If you are at all confused, contact contact Nicholas Venturini for assistance before proceeding.

Darkroom Instructions

Everything you need to know

When is the darkroom open for use?

Nope!  All chemicals will be mixed and stocked under the sink. Only the Darkroom Manager may mix more stock chemicals, so in the unlikely event that they run out mid-week, please email the darkroom manager immediately. There is usually a second (full) container of chemistry behind the current one if the current one is almost empty.

To preserve chemistry, some datatainers now contain chemistry that is shared by both film and paper processing. Stop Bath, Fixer (non-hardening), and Perma-Wash can be used for both film and paper.


What film formats are supported?

We have tanks and reels for 35mm and 120 film. People wanting to process 220, APS, 110/16mm, 70mm, 126, or anything else are out of luck. People developing sheet film in trays have my respect. As far as enlarging, two of the enlargers support medium format up to 6×7 (though the exact film holder may not be available, you can mask it off in the easel). All of them support 35mm. None of them support sheet film.


I have had formal instruction and used a darkroom before. I’m confident I can use this darkroom safely and correctly. How do I get access to it?

First off, you must be a dues-paying member of the Photo Club. Then, you’ll have to prove your worth, valour, and darkroom mastery through a rigorous test!

Email the Darkroom Manager Nicholas Venturini (njv8ft@virginia.edu) to arrange a time to take this test.  Be sure to review this guide carefully before taking the test, because most of the test has to do with minutiae and specific details about the operation of this darkroom in particular.

Once you pass this test with 90% accuracy, you must pay a non-refundable $10 academic-year-long due to the use the darkroom. You should make out a check to Newcomb Hall, or if you have no checks, pay in cash with your name attached to it. Either way, you should give this due and your name to the Darkroom Manager.

Then the Darkroom Manager will give you a tour of the darkroom and review the procedures.

Once you have passed the test, paid the dues, and taken the tour, the Darkroom manager will turn your name and dues in to the Newcomb Hall info desk and you will be given swipe access into the darkroom. You may use the darkroom with no time limit.


Can I work in color?

Unfortunately, we no longer have the capacity to work with color film, so you are no longer allowed to develop color film in the darkroom.


I have never used a darkroom before, but I want to learn how.

Newcomb Hall (or University Programs Council) occasionally offer a darkroom short course; a mailing goes out to the club list when this happens.


Film Processing

How do I develop Film?

First off, where is everything?

Development charts and instructions are posted near the sink to help you.

Reels, tanks, scissors, and can openers are on a wire rack next to the sink.

There’s a changing bag kept underneath the enlargers, should you need one.

The chemicals are all under the sink  Check to make sure that there all the chemicals you need are there before you start.  Check the fixer before you start as well.



Put your film on the reel, and put the reel in the tank, in complete darkness.



Dilute the stock D76 1:1 with water, ideally at 68°F.  Develop and agitate according to the chart  or your own personal preference, then pour it down the drain.



Use the Indicator Stop Bath (shared) straight out of the datatainer, no dilution.  (If there’s no Stop, you can generally substitute water safely; in fact, some films specify to use water instead).

Shake it around for a bit (you can check the time on the chart) If it’s still yellow after use, pour it back into the datatainer using the funnel marked “Stop  Bath.”  If it’s purple, it’s depleted, so rinse it down the drain. It’s pretty strong acetic acid, so mind the fumes.



Use Fixer (shared) straight out of the datatainer. Before you pour it in your tank, check it by  putting a drop of HypoCheck into the chemical. If a white cloud appears, the fixer is depleted, and you must pour it into the hazardous waste carboys next to the sink, using the funnel labeled “Fixer”. Put it in your tank and fix according to the chart or your preference. Check it again after use; if it’s still good, pour it into the datatainer using the ”Fixer” funnel. If not, put it in the hazmat containers.

The hazmat containers are only for fixer! Don’t fill them above the fill line, and remember to tightly replace the cap on them. They do contain hazardous waste, after all.

Pour water in the tank and dump it five times to rinse some of the fixer off. You can now safely check your negatives. If they are cloudy (that is, if the ‘blank’ film between and around frames isn’t clear), then check the fixer with Hypo-Check and fix them for 2 more minutes (replacing the fixer if it is bad). Rinse the tank out again. If they’re still cloudy, your film is likely fogged (by light, radiation, etc.) and there’s nothing you can do.

Fixer is one of the most poisonous of the chemicals in the darkroom, so the next steps (PermaWash and rinse) are very important for avoiding such nuisances as stains on your film and argyria (silver poisoning).



Use Permawash straight out of the datatainer, and agitate according to the chart.  This removes much of the fixer, and lets you spend a lot less time rinsing the film.  If there’s no PermaWash,  you’ll need to rinse your film for 30 minutes instead of 5; this is why it’s better to double-check that you have enough before you start. If there isn’t enough, let the Darkroom Manager know. This goes down the drain when you’re done with it.



Fill up and dump your tank at least 10 times. You may elect to do more (up to 5 minutes or so) if you tend to get Permawash stains on your negatives.



Fill your tank with water (ideally distilled, around 68°F) first, otherwise it will foam up.  Use only a drop of PhotoFlo (to avoid nasty stains on your negatives) and leave it generally still for around 30 sec. If you agitate vigorously, you will get bubbles and bubbles make spots. Some people find that they don’t need any PhotoFlo at all if they use distilled water. This goes down the drain when you’re done with it.



You can hang your film in the film dryer or on the clothesline in the back of the darkroom. Hang your film carefully without disturbing anyone else’s. Clip the film at the top and put a clip on the bottom to reduce curling. It’s best to let film air dry, but you could set the dryer heat to 4 if you need them to dry in a matter of hours rather than overnight. Before you leave, make sure the film dryer is OFF and leave the door closed so that no dust gets  in.

If you leave your film in the dryer, you run the risk of someone else coming in and using the dryer, and drying your film twice will make your film curl and your life miserable. If it’s left hanging for over a week, the Darkroom Manager will put it in a “LostNegatives” box, and then you’ll have to hunt for it.

N.B.- If you’re planning on scanning your negatives, you might consider cutting them in strips of 6, which is the length that many Epson scanners (like the ones in the DML) will scan at once.


Clean Up

Rinse out your reel and tank and put them away. Re-cap the datatainers and putthem under the sink even if they are empty, to comply with OEHS requirements.


Print Processing

I have negatives now, how do I print them?

Follow the instructions below for printing your work.


First off, where is everything, and how do I sign in?

Once you enter the darkroom, print your name and the date and time on the clipboard in front of the enlarger you will be using. If you notice anything wrong with the darkroom, mark it on the clipboard, but also email the Darkroom Manager so that the issue may be resolved as quickly as possible.

There’s a box next to each enlarger with a grain focusing scope, a pack of filters (some sets are incomplete), and a can of compressed air. Please replace these in the box when finished.There’s an easel and a contact sheet easel on the enlarger or on the shelf underneath.

There’s a box with film cleaner, lens cloths, and other materials near the paper cutter. Please put these back as well.

This document doesn’t cover the finer points of printing technique; you either already know those or will learn them from practice (or the short course).

Printing chemistry charts and instructions are posted near the sink to help you.

All printing chemicals are stored under the sink. You are responsible for making your own trays of chemicals from stock. Please use 8×10 trays if you are working alone, unless you are printing 11×14′s; this saves chemistry. Fill trays with enough to completely cover the paper and allow for agitation, but not too much. Please clean up your own trays when you’re done; this will be covered as the last step on this sheet.

Remember, Developer is in the gray tray, stop goes in the red tray, fixer goes in the white tray, and the rinse goes in a fourth tray (ideally the black one with holes in it). What’s much more important than remembering this, though, is remembering to rinse out your trays andtongs thoroughly before and after using them; then you won’t have any cross-contamination anyway. Always rinse your hands if they come into contact with chemistry, otherwise it will ruin your paper and your epidermis.


What about paper?

Paper is in your hand when you come in.You could get some on the internet or at the bookstore, or somewhere else. Consider teaming up with a friend and sharing a box of paper. Don’t open the boxes of paper that are labeled for Short Course use; that’s an Honor violation.

The darkroom can’t handle paper larger than 11×14, and most of the easels are for 8×10 or  smaller anyway. The trays are simply not big enough, and would use more chemistry. Plus, where would you hang it to dry? Consider scanning your negatives and ordering poster prints online.

Currently the darkroom is intended to use RC paper. If you’re using fiber paper, you’re going to have quite a time rinsing them off, since there’s no print washer, but after PermaWashing you could rinse them for 10 minutes by hand (cycle through them under running water in the rinse tray.

Please remember to use a set of tongs in only one tray, so as not to cross-contaminate. For  instance, getting Stop Bath in your Dektol is bad; Stop Bath neutralizes developer.



Kodak Dektol is diluted at a ratio of 1:2 with water. Remember to check to see if it is exhausted. Dektol is exhausted if it turns dark and cloudy (and/or if you’ve run around 10 prints through it and they’re coming out muddy; remember that replacing the developer may change your printing times, though.). It is stale (oxidized) if it is rusty-orange. Note this on the clipboard and email the Darkroom Manager if you find either of these to be the case.



Stop Bath (shared) is ready straight out of the datatainer. It is exhausted when it turns dark purple. (If there is no Stop Bath, it is generally safe to substitute water, for RC paper. Add vinegar if you have any.)



Fixer (shared) is ready straight out of the datatainer. Check it by dropping a single drop of HypoCheck into the tray. A cloudy white residue means that the fixer is exhausted and must be poured into the hazardous waste carboys next to the sink using the “Fixer”funnel. The hazmat containers are only for fixer! Don’t fill them above the fill line, and remember to tightly replace the cap on them. They do contain hazardous waste, after all.It’s a good idea to re-check fixer every 10 prints or so.

Fixer is one of the most poisonous of the chemicals in the darkroom, so the next steps (PermaWash and rinse) are very important for avoiding such nuisances as stains on your film and argyria (silver poisoning).

Once the print has been fixed according to the time on the chart, it is safe to turn on the lights as long as nothing else risks exposure. Remember to put away your paper and test strips, and don’t turn the light on if other people are working, obviously. Otherwise, any exposed stuff will be unusable.



Wash your print by placing it in the fourth tray with water running constantly. Three to five minutes should be enough, but it is better to err on the side of more time.



Hang your print up above the sink to dry. If there’s a squeegee in the darkroom, use that to get most of the water off and avoid spotting and streaks. If there are prints already up, remove them with dry hands and place them in the “Prints” box.


Clean Up

Developer gets rinsed down the drain with water. Stop can be put back in the datatainer if it’s not purple, using the “Stop Bath” funnel. Fixer gets checked with HypoCheck. If it’s good, it can be put back in the datatainer, otherwise it must go in the hazardouswaste container. Either way, use the “Fixer” funnel. Remember to rinse off the tongs, and to rinse out the trays thoroughly.

This is a pretty nice darkroom, and it’s a privilege to use it, so please leave it as you found it (or better!) and clean up.  Help keep it orderly for everyone else, and respect thework of others.  Don’t open anything marked “Darkroom Supervisor Only” or “Short Courses Only”; that’s an Honor violation.  It’s also an Honor violation to bring anyonein who has not passed the safety quiz, to take anything from the darkroom, etc. etc.  If you’re in doubt about anything, just send the Darkroom Manager an email.