Frequently Asked Questions IV

Selected questions and answers, based on the collective wit and wisdom of contributors to the original Black & White Photography Forum. Be sure to visit our Community and participate in current discussions. Our thanks to all who have contributed!

Building a darkroom sink

I am building a darkroom, and need a sink: 6 to 8 X 24 X 72 inches, single opening (for developing trays). We have a quote of about $210 from National Camera Exchange for a Delta plastic sink. We plan to build our own support from wood. Any advice or alternatives or suggestions would be appreciated. In particular, if you know of a source in the Baltimore area, that would be helpful.

I just finished building a darkroom sink. Inside dimensions are 6" X 2 1/2" and the sides taper from about 4" to about 5 1/2". I made the sink out of plywood and then fiber glassed it. I found directions in shutterbug magazine several years ago. They were helpful. The worst part was the smell from the fiber glassing operation. I have used the sink and it seems fine. My total cost was about $175. including two sets of faucets, and the drain line. I had to use a sump pump to get the liquid into the drain line to our septic system. Should you want, I would be willing to fax my copy of the article from Shutterbug. -- Art Heiny

Making your own sink is quite easy and less expensive. You cna also customize it,i.e., make an integrated cabinet underneath to support it. I didn't use fiberglass, instead I purchased some opaque fibergalss sheet, it comes in a roll 5ft wide. I then cut it to the inside dimensions of the plywood frame I built and glued it in. To complete it I caulked the seams and drain. The whole project cost me under $100 including the faucet. I did get a little fancy as I my wife wanted something nice to look at so I finnished the outside with countertop material and built a matching cabinet unit for it to sit on out of maple ply. I've been using this setup for two years now without any leaks or trouble. -- Ron LaMarsh

B&W Prints from Color Negs

My fiance and I are seriously considering having some black and white photos taken of us at our wedding. I've found that most of the photographers in our area say "Oh yeah, we can do b/w, we'll just print b/w from the color film." While I know this is possible, and they claim that you can "hardly tell the difference" between this process and using true b/w film, I'm still concerned about the quality of the prints both in content and in actual physical quality. Do you think that you can make a good b/w photo if it wasn't intended to be b/w in the first place? For a wedding, would you prefer to shoot true b/w or would the quality of b/w prints and englargements from color negs be of acceptable quality?

  1. I highly recommend B/W wedding prints (in addition to colour). In years to come you will look upon the B/W's more fondly than colour. B/W's capture the moment and the atmosphere. They are excellent.
  2. Hopefully one gets married once and whilst weddings are expensive the bride & groom actually don't remember very much of the actual day. As time passes the events of the day fade. Not so the photos. Therefore it is one expense that should never be compromised.
  3. Conclusion - Have B/W photos taken and ONLY with B/W film. There is a dramatic difference in quality between B/W Prints from B/W film and B/W prints from colour film. Anyone disagree? Simon Benjamin

As a lifelong advocate of archival photography, I strongly suggest that you do NOT have color negatives made for black and white purposes. The negs may last 30 years or so under ideal conditions and then they are gone forever. You can't bring them back. On the other hand, black and white negs, properly processed to archival standards will last 300-400 years. Even badly processed B&W should go for 75-100 years. Same goes for printing. Color is more stable than it used to be, but it still may be good for 40-50 years only. B&X, printed on FIBER based paper should last l00 years or more. How many color prints have you seen of weddings that were taken in the l950s and 60s that are all faded out? How many black and whites taken 150 years ago are still around? Enough said! -- Rick Athearn

Having seen the responses above I have the following to offer as a serious amateur. I had occasion to photograph a wedding a couple of years ago where the bride wanted both colour and B&W prints. I shot on Kodak Vericolor film (VPSIII) and had the film commercially processed and printed to produce colour prints. There was one image in particular that the Bride wanted enlarged to 12x16" B&W and framed. Printing from a VPSIII negative onto Agfa Premium multi contrast paper to 12x16 size the image was stunning. It had a luminosity which I've rarely seen. When mounted and framed it looked even better. It was a knockout with the Bride. As for archival issues, unless special reasons are required for keeping the negatives for several hundred years that would be a low priority in my opinion, though I agree that B&W materials keep better than colour. The point I would make, however, is that B&W prints can be processed to be archivally permanent but they must also be handled more carefully than would be the case with snapshots. I hope this helps. Regards. -- David Cameron

There is a new paper developed by Oriental. It is far superior to Kodak's Ektamax. It produces an excellent image and performs well in low contrast. It also does not degrade as Kodak. The only problem is that not many places carry this product in the U.S. yet. It is a big success in Japan, and they are just beginning to market it here in the U.S. -- Mark Jones

Aside from the archival issues - and if a commercial photographer is doing the wedding, you are not likely to ever get your hands on the negatives - the quality issue is a real one. Yes you can make nice b+w prints from color negatives, but it is a rare commercial lab that can do it. I've done a fair amount of this as a custom printer out of necessity and here are my observations:

  1. It is a shame that Oriental's Panchromatic paper is no longer made - It blew away the other choices.
  2. For some reason, I get the absolute best b+w quality from Fuji Reala negatives. I don't know why, but maybe it is the fourth color layer.
  3. The typical low contrast films used for color wedding photography, such as Kodak VPH/VPS are much too low in contrast to get a good b+w print without lots of fussing.
  4. The grain structure of conventional b+w film such as Tri-X or HP5 Plus (my absolute favorite) are beautiful unto themselves IMHO, ans this is lost in color to b+w.
  5. Kodak's b+w paper that develops in color chemistry is just as likely to fade as a color print.
  6. Lighting for good b+w photography can be much more contrasty than for color. Most examples of color to b+w I've seen from social photographers look too flat to me. -- William Bell

Removing Drying Marks from Film.

I am having problems with drying marks, I use a wetting agent, I am not keen on using a sqeegee.
Have you tried Photo Flo & Hypo Clear? These are meant to keep the negs from drying with any chemicals in them and/or drying stains. -- Ron Purdy
I have just starting using a shami leather, which you just softly run over the negatives after devleopment. Which I have found very successful. Also which I have been doing for a long time now is, if you do see any marks, get a lens cloth and breath heavy onto the negatives and lightly rub the negative and this completely gets rid of it. -- anonymously answered
I use "End Run" by Sprint Technologies. This is diluted in distilled water, the film is given a final one minute rinse, hung up, and given one wipe per side with a sponge wrung out in the solution. It dries to a perfect gloss. If your water is mineral laden, you might need a preliminary rinse in distilled water. -- Phil Stiles
I used to use a wetting agent, which is a gycol. No matter what the dilution, some of the glycol remains, and can affect the surface properties of the film. I suspect that remaining glycol can latch onto small dust particles, and can also cause Newton rings when the negative is used in a glass negative carrier. My soution to drying marks is to use distilled water for my final three rinses. I use a washer, and when I have washed for the recommended time, I return the film (still wound on Nikor spiral reels) to the developing tank, which has been rinsed and then filled with distilled water. I close the tank and agitate for 30 seconds, and then discard the water. I then refill the tank with distilled water, and rinse the film for 2 minutes with agitation at 30 second intervals. I repeat this rinse procedure one additional time. I then hang the negative and let it air dry. Since the distilled water contains no dissolved salts, which are the culprits that cause drying marks, the negative shows no marks. It also shows no scratches from using mechanical means to remove excess water. -- (anonymous),


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