Photography Lab

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IMPORTANT: Our new location at 1825 Monetary Ln did not have space for a Darkroom, so this room currently does not exist.


Members of the Photography Committee at Dallas Makerspace are putting together a full-service DIY photography lab complete with a dedicated darkroom and the necessary equipment to make possible a wide range of technical and creative processes. The darkroom (with dry and semi-wet sides) is operational and a ceremonial first print was made on 18 November, 2010.



Digital photography - for better or for worse - is diminishing the availability and economic viability of working with traditional photographic methods. While DMS members are interested in both digital and non-digital photography there is a dedicated effort to make available facilities and equipment necessary for traditional chemistry-based photographic processes. The initial goals of the DMS photo lab team are to make the following general capabilities available for members and DMS sponsored events open to the public:

  • Black and white film processing
  • C41 and E6 color film processing
  • Black and white
  • Color print making
  • Alternative processes (photo lithography, cyanotypes, palladium printing, tin types, etc)
  • Matting, mounting and framing

Current Capabilities

Film Loading/Unloading - The darkroom is lightproof and allows entry/exit without breaking the light seal providing a space to handle film and other light sensitive materials in complete darkness.

  • Gotchas
    • Users should double check the availability of or provide their own tools (bottle opener, scissors, tape, etc.)
    • Users should be courteous and communicate well with others using the room at the same time to avoid accidently exposing materials to undesired light.
    • Currently the safelights are equipped with OC filters which are yellowish in color. Some materials require red safelights. Users should confirm that the proper filter is in use for their materials.
  • Would be better if...
    • Bottle opener and scissors could be permanently chained to something in the darkroom to ensure availability and to make finding them in the dark easier.
    • Dividers or curtains in the darkroom to make varying degrees of light control possible for multiple simultaneous users.
    • A second set of safelights installed on a separate circuit so that OC and red safelights can be easily swapped between.

Black and White film development - The darkroom provides adequate conditions to load film into processing tanks and the space has a few daylight tanks, sheet film tanks and racks, as well as a number of trays. Film can be processed inside or out of the darkroom in daylight tanks or in the darkroom in complete darkness if needed (tray developing, dip and dunk, etc.) The space has a variety of beakers, funnels, thermometers, and other misc. lab equipment to assist in mixing chemicals and process control.

  • Gotchas
    • No running water/drain in the darkroom. There is a sink, but it drains into a small bucket underneath. DO NOT POUR ANYTHING INTO THE SINK. The bucket is there only to catch spills.
    • The sink that can be used is also the "kitchen" area and special care MUST be applied to prevent chemical contamination of foodstuffs and eating/drinking utensils and dishes.
    • The space currently does not provide any chemistry. Users must provide their own. The space is also lacking 1-gallon jugs in which community chemistry could be stored.
  • Would be better if...
    • The space had 2 1-gallon chemical jugs for storing community chemistry (5 total including those desired for printmaking.)
    • The space provided a supply of basic B&W chemicals (Kodak D76, Fixer, and Photo-Flo.)
    • The space had a container to hold working photo-flo (A cheap plastic iced-tea pitcher works great.)
    • The space had a larger collection of various tanks and reels

Black and White print developing - The darkroom is equipped with a single enlarger capable of making prints from negatives up to 4x5-inches in size. The sink is large enough to easily hold trays for making 11x14 prints and with some ingenuity trays to make 16x20 prints. There are trays, tongs, and other items on hand to assist in basic developing, washing, and dryingof prints.

  • Gotchas
    • No enlarging lenses - Users must provide their own.
    • No running water - Prints must be washed in the kitchen area which is small.
    • Only one person can work at a time
    • No space supplied chemistry or bottles to store chemistry in.
  • Would be better if...
    • A second enlarger could be installed
    • The space acquired a set of lenses including 50mm, 80mm, and 135mm
    • The space acquired 3 1-gallon jugs for storing community chemistry (5 total including those desired for film developing)
    • The space provided a supply of basic B&W printmaking chemicals (Kodak Dektol, Indicator Stop Bath, and Fixer.)

Equipment and Facilities

Our photography lab has been made possible by donations and hard work from members and non-members alike. It is the coming together of equipment from the City of Richardson's police crime lab (enlarger), awesome Craigslist finds ($30 revolving door), custom hand-built furnishings (Ian's VERY sturdy sink stand), and an array of accessories that make possible a wide range of film development and print making.

  • Darkroom
    • Revolving light-proof door
    • Wall switched safe lights
    • Light-proof exhaust fan
    • Dry Side
      • Beseler 45MXT enlarger with condensor and dichroic heads capable of making B&W and color prints from sub-miniature up through and including large-format 4x5 sheet film. We currently have negative carriers for (need confirmation) 35mm (Full Frame or Crop?), 645, 6x6, 6x7, and 4x5.
      • Saunders bladed easel capable of working with 16x20 paper
    • Semi-wet side (Currently no running water or drain in darkroom)
      • 6ft darkroom sink capable of supporting developing trays up to 11x14 (four across) or 16x20 (three across) in size.
m|frame|Ian's frame for the darkroom sink</flickr> m|frame|Ian's frame for the darkroom sink</flickr>

Help Needed

These items and tasks will improve the DMS Photography Lab and represent what is needed to bring the space to a basic level of functionality that minimizes the amount of supplies and equipment that an individual user must supply on their own.

  • Enlarging Lenses.
    • 50mm (Used to make prints from 35mm film)
    • 80mm (Used to make prints from medium format film)
    • 150mm (Used to make prints from 4x5-inch large format negatives)
    • eBay
    • Craigslist
    • Freestyle
    • Lenses will need to be mounted to a lensboard that will fit a Beseler 45MXT or 23C Like this one. But also, that's the type of thing that can be fabricated in the shop.
  • Daylight film tanks and reels - There are a few on hand but it would be beneficial to have a good supply
    • Steel tanks - standard sizes (8oz, 16oz, or larger)
    • Steel reels - standard sizes (35mm, 120mm)
    • Vintage and Uncommon sized tanks and reels (220 wide, 70mm, 110, Nikor 4x5 sheet film reel and tank, etc)
    • Plastic daylight tanks and reels - Standard 2x35 or 1x120/220 20-ounce tanks and reels
    • eBay
    • Craigslist
    • Don's Used Camera has a good supply of used steel tanks and reels
    • Freestyle Plastic tanks and Reels
  • Chemical storage bottles (plastic or glass) - Most pressing is the need for 5 1-gallon plastic jugs to hold working solution of Film Developer, Paper Developer, Film Fix, Paper Fix, and Paper Stop Bath.
  • Film and print washing - The sink facilities at DMS are small and in locations that will prove to be problematic. Using these areas for photography purposes will take some patience and creativity with a focus on short term and long term solutions.
    • Film washing
      • Short Term - A film washing container that fits in one if the small sinks we have access to. This can be made cheaply out of a plastic pitcher so long as it's big enough to hold film and small enough to fit under the faucet.
      • Long Term - A film washing container that makes efficient use of water to reduce waste and that can be fed and drained via hoses.
    • Print Washing
      • Short Term - A tray system that can be fed on one end via a hose from the faucet and that can drain into the sink on the opposite side sized large enough to handle standard print sizes.
      • Long Term - An archival print washer - Even on the used market these can be expensive. Custom building one in-house is the best option. Plans are easily available and the materials are relatively inexpensive.
  • Film and print drying - This can be achieved with something as simple as a clothesline type system where film and paper is hung to dry over the sink in the darkroom. As with everything in photography there is always a more complex and expensive solution to any problem.
    • Film drying
      • Short term - A wire needs to be suspended in the darkroom high enough so that a a 36 exposure roll of 35mm film can hang freely without touching the bottom. Ideally this should be over the sink but the ceiling may be too low. Inexpensive clothespins can be used to hang film from the wire.
      • Long term - A film drying cabinet
    • Print drying
      • Short term - Prints can be hung to dry from the same wire as film.
      • Long term - A print dryer

Organizational Considerations

The photo lab (and DMS in general) is still in it's infancy. The "law of the land" will grow and evolve over time as needs arise. Below is a list of suggestions and possible organizational projects to serve as a starting point for establishing and maintaining a well-tuned shared workspace. The primary focus of which will be to promote safety, proper use of equipment, and courteous consideration for other makers.

  • A policy and procedure manual to guide users of the DMS photo lab in the proper and safe use of equipment and chemistry.
  • An organized "New User Orientation" program that should be completed before darkroom users are allowed to use the facilities unattended.
  • A defined roster of members qualified to administer orientations
  • A clear system to account for and manage consumable materials.