Oxford School of Photography

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Tag Archives: Darkroom

How to Make a Darkroom in Your Bathroom

by over at Lightstalking

Despite the current renaissance of film photography, one of the biggest issues facing celluloid fans is getting it processed and printed. Long gone are the days of mini-labs in every small town, today you are more likely to have to send it off to another location to get the processing done. Even more tricky is to find places that will process and print black and white film, so, with that in mind,  why not have a go yourself. Back in the analogue days, one of the most popular ways of doing this was to have a bathroom darkroom. This simple set up negated the need for a dedicated room and permanent set up, and allowed for the photographer to develop as and when he needed to.

So How Do We Set Up a Bathroom Darkroom?

Well, first and most importantly, we need to black out the bathroom. There are several ways of doing this, but one of the best ways is to make wooden frame covered in blackout cloth or plastic that fits snugly into the window’s alcove. To seal any further light leakage use a roll of duct tape to seal around the window and the doors. The advantages of using duct tape is that it is easily removed when finished and cheap. Once sealed, stand in the bathroom for ten minutes (and let your eyes adjust) to see where, if at all, light is leaking.

A simple solution to creating a darkroom – by Matus Kalisky, on Flickr

More here  How to Make a Darkroom in Your Bathroom

Darkroom hire

In 1982 the Photographers Workshop was the first privately run darkroom hire centre in the UK. We continued to offer darkrooms and tuition until about 4 years ago when demand almost dried up. Since then of course I have received regular requests for darkrooms, now I only am aware of one. Here are some details

Photochats is a community photography project offering exhibitions, photographic workshops and high quality traditional darkroom printing facilities at a reasonable price.

Black and White and Colour Darkroom Hire.

All darkroom users have to attend an induction session before using any of the facilities. This will cover health and safety, darkroom and building procedures. The induction lasts for one hour and costs £10.00.

Inductions can be arranged at any time subject to availability. Call 07921 816754. This can be extended to include a second hour of directly supervised refresher printing if requested (£20.00 including induction).

Subsequently enlarger time can be booked by the session as shown in the timetable above. There is no annual membership fee. The basic charge is £4.00 per hour to use the darkroom. Alternatively you can buy 12 hours for £35.00. These hours should be used within 3 months of purchase. All darkroom bookings should be made at least 24 hours in advance by phone: 07921 816754 or emailphotochats10@yahoo.com

Darkroom Facilities.

The colour darkroom consists of 2 bench mounted De Vere 504 enlargers plus a floor standing De Vere 5108 (10×8). The processor is a table top Metoform 5040 which will take a maximum print width of 16 inches (20×16). The chemistry is Kodak. All negative sizes up to 10×8 can be catered for. The black and white darkroom has 4 bench mounted enlargers, including at least two De Vere’s, one with a cold cathode the other with a Multigrade 500 head. The paper is processed in open trays with the maximum size being 24x20inches. The paper developer is normally Ilford PQ Universal. There is a resin coated roller dryer and a couple of fibre dryers plus racks for air drying.

More info here

‘the true wonder of bloody everything, no less’ – Jane Buekett

The Photographers Workshop was originally a darkroom and studio hire centre. We opened in 1982, and at that time we were the only privately funded darkroom hire centre in the country. Our ethos was access to equipment and access to knowledge. The equipment when we started was better than many colleges of photography had and our tuition was given freely and on a 121 basis. we later ran courses but the most important part of what we did was to teach everyone at their level and at the speed they wanted to learn. In the subsequent years we went through transformations due to the rise of digital. We no longer have darkrooms and our teaching is now exclusively through courses and weekend workshops. One of the best things about the Workshop was seeing the development (no pun intended or otherwise) of people and their technical skills. People would come with a desire to make pictures and we made that happen for them.

So I thought it would be a good idea to track down some of the photographers, both amateur and professional (some started as one and became the other) who used our darkrooms in the distant past.

Today I would like to introduce you to Jane Buekett. I consider her pictures to be some of the most beautiful and mature images. Taste is an interesting thing, what some love others hate, no don’t even think of Marmite this is much more important than that.

Jane was to be found working in the darkrooms every week, either in the evenings or on a Saturday, quietly going about making gems.  As she quotes “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” Gary Winogrand

She has a blog with a small selection of the thousands of images she must have made and some of her writing which like her pictures is a joy to read if not always joyful. Here is a link to her blog

I asked those alumni who responded to my requests for pictures and words, pictures from the past as well as pictures from now. Here are some of Jane’s images and later her words. The older work shows first

“I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” Gary Winogrand

When I joined the Photographers Workshop in the early 1990s I knew nothing about black and white photography except that I wanted to do it. On my first evening Norman McBeath showed me how to load and process film, make a contact sheet and a basic print. He was kind and encouraging, the process was magical, and I was hooked.

The workshop was very male: rather spartan, with loud music playing and a constant teasing and banter between staff and regular customers. All day people would be calling in to chat or have a coffee. I sometimes felt the place was more like a drop-in centre than a darkroom. But it became somewhere I felt very much at home.

I took classes there, I learnt to print from evening after evening of working at it and getting advice from whoever was on duty. I became obsessed with making pictures, with the silver print, and, like Gary Winogrand, with photographing things to see what they looked like. I had exhibitions at the workshop. I met people who became a big part of my life, I developed a passion, I learned to see.

I liked those Saturday afternoons in the darkroom, wearing my horrible printing shirt stained with hypo, and my yellow rubber glove, when my prints would be sharing the developer with wedding photos, professional portraits, a snapshot of someone’s cat, an artist’s photograph of the moon. Often it was frustrating – trying to make exhibition-quality prints with other people poking at my fibre-based paper or contaminating the chemicals with dirty tongs.

Today I have my own darkroom. The music is more tasteful. There is no-one accidentally pouring stop into the developer. I don’t have to compete to get my favourite enlarger. But I miss having someone to ask, ‘Does this print look OK?’

Jane Buekett

Die bleierne Zeit

Trüb ists heut, es schlummern die Gäng’ und die Gassen und fast will
Mir es scheinen, es sei, als in der bleiernen Zeit

(Gloomy it is today, sleepy are the pathways and lanes and it seems as almost, we are, in the leaden times.)

(Friedrich Hölderlin)

Wish you were here

©Jane Buekett

©Jane Buekett

©Jane Buekett

©Jane Buekett

©Jane Buekett

I hope you have enjoyed these and would like to see and read more, you can do so here




Darkroom in a box

It must be said that I am sold on Photo JoJo, I do think their irreverence is infectious and worth spreading, not the infection but the irreverence…..

Way back in 1851, photographers were an exclusive band of badass adventurers.

Marauders of the land, they hauled dark rooms across majestic mountain ranges and captured images of the countryside for the first time ever.

Like the great photographers of yore, you can now tow your camera and darkroom wherever you may be. Meet the Darkroom in a Box, a pinhole camera and portable darkroom in one.

Designed and hand assembled in France, it’s a miniature photo lab that lets you shoot and develop a photo all in one clever box.

Just how clever is it? Shooting and developing only takes 3 steps. 1) Slip photo paper into provided holder and place in the box. 2) Expose the photo via a pinhole in the top of the box. 3) Steep the photo in the provided developer and fix.

Voilà!: your very own hand shot and developed photo! Yup, it’s pretty much magic in a box, and you’re pretty much a badass.”




We haven’t tried the Darkroom in a box so our recommendation is out of the sheer joy in the idea rather than how well it all works.

Full details here

Exposing for Black and White – Free pdf download

In the distant past, when life was simple for a photographer there was black and white film. If one studied the way light worked with film and combined this with an understanding of the effects of film development and finally how the resulting negative could be printed to achieve optimum results then there was a satisfaction in that we were working as the greats like Ansel Adams. AA wrote three books that were seminal to an understanding of black and white photography; The Camera, The Negative and The Print. He was introducing to the world the Zone System.

The evolution into digital left many skilled and experienced photographers bereft, decades of learning and practical application were almost valueless in the new world, or so we thought. Eventually methods were realised that allowed us to apply much of the Zone System to digital photography. Of course it is not quite the same as working in a darkroom; it is cleaner, you smell less of hypo, your clothes are less stained and you do not spend hours on your own in a darkened room. I often think this last point was much of the attraction for some photographers although not for all, hence the success of The Photographers Workshop where from 1982 until 3 years ago you could rent professionally equipped communal darkrooms and were able to share the dark with others, it became….well communal. We still operate as The Photographers Workshop as well as The Oxford School of Photography but no longer have darkrooms.

We run a Black and White digital course that embraces the concepts of the Zone System as applied to digital photography, it is involved and technical but even in the chemical days it was always thus. This course is proving to be a great success and many of the images produced by students for the class have well….class. some are below from the most recent course.

Anyway the point is that the nice people at Lightstalking have prepared a pdf, which is free to download here that goes some of the way to explaining how to achieve the best results shooting black and white digitally. The information is not as precise or as inclusive as we provide on our course but you may not be lucky enough to live in Oxford and be able to attend one of our courses so this will have to do.

Graham Rollerson

Richard Parker

Eniko Varga