Darkroom Developing Equipment

While most photographers have abandoned film photography in favour of digital, there are still plenty who believe that the old ways are best. Putting together a home dark room is not a complicated process and allows you to experiment with a more hands-on way of creating images.

Why Develop Film at Home?

  • Developing your own film is a rewarding experience for many photographers.
  • Home development gives you a lot of control over the final image and allows you to experiment with historic developing processes.
  • Photo shops are increasingly rare and may not work with certain types of film.

What Developing Equipment Do I Need in My Home Darkroom?

It doesn't take much equipment to get started on developing your own pictures. With just a few essential pieces, you can get started on turning your negatives into high-quality prints.

  • The enlarger is the piece of darkroom equipment that turns little negatives into full-sized prints. You will need a darkroom enlarger lens with a focal length equal to or larger than the diagonal size of the negative.
  • Using an enlarger timer helps you to expose your print for the correct amount of time. Some photographers use old-style mechanical timers while others prefer more advanced digital timers with extra features.
  • Exposing your negatives to sunlight or ordinary electric lights will ruin them, but you still need to be able to see inside your darkroom. Because photo film is less sensitive to red light, a darkroom safelight with an orange or red bulb gives you enough light to work without affecting your film as much.
  • Trays are needed to hold all of the chemicals that you will use when developing pictures.

Which Other Darkroom Supplies Will I Need?

  • If you want to make prints, you need darkroom photo paper to print onto. Fibre paper is used to make long-lasting archival prints, while resin-coated paper is easier to process but less stable. You can also choose between gloss and matte paper to give your prints a very different final look.
  • Premium photographic papers are sometimes graded on a scale from 1 to 5. Graded papers with lower numbers produce less contrast in the final image, while high-numbered papers produce higher contrast.
  • Film development chemicals are the other essential supply for your darkroom. You will need liquid or powdered developer, stop bath and a fixer. Some photographers also like to use other chemicals like washaids. The right developer for you will depend on the type of film you use and the look you want to achieve. Colour developers are different to black and white developers and can also be trickier to work with.