I'm interested in doing some black and white film photography. I was thinking with the relatively recent DIY/'maker' movements, and miniaturized production systems, such as 3-D printers, I thought there would be some sort of 'desktop' darkroom device.

However, doing some googling turned up no results. I don't have a room to convert to a darkroom, and even if I did, I would rather not want to devote an entire room to it. In other words I'm not going to do this unless I can find a smaller solution. Is there a darkroom I can set up with a smaller footprint?

  • 1
    You can do that in your bathroom. It does not need to be permanent. There are some posts regarding that... But Im slow on finding them.
    – Rafael
    Dec 2 '15 at 18:00
  • I don't think a 3D printer movement is going to result in a darkroom you can fit on your desk.
    – dpollitt
    Dec 2 '15 at 18:03
  • @dpollitt I was referring more to the miniaturization, DIY, and pro-sumer movements rather than their specifics. For instance, 3-D printers have gone from a room-sized device in a factory that workers use to a breadbox-sized device on a desktop that hobbyists use, similar to the personal computer revolution. I was wondering if there had been a similar transition from a darkroom to a "darkdevice".
    – user151841
    Dec 3 '15 at 15:26
  • 1
    Speak of the devil! Here is a kickstarter for a compact 4x5 film processing center: kickstarter.com/projects/1653453089/…
    – user151841
    Dec 17 '15 at 4:14

Darkrooms are the place to be if you are into developing your own film. However, it is quite possible to proceed without a dark room. A changing bag is a lightproof chamber. You unzip and place film and a daylight developing tank inside. Zip the bag up and insert your arms into sleeves with lightproof cuffs. Now that the film and tank are protected from the light, you unroll the film from its cassette and roll it onto a spool. The now loaded spool is placed inside the lightproof tank and you unzip.

In the light, you can pour the fluids of the process into the tank. You agitate by shaking or spinning a stirring stick. After all the chemical steps, you wash the film and hang up to dry. You can process black and white or color this way, no darkroom needed.

Printing the developed film is tricky without a darkroom. You can however convert a closet into a temporary dark room. Best if you scan your now developed film and print the modern way with inkjet or dye sublimation printer attached to a computer running photo editing software.

After 55+ years in the darkroom, I am happy that the digital world has dawned and we can stop sniffing the chemicals of the process. I truly believe, except for a handful of holdouts, darkroom apparatus and chemicals will find a final resting place in the museum next to the civil war field medical kits.


The whole "toolchain" consists of:

There are alternatives to all of the above, but I don't know whether they are still manufactured. You probably find quite some on ebay.

You may also jump to the digital world just after the film processing. You only need a decent negative scanner in this case. The film processing tanks are quite cheap and relatively easy to use (compared to the rest).

Complete guides for your own darkroom are here, here and here. And there is also a YouTube video.


You said black and white film, but didn't say anything about printing.

Up to getting processed film can be done without a darkroom. The only dark part you need is loading the film into the developer tank. This takes relatively little space, like on a small table or on top of your desk. This can be done in a changing bag without needing the room to be dark.

Printing is another matter since it takes more space. You need the enlarger and the developer, stop bath, and fixer trays to be in the dark. Actually, since it's black and white, you can use a safelight so you can see without the paper getting exposed. However, that still requires you to eliminate all other light from the room.

If you only plan to use wet silver processes up to developed film, then scan the film to digital, then all you need is a changing bag. If you want to do wet silver printing, then you're going to need a dark room somehow. Paper isn't that sensitive, so this can be bathroom at night with blinds over the window, a closet with the door shut, etc.

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