What to do in a darkroom: enlargements

We've just learned how to make contact sheets of our negatives (click here for that article) and now we're ready to make enlargements of our favourite images from the contact sheet.

Key Words

Darkroom - A darkroom excludes all other light and usually has a red light. This is where we develop our images from our negatives

Enlargement - An enlargement is a big print version of one of the negatives

Contact Sheet - The contact sheet has all the images of the negatives printed onto one piece of paper

Negatives - The negatives are the images on the roll of film

Negative Carrier - The negative carrier is the slot on the enlarger you place your negatives into to print

Enlarger - The enlarger is a special projector for negatives

You will need:

  • Your negatives

  • A darkroom

  • Contact sheet or a light projector to see your negatives

  • Viewfinder

  • Darkroom chemicals

  • Developing Tray

  • Extra dry (for drying) or a drying machine (enlargements only - optional)

  • Sink

  • Darkroom photographic paper

  • Darkroom easel (adjustable blades needed)

Select a negative from the contact sheet that you would like to be enlarged and place it emulsion side down (dull-looking side) into the negative carrier. You can adjust the size of the hole in the carrier using the yellow switches on the enlarger.

Make sure the light is only on when the negative carrier is in place to avoid ruining the photographic paper.

You can change the brightness levels too to help determine exposure. When your brightness level is ready and your negative is the size you want - you can change this by adjusting the elevation knob near the back of the enlarger. You'll need to release the locking screw first.

Do a test strip first to determine how much exposure you will need. Rip up a piece of paper - or use a guillotine - unless you have leftovers from when you made the contact sheet.

Cover parts of the paper with cardboard so you can do different exposure times. Turn on the light for five seconds Move the cardboard to reveal another part of the test strip and turn on the light for the same amount of time. Repeat until all your paper has been exposed for at least five 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 the right exposure time. For me, it was twenty seconds and four clicks down on the brightness settings.

Now set the timer for your chosen time and place another test strip down to confirm. Expose your paper and develop as before. Confirm your time before making your final enlargement.

Set the adjustable easel blades to fit the size of the image to create a border for your image. Use the viewfinder to make sure the image isn't grainy and adjust as needed.

Place a larger piece of paper under the easel blades and expose it to the enlarger light. Develop like before and leave in a sink of cold water before drying. If you have an enlarger dryer, use that or you can place it into your spare tray overnight.

Repeat these steps until you have all the negatives you want printed and hang your images up in your room.

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