Basic Film Photography Tips for Darkroom Printing

There are a few advanced and basic photography tips and techniques that can be utilized in the darkroom. For beginner photography, the process of dodging and burning will likely be the most utilized technique. Once you are familiar with darkroom techniques and equipment, you may begin experimenting with advanced darkroom techniques like combination printing. This photography guide will discuss both of these darkroom printing techniques: what they do, how they are done, and how they can enhance some flaws in the film photography you now have.

Dodging and Burning

When printing a negative, you may notice small areas of the bring that are too bright or too dark compared to the even tones of the rest of the image. This may include bright skies that appear washed out or dark shadows that leave little or no detail. Burning or dodging can help fix these trouble spots without getting into extremely complex processes.

If a spot is too dark and details are lost, dodging is the option for you. What you will need to do is block light from hitting that spot for a few seconds to eliminate the exposure and lighten that area. Dodging can be done with any object that has some level of opacity from thin sheets to cardboard that can be cut to custom forms or pre-made dodging tools. For a second or more during exposure to your photographic paper, block the light of the trouble area with your dodging tool. If you simply cover the spot you will an outline of the tool printed on the paper. Therefore, it is imperative that you slightly shake the tool to prevent this from happening.

If the spot is too light, you may need to use the burning process. Burning works exactly the same as dodging, except that you allow more light to a spot. For burning, you add time to the exposure amount of your paper and block everything you do not wish to change so that only the trouble spot is exposed. The additional time will darken the spot to create a more even tone. Again, it is imperative that you slightly shake the light-blocking tool to prevent any noticeable outlines.

Dodging and burning is a process of adding more light, or subtracting light, from areas that are too dark or too light. This process helps to achieve a consistent tone throughout the print. By using a tool to block light, you can add exposure time to light areas to make them darker or cover a dark area to lighten it. To learn more about these techniques, please see the dodging and burning page.

Combination Printing Techniques for the Darkroom

Combination printing utilizes two or more photography film negatives to make one print. This technique may be most commonly used for adding clouds to a cloudless sky. To start, you must find a cloud image that matches the same shadows and highlights as the other image or it will clearly look fake. Then determine the exposure for each negative at the aperture and size that you plan to print the single image. Expose the foreground area of the print and dodge the cloud area using the dodging technique as described above. Then replace your negative with the clouds negative and expose the other half of your image while dodging the already exposed foreground. If done correctly, the result will be one fluid image with a cloudy sky. This technique is extremely demanding and difficult to master, but it may be the most rewarding skill.