Film Photography Supplies

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 which 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

Australian Film and Paper Suppliers

Blanco Negro

Chris Reid runs the Blanco Negro Lab in Sydney, specialising in all things black and white. Besides being a very helpful guy, he is also the Australian distributor for Foma products, silverrich baryta based papers, RC papers, and black and white films, chemistry and toners.

Chris also has a new enlarger capable of projecting digital files onto traditional papers, so if you neg needs digital retouching or if you use digital capture, you can now enjoy the quality of traditional exhibition prints.

The Film Bloke

Based in Western Australia and a local supplier film and chemistry.

Gold Street Studios

A great supporter of alternative and tradition photography processes. They supply film, paper and hard to get chemistry such as Pyrogallol developers, and alternative processing kits.

Vanbar Imaging

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

DigiDirect can supply a selection of darkroom chemicals with very competitive delivery rates.

US Suppliers

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

View Camera Australia

Friends of Photography Group (4×5 and 8×10 pinhole)  http://www.friendsopg.org/

Large Format Photography Australia (Forum)

Websites

Determining your Film Speed and Development Times

Paul Wainwright Photography

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

Stouffer Graphic Arts

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 Photography

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 Photography

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

RH Designs was established in 1994 by Dr Richard Ross and has been manufacturing high quality enlarger timers, darkroom exposure meters and other accessories.

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.

Stand Development Film

Books for the Beginner

Beginners Guide to Darkroom Techniques

Film Photography Supplies - References Ralph Hattersley
Film Photography Supplies – References

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.

Above all, Hattersely demonstrates throughout the book that regardless of what stage you are at in photography, you can work cleanly, neatly and take pride in your darkroom work. I love this book, there is not a Zone system in sight! It is out of print but easily available online secondhand for a few dollars.

Hattersley, R 1976, Beginners guide to darkroom techniques, Robert Hale, London.

Zone VI Workshop

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.

The ZoneVI Workshop is a good reference book for the newcomer to film. At some stage, you will want to learn just how long they should develop your black and white film. Following that question is usually what exposure index should I be exposing my film at for optimal quality?

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 a personal film speed, development procedures, development time test and the proper proof.

The proper proof is possibly the most important concept upon which everything else hinges. I still use this concept today when testing a new film or just making a contact print of my developed negatives. The proper proof is the departure point from which you can make comparisons about film grain, tonal range, development time, exposure index, camera and meter function and so on.

Picker, F 1974, Zone VI Workshop, The fine print in black and white photography, Amphoto, New York.

Zone VI Newsletters

Zone VI Newsletter

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

Film Photography Supplies - References
Film Photography Supplies – References

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

Film Photography Supplies - References
Film Photography Supplies – References

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 a detailed insight into why he has chosen a subject, the technical decisions he had to make, and the final results. If you have the basics under your belt then this book will help you move up to a new level.

Mulligan, S 2006, Black and white photography a practical guide, Photographers’ Institute Press, East Sussex.

Books for the Advanced

Way Beyond Monochrome

Film Photography Supplies
Film Photography Supplies – References

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

Film Photography Supplies John Blakemores Photography Workshop
Film Photography Supplies – Book References

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 detailed rationale behind his choices.

The print examples Blakemore uses are some of his best images. Besides the pleasure of viewing his print making techniques, Blakemore is trying to get you to feel your way into the print first.

But be under no illusion, Blakemore is a master of his materials. Some of his examples appear deceptively simple. Yet their expression of tonal structure requires great technical command which is grounded in the zone system. This approach, which he covers in mid to late chapters is one of the best and most direct I have read for a long time.

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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