Like pooring money down the drain

Discussion in 'The Darkroom' started by ahelg, Jan 8, 2007.

  1. ahelg

    ahelg TPF Noob!

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    I've been reading various articles on owning and using a darkroom. One of the articles says that it's cheaper to get your film processed in a lab and owning a darkroom is "like pooring money down the drain". Is this true? I would have thought it was the other way round, because by developing the film yourself, you can decide which photographs are worth printing and which are not, something which you can't with a lab. If they include the price of the darkroom equipment and setting it all up, then maybe their right.

    Anyway. I might be able to get my hands on a complete darkroom kit for free in the summer, and I'm not talking crap stuff either. The enlarger is supposed to be quite a good colour enlarger (although I'll only be using it for B&W). I did a very short course in using a darkroom once, and I really, really enjoyed it. Much more fun than watching a picture appear on the computer screen. So I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on this equipment. I've already got a suitable room which I can dedicate to being a darkroom with power supply and ventilation. There's no running water, but I should manage without as there is running water in the room next to it.

    Anyway. I thought I'd get hold of some reading material while I wait so that I can be "ready" to use it. Any recommendations. I think I saw some books with Ansel Adams name on them. I think they were called "The Negative" and "The Print". Are they any good?
     
  2. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    It is usually cheaper to to have a lab do it for C41 or E6 processes, but developing your own BW process film is usually less than half what a lab would charge. At least in chems. I suppose it depends on how valuable your time is.

    It is almost always cheaper to have machine prints made at a lab than at home, but once again, the reason that I do it is for the control. It's also not quite the same product; if the lab was delivering hand printed, gelatin silver prints on fiber paper, they'd charge a whole lot more than they do for the machine prints.

    The point of developing my own BW isn't to save money for me. It's to have control over the process. I'd still do it if it cost 10 times as much.

    The Camera, The Negative, and The Print are sort of a holy trilogy for darkroom geeks.
     
  3. ahelg

    ahelg TPF Noob!

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    Do you think it will be difficoult to get hold of things like paper and film now that digital is becomming ever more popular?
     
  4. ferny

    ferny TPF Noob!

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    It will cost me £14.99 to get my B&W 120 film developed and printed at my local shop. They send it away and it goes through a colour machine. To get my B&W 35mm prints done costs my £7.99 and again it's through a colour machine. At the local chemist I can get a roll of colour 35mm developed and printed for £3.50 but the qaulity is poor.

    I've not done the maths but I can't see how it will be more expensive to do it all at home using proper techniques and care and taking into account that not all of my negatives will turn into prints. Maybe only one or two from a roll. In the end it will pay for itself. Not taking into account the cost of chemicals or paper, what the enlarger cost on it's own (with **** loads of drums, some paper and chemicals as well) is what it would cost me to get 5 of those 120 rolls printed. Like I said it'll pay for itself in my eyes. Plus I'll learn and enjoy myself.

    The only place it really costs you is in time. The time you have to spend in the darkroom is time you're not earning money yourself. But I doubt many take the day off just to do some prints...
     
  5. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

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    I'm going to weigh in on the hybred lab here. I develop my own black and white negs,because it is hard to get it done quickly. The requirements are a changing bag a tank and a few chemicals. Not very expensive at all.

    Then I scan the negatives and pick the ones I like. Well actually I only shoot one a day so it isn't that much scanning really.

    Lately I have done a couple of color rolls and will probably do more. For that I go to the one hour lab. Most of them can develope your film but cant print the negs for exotic sizes like 120 or 127. Still with a color negative and an inexpensive scanner you can make a decent print.

    I think if you want to shoot film this may be the only way to go in the future. I do not shoot digital cameras but from what my son in law tells me the scanned film would seem to fit me better. There is a lot more leeway for exposure errors. I kind of ballpark a lot of my exposures.

    I'm thinking about doing a few 5x7 multi print shoot in the future. I'm toying with the idea of having the lab make a 1600 x 1200 resolution cd from my film to use for it. I have had some sample prints made and they look just fine. I don't plan to make anything bigger than the 5x7 unless i make a couple of 8x10. Since i very very seldom crop a 35mm neg I dont see a real problem.
     
  6. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    You can still buy 9x12cm film for gosh sakes. That's been an obsolete format since the 1940's or earlier. If someone will buy it, someone will make it. It may not be Kodak and Fuji, and it may cost more, but it will be available. I'm seeing less color film choices since the digital revolution, but BW is still going strong. Look at Freestyle; they are carrying more BW darkroom chems and materials than ever. The popularity of alternative processes is way up. Film and paper will no longer be the choices of the consumer masses and pros, but artists and craftspeople will continue to use them. They'll be as rare as oil paints.

    Chems I'm not worried at all. I can mix my own chems. Paper is a little trickier, but I can make that too. Film is the main issue. If it does disappear I'll just have to learn to coat my own glass plates. photogrpahers used to have to do a lot more of their own materials production. We can learn again.

    There are LED enlargers that can print from digital files. Now if they could only make them affordable... I'd love to make gelatin silver prints from digital files. That would help the darkroom materials market.
     
  7. nealjpage

    nealjpage multi format master in a film geek package

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    And, to throw my two cents in, not only do I enjoy having the control (for if I screw up my film I've got no one to blame), but I also enjoy the time in the darkroom, listening to music, enjoying a little solitude, loading the tanks, agiting the film, and seeing a negative when it's all done. I also love the enlarging process because you take a perfectly white sheet of paper, plunk it under a light source, dip it in a tray of chemicals, and VIOLA, you've got a picture.

    Cost is certainly one part. Your artistry may be more than that, though.

    But then again, that might just be me.
     
  8. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Another good reason to do it yourself. I'm positive I take more care with my film than any lab I've ever used, and I use good labs. I've screwed up a few rolls over the years, but not as many as "professional" labs have screwed up for me.
     
  9. ThomThomsk

    ThomThomsk TPF Noob!

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    More difficult perhaps in the sense that you won't be able to get them at every camera shop, but I get the impression that the market for black & white materials is growing and if you go to the specialist suppliers then you won't have any difficulties. B&W is a niche market which survived 40 years of colour film and is probably healthier now than it has been for a very long time - it's not ready to be killed off just yet.

    Thom
     
  10. Jeremy Z

    Jeremy Z No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    As others have said, it isn't about price.

    I handload my own ammunition for my rifle & pistols. Although it costs half as much per round, I just end up shooting more for the same money. Oh, and the accuracy is easily twice as good, and if I want to make light target loads, it's no problem.

    I started making my own furniture, but got out of woodworking. I found that it actually costs *more* to make one's own furniture, compared to commonly available stuff. But if you compare apples to apples, i.e. solid oak to solid oak, quality vs. quality, you'll find it costs half as much. But that is assuming labor is worth nothing. Indeed, if you enjoy doing it, the labor is actually a bonus.

    It is the same with developing film. When I do it myself, I can do top quality work, because I'm not rushed or forced to work a certain way. Developing B&W film is inexpensive. Printing it can get expensive, but you won't find a lab that will care as much about your photos as you do, so the quality is hard to match. Although I do a better job of printing (I can use the exact chemicals that are correct for my film, instead of one size fits all) printing my own B&W photos is where I see the biggest difference. If there isn't enough contrast, I can put a yellow filter in and try again. Or it can spend more time in one bath or another. "Control over the process" is partly quality, and partly your ability to fine-tune.

    Another example is changing my own oil. For less than the same price as going to Jiffy Lube, I can use top quality oil, top quality filter, use a new aluminum washer, check the level, and notice other things while I'm under there. Someone else just doesn't care as much about your stuff as you do. To you, it is a passion. To them, it is their $8 an hour job, and your prints look much like the next batch to come through.

    A lot of people, after learning to develop B&W film, never want to go back to color. Sorry that was so wordy.
     
  11. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    When I was busy, I would send my black and white out to a pro lab. I was never completely happy with the results. I think mostly it was the film developing. The labs typically had one developer, and it was all machince processed. I found using the chemisty (type and dilution) of my choice always produced negatives that were more to my liking.

    Pete
     
  12. Bobby Ironsights

    Bobby Ironsights TPF Noob!

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    From what I've been reading, (alot lately, I just bought a darkroom setup)

    Developing the film is both cheap and fast. Startup is about 35 bucks, and you spend more time driving to the photo lab than developing your film.

    It's also about 10 C on the dollar.

    Loading bulk film is cheap, about a third the price, and startup is about 40 bucks.

    It's only the printing which is any expense at all. So if you wanted to, you could just develop your own film, make a contact sheet, and then get the lab to print the single frames you really liked for a savings in both time AND money.

    But of course, I just ordered a whole darkroom setup....so.....call me Mr. llogical.

    p.s. If you do get a colour enlarger for free, I'll trade you for the b&w only enlarger I had to buy....???? :)
     

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