Are You Ready For The Darkroom?

I was asked  about why I don’t offer darkroom skills, and/or photo editing software, instruction as a part of my workshops. If the topic of photo-editing software or darkroom work comes up, we’ll discuss it, but it is not a main topic.

I think that you can consider photo-editing software a digital darkroom.  Whatever I’ve written below in terms of the traditional wet darkroom applies to my thoughts on photo editing software too.  In case you’re curious I use a program called Adobe Lightroom.

Within the context of this post, darkroom=photo-editing software.

First, although I use photo-editing software,  I don’t have ready access to a darkroom. Second, although I don’t mind spending time in the darkroom, I don’t LOVE spending time in the darkroom. You should take a darkroom skills course with someone who LOVES working in the darkroom. When you’re ready I’ll be happy to recommend a couple of people.

The question is, are your ready?

During conversations in my Introduction to Photography Workshops I’ve learned that many of the participants have taken basic photography courses before. A lot of them took a class that included a photography basics portion (camera operation, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure) AND a darkroom portion (film developing and print making) all in the same course.

Even in the days/daze of digital photography I think it’s as relevant as ever to learn darkroom skills. I think all photographers can benefit from the experience of processing their own film and seeing their first print appear in the developer. However, I think that trying to learn darkroom skills before having a good foundational understanding of photography basics is like putting the cart before the horse.

In my opinion, a photography class that covers the photography basics AND darkroom processes can be overwhelming and doesn’t make sense for everyone because of the fast pace of the class. Such a class may leave you feeling frustrated and disappointed about photography.

My personal experience in learning photography has led me to believe that, before you venture into the darkroom, it makes more sense to learn the basics of photography first so you could produce properly exposed negatives. Without properly exposed negatives you’ve got nothing, to work with in the darkroom.

When you feel confident in your understanding of the basics of photography and in your ability to consistently give the film the exposure that you feel is correct, THEN you should begin to learn darkroom skills.

If you’re not confident in your understanding of the basics of photography, then I would suggest that you take the time to learn them before you venture into the darkroom. I think you’ll be better prepared and have a much more fulfilling experience.

Learn the basics of photography.

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