The Portable Darkroom.

Once you've got all the equipment and film to take pictures with classic cameras on sheet or roll film, you surely want to load and reload the sheet film holders or the developing tank. This has to be done in complete darkness by the feeling. So you'd need a darkroom. You might take a look around in your house or apartment  to find a suitable room to transform into a darkroom. However there is a certain chance that  your partner might have  some other ideas about the usability of the room. Apart from that it would be a hell of a job to reconstruct  a room, just for loading a sheet film holder or a developing tank. So it would be wise to keep peace in the house, respect the architectural design and still persist working with film loaded classic cameras. This can be done by building a portable darkroom, which, when not in use, can easily finds it's place in the broom-closet under the staircase or somewhere else on a forgotten place as it does not take more space than 50 x 36 x 34 cm. 

I made it from a cabinet of a teenage writing desk. Two holes with a diameter of 15 cm would do to attach the dark sleeves made out of a changing back. These zippered backs were made for over 50 years out of different light tide materials and are frequently up for auction on Ebay. Just cut off the sleeves and attach these sleeves to the backside of the front into the holes. Than cover the front on the backside with a multiplex board (with equal holes)  to make it light tight. Don't forget to make sure that the door does not leak light by making a light trap on all sides. Finishing touch is  painting the inside of the cabinet flat black. Furthermore your fantasy will give you some inspiration to find and attach some handy devices inside,  for instance a shelf to lay aside the film sheets while loading the holder or to lay aside the box with sheet film. Use the portable Darkroom in dimmed light.



A view inside the portable darkroom. Such a darkroom gives you all the space you need for comfortable loading and unloading holders and developing tank

You can cut down the 4 x 5 inch sheet film to smaller sizes by using this handy antique cutting device. There are however new modern paper cutting devices allowing you to make all sort of sizes fitting to your camera holder.  While working by the feeling rather than seeing what you're doing, I'd advice you to glue an aluminum strip on the device to find the right position with your fingers before sliding the cutting device. I prepared my cutting device for several different sheet sizes.

The Dahle Cut Cat. 


Loading and unloading the sheet film into the holder.

It might be a good idea to make yourself familiar with loading sheet film into the film holder.

1) to practice start with a sheet of film (old useless negative) with open eyes in daylight.

2) next with closed eyes

3) finally practice the procedure in the dark room, bag or tent or a cabinet as shown above.


Film package 

The film package exist out of three boxes: Cover, bottom and inner box with plastic bag. 

Inside the plastic bag we'll find a hard cover containing the sheet films separated by sheets of paper.



Take one of your film sheet holders and clean the inside from dust. Make sure that the white or metal side is up.

The holder has two different colored handles to distinguish between film which has been exposed and that which has not.


The next procedure has to be done in total darkness.

Draw the dark slide of the holder halfway out.

Take a sheet film out of the package in full darkness. 

Open the hinged bottom frame of the dark slide and slide the sheet inside the holder between and below the guides.

Make sure that you insert the corrugated side on the lefts side up into the open holder.

Note: I used already developed negatives for taking these shots. 

You'll feel the right position by tilting the negative a bit.

Once the sheet film is in position all the way up, you may close the hinged slot and push the slide all the way back into the closed frame.

Make sure the frame can not be opened after the dark slide has been pushed back all the way into the holder.

Lock the dark slide by turning the hook on top of the holder.


Unloading after exposure


Note: I used already developed negatives for taking these shots. 

After exposure and pushing the dark slide back into the holder and secured by turning the hook over the end of the dark slide, you may unlock the holder from the back of the camera, 

Place the holder in de dark tent. Make sure the tent is light tight. Preferable work in dimmed room, avoiding direct sunlight.

Draw the dark slide halfway out of the holder. Next tilt the sheet film with the nail of your finger and grab the edge of the film to pull the negative out of the holder.

Use an empty film package to store the exposed films before loading them into the developing tank.

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