The Portable Darkroom.

The left part of such a teenager desk could be the base for your 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 in 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 bags are frequently up for auction on Ebay or even new in a specialised photo-shop. 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 absolutely 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.
A changing bag would do as well, but depends on how big your processing tank is and how many space you'd like to work convenient.
In this regard it would be wise to take a look at the Stearman Processing Tank.
For more details click here


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.

One side of the darks slide is silver and the opposite side is black to distinguish between film which has been exposed and 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.



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


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 darkroom

Developing the exposed film.

Film developing can be done in a daylight developing tank, but the film has to be loaded in total darkness. Filling the tank with film developer and afterwards with water and at least with fixer, can be done in daylight. The whole developing, washing and fixing process finds place in the daylight tank. There are lots of websites which teaches the best way to do that.
Personally I develop in a very practical new designed developing tank for 4 sheets. Exclusively for 4x5 inch.

The new designed 4 sheet processing tank from Stearman.
Saves time and money and most of the times a better alternative than the huge 6 sheet tanks.
The SP-445 film processing system process up to 4 sheets of 4x5 inch at the time and uses not more than 475 ml of solution.
My favourite mix is 50 ml Tetenal Ultrafin and 425 ml water. Any other good mixture would do as well.
No need to wait until you have plenty negatives to start up processing as 1 to 4 sheets is enough.
It is a great invention and I'm very happy with it.
if you are interested please contact the inventor.

For more details click here


Technical page