Teaching Materials - Exercise

Darkroom experience

Name of Artist Educator: Ho Man Kei, Vik Lai
Excercise Category: Technical exercise

Nowadays, majority of people are used to shoot photos with digital camera or smartphone......

Concept / Inspiration:

Nowadays, majority of people are used to shoot photos with digital camera or smartphone. They just need an easy click to obtain the image. Although people are used to shoot at any time, they forget what they have taken. Students would know better about photography if they shoot, develop and finish the photographs by themselves.


To allow students to learn the basics of photography.

Materials / Equipment:

  • Film camera
  • Tripod
  • Fomapan 100 classic negative film
  • Film developer
  • Water Tray
  • Testing photo paper
  • Developmer
  • Fixer
  • Glass palette
  • Enlarger



Workshop Description:

Part One│Film camera trial

  1. The instructor would share the film photos that she had taken in the past. This is to remind the students to pay attention to the colour contrast between black, white and grey.
  2. To teach students how to use film camera, i.e. the way to load the film as well as to give them a brief introduction of aperture, shutter and ISO.
  3. Students can choose to shoot with tripod. Students are required to shoot with monochromic background.


Part Two │ Film developing

  1. Students who have finished shooting could go the dark room and develop the photos. Students should be aware of the safety issues inside the dark room. Instructor introduces different tools and chemicals to wash the films. Students are reminded to measure the quantity accurately and follow the steps one by one.
  2. Students would be divided into groups of two. They have to first insert the soft film into the developing reel in complete darkness. The film has to be rolled up before putting it into the developing tank.
  3. Put appropriate amount of photogenic solutions, i.e. developing agent, stop bath, fixer, photo flo and water into the tank and proceed the genitive film washing procedures.
  4. After the procedures, remove the reel and put it into the sink and soak it in the water. The water has to be flowing. Soak and wash it for about 20 minutes and wash off the solutions.
  5. Separate the reel and film. Gently remove the extra water that left on the film. Meanwhile, students have to check whether the negative films have been washed completely. After removing the water, students have to hang the film onto the hanger and air-dries it.


Part Three│ Making film samples

  1. Instructor will first introduce the basic tools and hardware and explain what brightness contrast is and its levels.
  2. Students learn how to use the enlarger for black and white and relocate the film. Place the film side by side on the glass.
  3. Expose the film onto the test paper.
  4. Use the test paper for photogenic development, fixation and washing. With the use of the test paper, students could decide which grid to use for the exposure and make photographs.


Part Four │Developing blank and white

  1. Before the work, students are required to make a tiny black and white test paper. Students could use this paper as a reference to adjust the light and dark contrast of their own work (D-mx & D-min).
  2. Instructor could show the students how to fix the position of the photos on a frame to avoid
  3. After fixing the film, students could use the test paper and test the exposure time and its contrast.
  4. Instructor would comment on students attempts and point out how they could improve in the future. Students are encouraged to record the appropriate exposure time and its effect on the photos, so that they could refer to and make improvement in the future. All the test paper would be displayed on the white board, students could understand the contrasts better and shape up.
  5. After calculating the appropriate exposure time, students are able to develop their own film.


Instructor could use their own work to be the reference of “burning “and “dodging”, these kinds of developing skills in order to enrich the layers of the photographs.

Expected Outcome:

Students could experience the formation of a touchable image from scratch as well as to take care of the photographs artistically. Students could gradually control the process of image formation and to create the texture of the image. This could bring out different levels of image appreciation. For example, how many gray scales could we see from an image? How big could the black and white contrast be? This meticulous perspective of appreciation is just unlike to the attitude that the students normally have. It is hoped that this practical experience would allow the students to know how far they could go for in photography.

Actual Outcome:

Part One “Film camera trial”:

Part Two “Film developing”

Part Three “ Making film samples” :

Part Four “Developing black and white”:

Students were excited about the process of developing the photographs in the darkroom. They were attentive and thrilled to see the product of the development.


Student Wong Man Wa drew out the whole process of negative film development.

Student Work
P1030063 P1030064 P1030065 P1030066 P1030068 P1050642 P1050722

Student Feedback:

“We like darkroom experience and we look forward to it every time. Although I might be quite slow since I am not so familiar with the procedures, I grew familiar with my own work during the process. I could amend the not-so-good part of the image. I understand what I tended to capture and how I would like photo come out. The process is just full of fun.”

“I could barely image I could develop my own negative.”

“I enjoyed the film sample making. It looks interesting to place all the images onto one photo.”

“Although it is a black and white photo, it brings out the contrast of lights. It makes me realise the simple beauty.”