November 04, 2014

A Peek Inside the Darkroom


Here at Richard, we are dedicated to the preservation of traditional black and white darkroom printing—c’mon, how can we resist something so amazing! For many photographers, the darkroom is where their love of photography came into being. It’s the motherland of photographic printing, and hands down the best black and white print you can get. Witnessing, holding, and touching true darkroom prints can be a life changing experience!


So, how does it work? Well, it’s all about exposure: darkroom prints utilize a paper that is coated in light-sensitive silver salts, meaning that (similarly to film) the paper must be exposed to light in order to record an image. First, a frame of film is placed into an enlarger, which shines light through the negative and on to the paper (it also allows you to adjust the size, focus, etc. of the image). Then a series of chemical bathes develop and fix the silver salts to reveal the image, and finally the paper is washed in water and dried.


You’re probably wondering what the big deal is… isn’t this just an archaic process that anyone could do with the right equipment? Nay nay, friends! Darkroom printing is an art, and our master printer, Ruth, is the bees knees when it comes to silver printing—she has over 30 years experience and is a craftsman in her field! In addition to all the rigorous testing Ruth does to get the perfect exposure, she’s a master of filters (which are used in the enlarger during exposure to affect overall contrast) as well as burning and dodging (a manual way to increase or decrease exposure of specific areas of the image during the printing process).

Once you’re ready to take the plunge and try out our darkroom printing, you’ll need to figure out which paper you want to use. Richard has both resin-coated and fiber paper available. What’s the difference? Resin-coated paper is designed for fast processing while still providing great contrast; it’s best for high volume commercial prints and more casual print work. Fiber paper provides a fine-art-esque texture and its archival nature makes it best for prints you’re selling, gifting, etc.

Did you know? Black will always pack more punch on glossy paper compared to matte paper. For a softer look to your images use matte paper, and for strong graphic images choose glossy.


Richard is proud to offer this custom, hand-crafted process and it’s our hope to do so for a very long time. For all you film lovers, darkroom defenders, and darkroom virgins, here are the details you’ll want to know:

  • all our prints are hand processed, archival washed, air dried, pressed flat, and spotted
  • we use 4x5 Omega enlargers with Clayton developer and eco-pro (fish friendly!) stop bath and fixer
  • both resin-coated and fiber papers are available with standard surface options
  • download our darkroom pricing info here

If you shoot black and white, we encourage you to experience this timeless process for yourself. We know you’ll never look back. Now bust out that tri-x in your fridge and start shooting!