For Teachers

Life in the Dark Room

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Dark Room Equipment:


Safe Light is a type of low intensity red light used in dark rooms. It will provide illumination to work by, but will not affect photographic paper in any way.

Enlarger is a piece of equipment that projects an enlarged lighted image from a negative onto an easel. It works with a timer and an f-stop to control the amount of light. There is no negative shown in this image, but it would be on the metal strip under the lamp.

The Negative holder holds the negatives firmly and allows the correct negative to be positioned properly for the enlarger.

The three pictures to the left show the negative holder open, closed and with film.

Once the negatives are loaded, the holder attaches to the enlarger.

The Easel holds the photographic paper under the enlarger. The light from the enlarger will be projected through the negative, enlarging the image on the paper. The image projected will be the positive image, and thus forms a positive image on the light sensitive paper. The light will be on a specified amount of time.

The three pictures to the left show that different size paper can be used giving the flexibility to make large or small prints.

Image magnifier is a piece of equipment used to see if an image is in focus as it is projected from the enlarger. It sits on top of the easel, before paper is inserted into it, and diverts the projected light up to the eye piece where it can be viewed. If a person sees an unfocused image, the enlarger might need to be adjusted.

The arrows show the direction of the projected light from the enlarger. The image magnifier interrupts the image being projected onto the easel and reflects it up through the magnifier so that precise focusing of the enlarger can be accomplished. Once the image magnifier is removed, the image once again is projected down to the easel. The image magnifier is NEVER used with photographic paper in the easel.

Enlarger Timer is used to set the amount of time that the enlarger lamp is projecting an image onto the photographic paper. Usually a "test" run is done on a negative with several different settings. A cover paper is set on top of the photographic paper and is shifted two or three times during exposure. Parts of the picture will be over exposed, parts will be underexposed, but some will be close to the right time. The strip of photograph with the best exposure will give the indication of what the timer should be set at. Typical exposures will be no longer than 30 seconds.

All together The various pieces of equipment that work together are shown here so that one can see how they fit. The only thing not shown is the negative holder.


Developing Trays contain chemicals used in the development process. These chemicals each perform a function in the developing process of both the negatives and positives.


Film used in a camera is made from a light sensitive material. It is sold for a wide variety of uses. It contains an emulsion layer of silver halide crystals and at no time can be exposed to any kind of light.

Negatives are exposed pieces of film that are taken out of a camera in a completely dark area. "Safe" light will ruin negatives straight from a camera. Negatives go through a chemical change which fixes the latent image on the exposed film, however it is fixed in reversed color. Very light areas on the film will show up dark on a negative, and very dark areas will appear light on a negative. Hence, the name "negative."


Photographic paper is special paper that negatives are developed onto. It is affected by white light, but not by the safe light. Photographic paper is kept in black plastic bags to keep it protected from accidental light exposure.

Photographic paper is not brought out and put into the easel until the negatives are properly attached and focused.