Guide to build a darkroom on a budget

It is true that the world of photography has become digital and modern. People spend a lot of time editing photos on their computer, but somehow those photos stay that way in a computer folder. We forgot to appreciate the value of the “real” photograph, that we can hold in our hands, send it as a postcard or put it in a frame. If you are a kind of person who likes using a retro film camera, this text is the one for you. In this guide, you will learn how to build a darkroom on a budget and encourage your artistic photography spirit.

old camera
Build a darkroom on a budget to make your memories come to life

Why you need a darkroom?

Having a darkroom seems complicated and an extra step to your home improvement. However, the magic of a photograph appearing in the photo tray is truly something that can be a part of a great hobby. If you are a photography lover, this will be a satisfying project for you. However, you need to be careful and follow the safety guidelines regarding the chemicals being used in the process.

Build a darkroom on a budget – step one: choose a space

Finding a space for your darkroom may be the most difficult part of the process. You can choose any room that fulfills the darkroom requirements – it can be a closet, a small laundry room, second bathroom, a shed outside your house, or even a storage unit. Any spare room that you have can serve as a darkroom as long as it has:

  • electricity (at least one electrical outlet)
  • water (avoid the kitchen, though – chemicals shouldn’t be mixed close to food. If you don’t have a sink, you can use any water container)
  • low light  (windowless room would be the best, however, you can always tape down or cover the sources of light with black curtains or any other fabric)

Prepare your room

After you chose a room to build a darkroom on a budget, it is the time to prepare it for work.

  • First, turn off the lights and let your eyesight adjust. Now check if there is any light source that is not covered. Make sure that all the light leaks are covered, because even a bit of light can damage the photo paper. Check the door bottom, it usually leaks light, so you need to close it with the insulation tape, or roll a towel.
  • Check the ventilation – chemicals that you use for photographs produce fumes, so the room needs to have a fan. If you are using a bathroom, you probably already have a bathroom fan. However, these bathroom fans can be easily installed anywhere else, too – and they are quite cheap.
  • clean the room and paint it – it is important to properly clean the room, and remove any materials from the walls (simply use a sandpaper). After that paint the room – you can easily do it yourself with a simple can of white paint.

Separate wet and dry space

Now is the time to decide to plan your darkroom’s wet and dry areas. It is important to have those separated because water splashes and chemicals can damage your equipment. Logically, the wet area should be put close to the water source, and the dry area close to the electrical outlet. 

Why is it important to have the wet and dry area in your darkroom?

You need to separate your darkroom in two parts – dry and wet. This way you will have the wet area for using chemical, washing the equipment and storing the liquids without damaging the paper. On the other hand, the dry area is used for storing the paper and photographs. Make sure to have some towels or kitchen paper rolls nearby.

Get an enlarger and the following equipment

It is important to invest in a good enlarger since it is the most important part of a darkroom. Buy smartly, and choose an enlarger that you will use the most for your prints. There are two enlarger types – black and white one ( condenser) and color (diffuser). Negative size of 35mm should be fine. However, you can always invest more, and search for an enlarger online among the used item’s market – it can be a lot cheaper! You also need enlarger lenses – buy standard ones among the common brands like Nikon or Schneider. You need an enlarger timer, but these are not that cheap. Since you are trying to build a darkroom on a budget, you can use a simple 60 seconds timer.

photo lenses
Enlarger and lenses are important when you want to build a darkroom on a budget

Prepare the printing accessories

The simple items that you need for photo printing and processing are tanks, thermometer, measure jugs, scissors, a piece of glass (instead of proofing frames), dodging tools, tongs, a squeegee.

You will need three trays, too. Get the ones larger than the prints you’re about to make.

Chemicals that you need for the prints don’t have a long life – six months most. That’s why you need to be careful with the quantities – don’t buy a lot if you don’t plan to print often. It is necessary to buy film and paper developer, fixer and stop. 

Paper can also go old, as well as chemicals, so be sure which one you buy.

photography lenses
Photography is a great hobby, and to build a darkroom on a budget in this digital world is a great part of it

Moving house? We’ve got you covered

If you built your darkroom and later on decide to move, you probably wonder how will you move your darkroom, too. Don’t you worry, hire a professional moving company, like Big Apple Movers NYC, to help you out. They will handle all your items and furniture, along with the darkroom equipment, with care and efficiency. That’s why people with hobby equipment in their homes, play it smart when they move and hire professionals to relocate their items. That’s why you shouldn’t risk it, but hire professionals and save money on NYC moving estimates. Relocating your home, along with your darkroom is a complicated process so help is always beneficial! Now go to your darkroom and make some memories come to life!