View Full Version : Learning Traditional Darkroom...

12-Apr-2007, 11:42
Good Afternoon All,

One of my goals as I get more and more involved with LF is to learn how to develop and print B&W in a traditional dark room. I'm curious, in today's world, what's the best way to learn how to do this?

I know I could take a photo course that covers this, but the courses that I've seen that offer this kind of stuff are usually 35mm based, and usually are intro courses that cover the very basics of photogrphy. Since I've been shooting 35mm, Medium Format and Digital for 15+ years, I'm worried that I'd get a little bored in the class.

Is darkroom technique (especially related to LF) something that can be easily learned from a book? Or would it be best to take a basic course, and sleep through discussions about shutter speed, aperture, etc. etc.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts!


Eric Biggerstaff
12-Apr-2007, 11:55
You can learn a lot from books, but hands on is best of course.

Here are a few ideas:

1) Take a darkroom workshop. There are many, check out the Ansel Adams Gallery Workshops, Maine Phtographic Workshops, Sante Fe Photographic workshops or Anderson Ranch ( although Anderson Ranch has gotten out of traditional methods workshops I believe). Also, many well known photographers offer one on one workshops, can be expensive but worth it. Check out Allen Ross in Santa Fe.

2) Ask down at Camera Obscura gallery if they know any local workshops. Seems I remember there being a local group in downtown Denver who teaches workshops.

3) Find a local LF photographer who can show you the ropes. There are many in the Denver area, find a few and contact them. They may charge you a fee but it is worth a try. I might be open to it depending on what you are looking to learn and when you are wanting to have the lessons.

4) Get a good basic manual and dive in. The basics are not too difficult to learn and by doing this you will have a base level knowledge that you can drawn on if you go to a workshops.

Hope that helps.


Oren Grad
12-Apr-2007, 12:01
It depends on your preferred learning style. I've never taken a photography course or workshop - learned it all just from reading and tinkering on my own. I'm much happier that way, but you'll know better than anyone else what's best for you in this respect.

FWIW, the basics of B&W printing are not difficult at all. If anything, it's even easier than learning to expose and develop film, because almost everything important happens right before your eyes, and you get immediate feedback.

Once the basics are in hand, you'll have a better basis for figuring out whether more elaborate darkroom gymnastics matter for your work, and if so, how to learn them.

12-Apr-2007, 12:11
Developing,stop and fixing aren't really that different 35mm to 8x10 etc. Plus it's a lot cheaper to make mistakes with smaller formats.

I'd also say in some ways it's easier to print LF then smaller formats. You just aren't enlarging the same amount.

An intro darkroom course you'd expect to be mostly darkroom.

Ilford used to and likely still has a PDF file describing the process. If you can follow along then you can learn the basics from that. The problem is some things are easier to see done. So it partly depends on how much hair pulling you can put up with. If you don't mind reinventing the wheel every time then you can just learn on your own.

Keith Pitman
12-Apr-2007, 12:30
I think this is the group Eric is thinking of: http://www.denverdarkroom.com/

Also, this organization has darkroom workshops: http://www.workingwithartists.org/

Working with Artists also has a view camera workshop coming up at the end of April with a very good photographer.

Eric Biggerstaff
12-Apr-2007, 12:33
Thanks Keith, I could not remember those for the life of me.

12-Apr-2007, 15:11
Thank you everyone.

I'll definately be checking out my options. I really think I'm looking forward to getting into a traditional Darkroom.

Again, many thanks!


Brian Ellis
12-Apr-2007, 22:42
I've taken a darkroom course at a local community college and taught darkroom courses at a State university. The way I made the leap from a pretty good printer to a much better printer was to take the workshops offered by John Sexton. He used to offer three, he may only offer one now but anything John teaches will do you a world of good. They aren't introductory courses, you'll need to know the basics and have some darkroom experience, but once you get the basics down they'll be a big help in advancing your printing abilities.

David Karp
12-Apr-2007, 22:46
I agree with Brian. Although I have only taken one of John's workshops, it was a great experience. I instantly became a better printer after returning home.

A good beginning book is The Elements of Black and White Printing by Carson Graves.