As a response to our Darkroom on a budget post, Stefan asked us if you need to have an enlarger in the dark-room.
Well, technically, you don’t, but it depends on what you wish to do with your dark-room. To be honest, I never owned an enlarger myself. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
An enlarger is a device you use to enlarge your negatives – basically it’s a good light-source with a lens and a boom, and a flat table at the foot of the boom. The lens and light move up and down along the boom, which is how you crop your image, or enlarge it: Move the assembly higher up for bigger images, or move it further down for smaller images. Once you’ve got the right size, you focus the lens onto the paper, and voila, you’re ready to copy your photographs from negatives onto paper – known as photographic prints.
The last part of the enlarger is a timer, which you set to make sure that the exposure of your prints is accurate. Expose them more, and they become darker, expose them less, and they become lighter. You can, of course, do a lot of creative things here as well.
Either way, you can get around the use of an enlarger if you go high-tech: I only ever had a film processing tank at my house (my endless hours spent enlarging prints in the darkroom was mostly at folkehøgskole or university). You can process and develop your films very cheaply, and then use a negative scanner to scan the photos into your computer. Once you’ve done that, you can do all the dark-room stuff on your computer.
I would say, however, that it would definitely be worth having a go at making your own prints at some point – have you checked if there might be a photo club anywhere around where you live? They will often rent out darkrooms for a ridiculously low sum, and there will be people around to help you out as well.
Good luck, Stefan, and everybody else!
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