Film Darkroom Photography Information Links
To help my photography workshop students I put together a list of film photography supplies and darkroom resources which I regularly use. I have also listed websites with good technical references, such as film development and darkroom printing techniques.
There are links to specialist reprographic suppliers who make useful and relatively inexpensive darkroom calibration tools.
Finally, I have included a list of personal reference books that I have found useful. Many of these are out of print, but you can find them second hand online. Last, I have divided the reference books into 3 levels of skill: beginner, intermediate and advanced.
These links are provided solely as a starting point for your information search. I do not have any affiliate links with the references I am providing.
Table of Contents
- Photographic Film Suppliers
- Forums and Workshops
- Determining your Film Speed and Development Times
- Calibration using Transmission Step Wedges and Photographic Scales
- Stand Development Film
- Developing 4×5 Film in a Paterson Tank
- Advanced Printing Techniques – Selective Masking Techniques
- Advanced Printing Techniques – Split Grade Printing, Pre and Post Flashing
- Darkroom Equipment – Timers
- Print Finishing – Dry Mount Press
- Large Format Camera Movements Explained
- Books for the Beginner
- Books for the Intermediate
- Books for the Advanced
Photographic Film Suppliers
Australian Film and Paper Suppliers
Chris Reid runs the Blanco Negro Lab in Sydney,
Chris also has a new enlarger capable of projecting digital files onto traditional papers, so if you negs need digital retouching or if you use digital capture, you can now enjoy the quality of traditional exhibition prints.
A great supporter of alternative and traditional photography processes. They supply film, paper and hard to get chemistry such as Pyrogallol developers, and alternative processing kits.
Another useful online source for 4×5 films, darkroom and alternative process chemistry and equipment is Vanbar Imaging which has an extensive online catalogue of all things photographic. Vanbar freights orders within Australia.
DigiDirect can supply a selection of darkroom chemicals with very competitive delivery rates.
I haven’t used these guys yet but they seem to have a wide range of darkroom products. They are based in Victoria.
Again, I haven’t used these guys either, but they seem to have Tetenal E6 and other darkroom chemistry available from their website.
I haven’t used these guys but from what I see they have a good range of black and white darkroom chemistry available from their website. Based in Sydney, they post Australia wide.
Another I haven’t used, but they stock colour films, black and white films, and film processing gear, based in South, Australia.
Both B&H Photo Video, Adorama and Freestyle Photographics are large photo suppliers in the United States who will ship orders internationally.
Forums and Workshops
Australian Large Format Photography Workshops
Australian Large Format Photography Forums
Friends of Photography Group (4×5 and 8×10 pinhole) http://www.friendsopg.org/
Determining your Film Speed and Development Times
Another variation for determining your personal film speed and development time. This method is particularly suited to 4×5 sheet film users as it uses a 4×5 step wedge from Stouffer (see below), although its principles can be applied to smaller film formats as well.
Download his pdf at the bottom third of the page “Use Your Eyes, Zone System Testing Without a Densitometer”
Calibration using Transmission Step Wedges and Photographic Scales
An invaluable source of transmission step wedges and photographic scales, the tools I rely on to avoid the need for using laboratory equipment like densitometers, often referred to in the Zone System film exposure and development method.
Keep your references clean, handle with care (like negatives) and store carefully, these will last you for years and well worth having. Use of step wedges is discussed in Way Beyond Monochrome. Visit the Stouffer website for details.
Developing 4×5 Film in a Paterson Tank
Review of MOD 54 large format film processor by David Tatnall for View Camera Australia. A 4×5 sheet film spiral designed to fit a Paterson Super 6 tank, holding 6 sheets of film.
Bounet 6 sheet 4×5 developing reel insert for a Paterson Tank.
Advanced Printing Techniques – Selective Masking Techniques
Alan Ross is an internationally respected master photographer and educator who worked side-by-side with Ansel Adams as his photographic assistant.
Alan’s Selective Masking article and kit brings the advantages of the digital world and merges them with traditional darkroom printing. This advanced printing technique offers a wide range of tonal control and convenience, especially for images that require difficult burning or dodging.
The Selective Masking kit and article can be purchased directly from Alan Ross. He also has some free articles available for download, such as one on film testing.
It is also worth checking his blog for technical explanations of metering and film exposure
Advanced Printing Techniques – Split Grade Printing, Pre and Post Flashing
Les McLean is a photographer and educator, who runs workshops. He has several articles on his web site, such as split grade printing. This is another important technique used with variable contrast paper and McLean has written a nice little introduction, with good photographic examples.
Check out McLean’s other articles including contrast control with pre and post flashing, and a detailed split grade and post flash article on Film and Darkroom User Org UK. McLean has also published his photographic technical guide “Creative Black and White Photography“.
Darkroom Equipment – Timers
RH Designs was established in 1994 by
They manufacture the Analyser Pro meter, a highly-acclaimed enlarging meter-timer combo featuring a patented greyscale print tone indicator which shows you the tonal range of the print. Measuring different areas of the negative you can preview its tonal scale without the need for endless test strips.
Since Dr Ross’s retirement , his meters are now being manufactured and sold by Second Hand Darkroom Supplies in the UK.
Print Finishing – Dry Mount Press
Stand Development Film
Large Format Camera Movements
Books for the Beginner
Beginners Guide to Darkroom Techniques
If you are starting at the beginning, I can think of no better book to help you o your way. I came across this book in my teenage years and it has created a lasting impression.
Hattersley is an educator, able to convey information and theory without overwhelming those who are not technically minded.
The book is an introductory guide for the amateur photographer to the creative and practical skills of developing, printing, and retouching black and white photographs.
Regardless of how little gear you may own or how makeshift your darkroom set up is, Hattersley will guide you through the basic steps, suggesting solutions for the amateur working from home.
Hattersley, R 1976, Beginners guide to darkroom techniques, Robert Hale, London.
Zone VI Workshop
What ISO should you expose your film at? Do you use the ISO speed on the film box or do you change it? How do you determine this and what time should I develop the film for? These are common photography workshop questions.
Fred Picker’s methodology will work well for those who scan their negs or use diffusion or colour head enlarger light sources or contact print. His method may lead to over-development of negatives used in enlargers with condenser light sources and would need to be adjusted accordingly. Stand development may better suit condenser light users.
This book will cover exposure, the zone system, determination of
Picker, F 1974, Zone VI Workshop, The fine print in black and white photography, Amphoto, New York.
Zone VI Newsletters
I first came across Zone VI studios and Fred Picker as an undergraduate at Curtin University in the 1980s. I was able to add a little garnish to my science degree a photography unit offered by the Arts Faculty.
My tutor gave me a Zone VI newsletter by Fred Picker to read. About twelve months later I bought my 4×5 wooden field camera from Zone VI, which I am still using nearly 30 years later.
Fred was often controversial with his opinions, and sometimes outright erroneous. I can’t say I would agree with everything he said, but I still have his newsletters which can be highly entertaining at times! That aside, hidden amongst those grumpy newsletters are some gems of information
Zone VI Studios also made some innovative darkroom gear. Now and then his newsletters surface online for sale.
Books for the Intermediate
Creative Black and White Photography
McLean’s book is essentially about how to conduct your film test to determine your film exposure index and development time. He then discusses how to translate that into a fine black and white print.
McLean uses a zone system methodology and a visual basis to conduct and assess his tests, using nothing more than what you would normally have in a darkroom.
A greater part of this book provides plenty of good examples of fine prints with accompanying text and explanations, as well as a chapter devoted to case studies as to how he set about making some of these prints. This later section would suit intermediate to the more advanced photographer. He illustrates the control and quality one can achieve in darkroom printing. Again, it may be out of print but is easily available second hand online. Also, visit his web site for other articles.
McLean, L 2002, Creative black and white photography, David & Charles, Devon.
Black and White Photography a Practical Guide
In some fundamental aspects, Mulligan’s book is similar to McLean’s above. They are both filled with excellent examples and descriptions, and both use an exposure and development system based upon the zone system.
However, Mulligan and McLean have different personal approaches to the zone system. Both are equally valid, as are the other methods described on this page, demonstrating that there is no single “correct” approach.
Where Mulligan’s book departs from McLean’s (other than personal technique) is that he broadens his discussion to include equipment choices, working in the field and ideas about presenting and displaying images.
Dispersed through the chapters are images and cameos. These provide
Mulligan, S 2006, Black and white photography a practical guide, Photographers’ Institute Press, East Sussex.
Books for the Advanced
Way Beyond Monochrome
Overall, this is an excellent reference book to have on hand and one I have found most useful in recent times. The authors are not afraid of the science behind photography and go into considerable detail with diagrams and formula.
It covers a comprehensive range of topics from print presentation through to advanced printing techniques. Included amongst them are film exposure, development, and the zone system, to name but a few.
The authors provide more than one methodology for determining your personal film speed and developing time. Solutions vary from simple to complex, and there are parallels in some aspects to what is described in the Zone VI Workshop.
In excess of 500 pages, with intelligent tips, this is definitely a go-to book for when you need pithy, in-depth explanations.
Lambrecht, RW & Woodhouse, C 2011, Way beyond monochrome advanced techniques for traditional black and white photography, 2nd edn, Elsevier, Amsterdam.
John Blakemore’s Black and White Photography Workshop
This book, above all others, I hold as the best to date explaining the process of making a fine prints. It’s like being in the darkroom with Blakemore, watching and listening while he makes one of his prints. Blakemore talks you through the various stages of the print and its making, with
The print examples Blakemore uses are some of his best images. Besides the pleasure of viewing his
But be under no illusion, Blakemore is a master of his materials. Some of his examples appear deceptively simple. Yet their expression of
If you don’t have a master printer living near you then this book is highly recommended. Look for second-hand copies online.
Blakemore, J 2005, John Blakemore’s black and white photography workshop, David & Charles, Devon.
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