What to do in a darkroom: contact sheets

We're in the darkroom today making contact sheets of the photos we took this week using our Minolta camera (click here to learn how to load film into a camera).

After we took our photos we had to develop our roll of film (click here to learn how to develop film) and now we're ready to get into the darkroom and make some contact sheets of our negatives.

Key Words

Darkroom - This is the room we'll be developing our photos. It'll have a red light and excludes all normal light.

Negatives - The strips of film with your photos on are called negatives

Enlarger - The enlarger is special projector used for film or glass negatives

Test strip - We'll be making test strips of our contact sheets and enlargements to reduce paper waste and confirm exposure.

Contact sheet - This is a photographic image of all the negatives together

Enlargement - This is the finished print of our negatives.

You Will Need:

  • Your negatives

  • A darkroom

  • An enlarger

  • Darkroom chemicals

  • Darkroom Photographic Paper

  • Guillotine or scissors

  • Glass Pane

  • Thin cardboard

  • Developing trays

  • Extra tray

  • Sink

  • Plastic Tongs

Before we make our contact sheet, we need to do test strips to determine the exposure. Rip up a piece of photographic paper or guillotine it into strips.

Place one of your strips (glossy side up) under the enlarger light - make sure they light is off whilst the paper is underneath! Place a couple strips of negatives on top.

Place your pane of glass on top so the negatives are placed firmly down on the paper. The glass allows the test strip to be sharp and keeps the negatives from curling up.

Cover parts of the paper with cardboard so you can do different exposure times. Turn on the light for two seconds. Move the cardboard to reveal another part of the test strip and turn on the light for two seconds. Repeat until all your paper has been exposed for at least two seconds.

Take the paper and place it into the developer tray for two minutes, agitating by rocking the tray gently and pushing the paper down with the tongs to keep it in the solution.

Drip off the excess developer and place the paper into the stop bath tray using the tongs. Agitate for thirty seconds.

Put the paper into the fix tray for five minutes. before putting into the sink of cold water for ten minutes minimum.

Now you can determine how much exposure your contact sheet needs by looking at the strip. Use another strip of paper as a confirmation sheet. Put your film negative on top and the glass. Turn the light on for the amount of time you deem best for exposure.

Use the developing trays again and confirm this is the correct exposure.

Once this is done, you can make your contact sheet by placing all of your negatives onto a bigger piece of photographic paper and the glass pane on top. Expose it to the enlarger light for your chosen time and develop this, too.

Click here to find out how to make enlargements of your negatives!

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