Has anyone experienced with dollar store night lamp, preferably red one with black and white photo paper?

I don't have a safelight and I work in complete darkness. I am wondering experiences others have with it. I understand that it depends on light frequency, and with dollar store night lamp, we may not know what frequency range it emits. But I would still like to find if some people have experienced with that.

  • 1
    My experience is that even a real safety light can reduce the contrast of the print. It needs to be very dim as well as “safe”.
    – JDługosz
    Apr 20, 2017 at 23:15
  • Along w/ @JDługosz comment, consider a shield to block direct lighting of your baths. Still enough light for you to see things, but only indirect scatter reaches the film. Apr 21, 2017 at 12:21
  • The lamp I'm remarking on was always indirect: it shines upward onto a pair of wings that form the lid, and these wings are special material not just reflectors. I had to close them down more, I found.
    – JDługosz
    Apr 21, 2017 at 13:18

6 Answers 6


Te test proposed by @bvy is a nice one.

I would just add a couple of tips.

Photographic paper reacts to the blue component of white light. The amber light needs to have a very thick layer of filter, so use red that blocks more the green-blue components.

A visual test before you make the actual photographic test.

With only your safe light on (with your layers of cellophane paper), try to see some magazines with a clear green and blue bright colors over black. If you can not see the green and blue at all, you are probably safe.

You can also take a photo with a digital camera and watch the RGB histogram. It should show only red component. A tiny little green is acceptable.

Some images as a reference. Taken with a DLSR. (I tried using a phone but it is useless. The image is totally overexposed, no white balance... So it renders the lights white)

Red safelight. Settings: Iso 100, 1/200, f5.6 White balance>Sunlight.

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Amber safelight. Settings: Iso 100, 1/200, f5.6 White balance>Sunlight.

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Red cellophane paper (4 layers) over a small white led light. Settings: Iso 100, 1/200, f5.6 White balance>Sunlight.

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Red cellophane paper over my lens (4 layers) pointing to an incandescent 60w bulb. (It is hot and too bright, so do not use it It is only a test to see the RGB channels) Settings: Iso 100, 1/2000, f5.6 White balance>Sunlight. I did not focus on this to blur the filament.

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All have on this photos a bit of blue on the far left, but it is negible.

The histogram I am posting is a bit tricky because I did some not controlled tests. It is just a reference, but you can simply open the images on Photoshop and take a look at the channels, specially Blue and Green ones, and see that they have almost no component there.

  • 1
    I think the idea about RGB spectrum is great. That will certainly give me a good reproducible repeatable benchmark without doing an actual test on photo.
    – Scalable
    Apr 20, 2017 at 14:08
  • I am preparing a couple of shots of my Safelights so you can see the RGB components. Give me 2 mins.
    – Rafael
    Apr 20, 2017 at 14:13
  • Wrapping cellophane around any light or light fixture is a bad idea in general -- and for the purposes at hand, not likely to be effective (as you already discovered and acknowledged).
    – bvy
    Apr 20, 2017 at 15:00
  • No, I have not discovered that. I am actually doing some tests. You did not read right. I tried to use a cell phone to make the RGB measurements. The photos I posted are using a DLSR camera. I am going to make a test using a small light that does not heat using cellophane paper.
    – Rafael
    Apr 20, 2017 at 15:34
  • I did misread it. Apologies. I suppose you can try it over a small LED flashlight or something similar. I still have my doubts, but it might provide a temporary solution.
    – bvy
    Apr 20, 2017 at 16:03

It's likely to fog your paper. You need a specially designed red or amber filter or bulb. But... there's an easy test. Place a large coin on a sheet of unexposed photo paper. Expose the paper to your safelight for, say, twice the amount of time you expect the paper to be typically exposed to the safelight. The safelight should be in its intended location. Develop and fix the paper normally. If you see any outline of the coin, then your paper is being fogged by the safelight.


Dedicated safelight is the best. But when unavailable you can work with red bicycle light or red LED Christmas tree decoration.

Colored LEDs have a narrow emitting band and are usually safer than colored regular bulbs. But beware - some have an invisible narrow blue band which will ruin your work

Always remember no safelight is truly safe and keep your paper exposure to it to necessary minimum.

And before doing critical work make a safelight test - place an object, such as a key or a coin - in the middle of your paper for 5 minutes (or double your usual working time). Then develop it. If there is no silouhette your safelight is safe.


Photo print papers are mainly sensitive to violet and blue. Therefore, you can use a strong red filtered light bulb. The red coloration renders the outputted light void of violet and blue. The safelight started out red but it was soon discovered that a yellow lamp works also. This is because a yellow filter is also a blue blocker. As photo print papers evolved, some emulsions were treated to respond to green light. These are safe under a dimmer amber colored safelight. Films evolved also. A modern film is likely sensitive to all colors. Film development is best preformed in total darkness. However, modern films are least sensitive to green. Some can tolerate a dim green lamp for a minute or so.

Go ahead and purchase an inexpensive red lamp and try it with your brand of photo paper. It’s easy to run a test. In total darkness lay out a sheet of your photo paper on the actual work space you will be handling the paper, emulsion side up. Now lay six coins scattered on the paper. Turn on the safe light and wait one minute, and then pull a coin. Repeat every minute taking away a coin. After seven minutes of exposure to the red lamp, develop as usual. If the safelight is safe you will not see any trace of the outline of the coin after the paper is developed. Note: No safelight is perfectly safe; all fog paper after an extended exposure. It’s just a matter of how long the paper is allowed to remain exposed to the light rays from the lamp

  • I remember B&W papers were commonly “variable contrast” with two frequences of sensitivity. A magenta filter on the enlarger specified the contrast (if higher than the center setting).
    – JDługosz
    Apr 21, 2017 at 3:28
  • @ JDlugosz -- Variable contrast is obtained by coated the paper with two or perhaps three emulsion coats. Each has a uniquely different contrast. The blue only emulsion is highest in contrast. The green sensitive emulsion delivers lowed contrast. A yellow filter is a blue blocker, a magenta filter is a green blocker. By choosing either a yellow for a magenta filter in varying strengths, the ratio of the exposing light can be adjusted to yield a low or high contrast response. All contrast grades are possible between 00 to 5. These values are mimic the range of fixed paper grades. Apr 21, 2017 at 4:01
  • Yes, that's what it says at the page I linked to.
    – JDługosz
    Apr 21, 2017 at 4:02

For a similar price, you can buy a red LED bulb and replace an existing bulb with that. Run the tests as described in other posts, but you won't be messing around with cellophane or bike lights. Some newer RED leds are actually blue with a phosphor, instead you want the older style which will be a pure red.

This works for me developing UV sensitive films for etching, you'd need to check for photo film which is much more sensitive.


When testing the safelight it is not enough that white paper does not show any change. Safelight fogging could also lower image contrast. This is called pre-flashing the paper (when done intentionally).

A better test:

  1. Expose an image on the paper, without safelight. The image should not be too dark, and preferably have some texture over the whole paper.
  2. Put scissors on top of the paper and switch the safelight on, you can also make a test strip by covering the paper with something you move every minute revealing more paper to the safelight.
  3. Develop the print without safelight.

If you can see parts of the scissors on the image, you can count the strips to see how long safelight exposure is still safe.

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