Steel Reel

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Keeping a darkroom, what do I need, ect?

So, my parents are building a new house, which is almost finished., just around the time I'm getting interested in photography.
However, we are not finishing the basement, and I think they might let me keep a darkroom in one of the spare bedrooms.
What would be necessary, and how would I set it up/ convince my parents?
There's a bathroom in the basement, but not in the room where the darkroom will be.

That's great! I develop my own film and pictures and it's a lot of fun.

One thing you should know though is that you can only develop black and white film yourself. Color film is a lot harder. It is POSSIBLE to develop color film at home, I know people who have done it. But you need different chemicals and you have to be more careful about the temperature. But don't let that discourage you. Black and white photography is a lot of fun, and you will be completely blown away when you see pictures that you've actually developed yourself.

First of all, if you're going to develop the film yourself, there are a few things you will need. You will need a developing tank and reel. Get the plastic kind, because they're a lot easier to load. You can get it at a camera shop or order it online. You load the film onto the reel and then put it in the tank. That has to be done in complete darkness, so you have to do it in a room that is totally dark, or you can use what's called a "changing bag." A changing bag is a lightproof zippered bag with holes for your arms. You put the film, reel, and tank inside the bag and then close it, and load the film onto the reel with your hands inside the bag. You have to do it by touch since you won't be able to see, so you should practice with a junk film roll first. If you use 35mm film, you have to cut the "tail" of the film first (the narrow part that you normally put into the advance spool on the camera). The plastic reels are a lot easier. It has these big tabs that you just stick the end of the film in, and then you just turn the reel. It will automatically feed the film onto the spiral. Then just put the reel in the tank and close it. It sounds hard, but after you've practiced it, it really isn't that bad at all. But be sure you get the plastic kind of reels, not the stainless steel ones. The stainless steel reels are a lot harder...I tried with one and gave up.

Once you have the film in the developing tank, you can do the rest in normal light. So you actually don't need a darkroom to develop film. The tank has a lightproof spout where you will pour in the developing chemicals. You will need a darkroom to develop pictures though.

You will also have to get chemicals. You will need a developer and fixer. For black and white film, I would recommend D-76. The "fixer" is another chemical that stabalizes the film so that the images are permanent and no longer light sensitive. You can get the chemicals from a camera shop or order them online. If you order them, I'd recommend Freestyle Photo Supplies in California. The chemicals for film will cost about $14 total to get you started. You mix them with water and that will make a gallon.

To develop pictures, you will need photo paper. I mean REAL photo paper, which is light sensitive, not printer paper. You'll also have to get paper developer. You can use the same kind of fixer with paper and film, but paper uses a different kind of developer. It will cost about the same as film developer...around $5 - $10, depending on where you get it from. You'll need plastic trays, probably 4 of them. And you'll need an enlarger. You can find one on eBay for fairly cheap. I got mine in good condition for about $40.

Photo paper isn't sensitive to red light, so you can use a red light or what's called a "safe light" in your dark room. Sometimes, an enlarger will come with a red light or a red filter that you can use too. Also, photo paper isn't as sensitive as film, so if a tiny bit of white light leaks into your dark room it isn't that big of a deal. You should try to make it as dark as possible, but if a tiny bit of light leaks in, it should be okay as long as it doesn't hit the paper directly. I've had enough light leak into my dark room that after a while I could faintly see my hands, but it didn't affect the pictures at all.

So here's a list again of what you will need:

- Developing tank and reel
- Changing bag
- Film developer and fixer
- Paper developer
- Enlarger
- At least 4 plastic trays for developing pictures
- Plastic funnels and a measuring cup for mixing chemicals (you can get those from anywhere)

I would say that for about $100 total, you can get started. It really depends on how much the enlarger costs. That will be the most expensive thing. Try looking on eBay, you can get one for fairly cheap. And you can get replacement bulbs, so if the bulb gets burned out, don't freak out...you can get a new bulb online or from a camera shop.

Good luck and have fun! If you get everything and want to know how to develop film and pictures, send me an email and I'll be glad to help.

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