Heritage Crafts

Darkroom photography

Photography using silver halide light sensitive films in cameras and then processed in a darkroom to create prints.
Currently viable
Craft category
Historic area of significance
Area practiced currently
Origin in the UK
1834 with the invention of the process by Fox-Talbot


Darkrooms have been used since the early 19th century to process photographs from film. From the initial development of the film to the creation of prints, the darkroom process allows complete control over the medium.

A darkroom is used to process photographic film, to make prints and to carry out other associated tasks. It is a room that can be made completely dark to allow the processing of the light-sensitive photographic materials, including film and photographic paper. Various equipment is used in the darkroom, including an enlarger, baths containing chemicals, and running water.

Darkrooms started to fall out of favour due to the popularity of colour photography, the rise of instant photography technology and then digital photography. The main suppliers of darkroom materials since the late 1800s were Ilford Photo, Kodak, Agfa and Fuji. Now Ilford Photo are the main supplier of materials.


Photos are taken using silver halide light sensitive films in cameras. The films are then processed in a darkroom and prints made from the negatives in a darkroom. A machine called an enlarger projects light through the negative onto light sensitive silver halide paper to make the print. The image on the paper can be manipulated during this exposure by using more than one exposure and waving hands or objects in the light beam to selectively change the image.


  • Cyanotype printing
  • Early photography techniques e.g. platinum printing, wet collodion process, etc.

Issues affecting the viability

  • Availability of materials – darkroom photography relies on specialist materials, camera films, printing papers and photographic processing chemicals. There is only one main supplier for everything needed, Ilford Photo (a UK company owned by Harman Technology).
  • Domination of digital – digital photography and printing now dominates the market and is very easily accessible by a wide range of people from amateur to professional.

Support organisations

Other information

Whilst there are many amateur photographers, there are only a few people making a living from running darkroom workshops or selling fine art black and white darkroom prints.

However, it would seem that analogue photography has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years with the reintroduction of film stocks and the release of new cameras. As a result, new darkrooms are springing up around the UK in small numbers. These provide darkrooms for rent and training courses.

Local Darkroom offers a search facility for those looking for a darkroom, or to advertise a darkroom for hire.


National Lottery Heritage Fund
Swire Charitable Trust
The Royal Mint
Pilgrim Trust
Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation
William Grant Foundation

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