER.

Turn on the light, count 5 seconds, and move the black card so another equal section is exposed to the light. Do this until the whole strip is exposed.

Turn off the light after the last section is exposed. Be sure to keep track the number of intervals used.

* If you are using a timer, set the timer for 5 seconds and move the card 1" each time you press the timer.


This is the how you transfer your photograph from one tray to another,making sure to let all of the excess chemicals drip off before you place it in the next tray.

DeveloperSlide the test strip into the developer, making sure it gets completely covered with chemicals. Gently agitate (lift the corner of the tray every 5 seconds) for the duration. In less than 15 seconds you will start to see the image appear on the paper. Leave the paper in the developer for 1 to 2 minutes; making sure it gets fully developed. Even if the photo starts to get too dark, DON'T TAKE IT OUT. It is hard to see everything with only the safe lights and we want all of the detail to appear. It is important to be consistent with the timing so the final results don't get skewed.DRIP EXCESS CHEMICALS OVER DEVELOPERStop BathLet the photo sit in this tray for 30 seconds to stop the developer from processing.DRIP EXCESS CHEMICALS OVER STOP BATHFixerPlace the photo in the fixer. After 30 seconds, the photo is safe to be viewed in the light. For the photo to be archival later, it needs to be in the fixer for 5 minutes. Lack of fixing can make your print to turn purple later down the road.DRIP EXCESS CHEMICALS OVER FIXERThe fixer is the most toxic chemical, and it cannot go down the drain. Make sure the fixer is not dripping when you are done with this step.If you want to see your photo in the light, you can transfer it straight to a tray to view outside the darkroom. Once you are finished looking at it, return the print to the fixer for the complete 5 minutes. Again, make sure you drip the excess chemicals when the time is up.WashIf you printing multiple photos, it is easier to leave your prints in a holding bath of room temperature water until you finish. When you are done printing, empty the current water and put the prints under running water for 10 minutes. During this time you should be moving around the prints making sure they all get rinsed off thoroughly.DryDarkrooms have different drying techniques. Some popular methods are: hanging prints drying racks electric dryers Blotting booksAsk your darkroom their procedure. Make sure the print is dry before you stack them so they do not get stuck together.

MAKING THE FINAL PRINTEvaluate your test stripYour test strip should have 5 or 6 regions, ranging from light to dark. The lightest section should be exposed for 5 seconds, the second 10 seconds, third 15 seconds, and so on. A good test strip goes from extremely light to almost black, showing the maximum shades of grey. Pick an exposure that has good contrast and exposure. You might need to make another test strip with smaller intervals to fine tune the best exposure time.

This test strip shows a good range of tones. The third section has the best exposure and contrast, so the print will be made at that time.

Create your final printOnce you have decided on the best time, you are ready to print a full size image. Recheck your focus and framing.

Expose the paper and repeat the same developing process.

After the photo has been in the fixer for 30 seconds, look at it in the light.

If the print is too dark, take some time off. If it is too light, add a few seconds. It is a subjective process, so the print isn't done until you are satisfied with your work.

After looking at each print in the light, make sure to return it to the fixer for 5 minutes. This is important so you have good qualities of each draft of your print. I like to use these for other projects or to test/practice other techniques.