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Even In Digital Photography Age, High Schoolers Still Flock To the Darkroom 240

Posted by Soulskill
from the what's-old-is-hip dept.
v3rgEz writes: In the age of camera-equipped smart phones and inexpensive digital cameras, many high schoolers have never seen a roll of film or used an analog camera — much less developed film and paper prints in a darkroom. Among those that have, however, old school development has developed a serious cult following, with a number of high schools still finding a dedicated audience for the dark(room) arts.
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Even In Digital Photography Age, High Schoolers Still Flock To the Darkroom

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  • Students still like to huff them. Really, can you blame them? A small, dark, and enclosed space is perfect for this!
  • by Zanadou (1043400) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @06:53PM (#47258991)
    Guess what teenagers like to do in the dark, away from the teacher's supervision?
  • It's a hipster thing (Score:4, Informative)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @06:56PM (#47259015) Homepage

    My local bookstore has cut back heavily on its offering of books, since apparently it can't make much money off of them in a post-literary age when what books are read can be bought for cheaper online. To fill the void, it has expanded its choice of what I can only describe as hipster accoutrement, such as ECM on vinyl, Moleskine notebooks, and fancy tea sets.

    But the most surprising item was Lomo cameras: these are selling like hotcakes, in spite of the fact that they use old-fashioned film. I would have imagined no one wanted to deal with the expense of giving film to a photo lab (I live in an Eastern European country where this costs serious money) or the hassle of developing it themselves, but when marketed as a trendy thing, some people are ready to turn back from digital.

    • by sribe (304414)

      Yeah, I just sold my old Nikon FE and lenses. Didn't get much for the camera, but did well on the lenses. There are plenty of people out there still into it. Not me. If I ever get back into photography, I'll be all digital. I'm content to let the darkroom days be a fond memory. (I worked in color, and not the "easy" Cibachrome stuff, required some real precision with temps & timing...)

      • by kamapuaa (555446)

        The lenses for a Nikon FE will work fine on a current Nikon DSLR. If they were prime lenses, the optics are about the same as with modern lenses.

        • by sribe (304414)

          The lenses for a Nikon FE will work fine on a current Nikon DSLR. If they were prime lenses, the optics are about the same as with modern lenses.

          They will work, but I suspect that your definition of "work fine" differs from most peoples' ;-)

          Longer focal length, different f value, no auto-focus, no auto-aperture, I'm not sure the DSLR will even read the current aperture...

          • by alfredo (18243)
            I shoot digital, and there are times when I want to be hands on with focus and aperture. One of my favorite lenses is a Tokina EL 28mm. I have a reverse ring that I attach to the filter ring. What the reverse ring does is allows me to shoot macro by reversing the lens. I can switch from standard to macro in seconds with this setup. Different lenses have different characteristics. My old Industar 50-2 has wonderful bokeh and works well as a Macro lens when teamed with extension tubes. Using those old lens
    • by zmooc (33175)

      It's not (only) a hipster thing; it's mostly a budget thing. Many photographers want to work with a properly large camera (35mm full frame, medium format (60x60mm) etc. Since most of us don't have the budget to shell out at least several thousand bucks up to well over $10K for a proper camera, our only option to get large format quality is to use old school film.

      Said differently: digital has only surpassed film quality in a cost-effective way for very small sensors and/or large volumes of photographs (where

      • Possible, LOMO [wikipedia.org] is a maker of quality optical instruments, but the usual "Lomography" pictures sure don't show it. It's more a somewhat artistic approach to the medium, that often has a rather crude, almost dadaist, use to it and may reach actually very impressive artistic expression. Due to the way these (rather simple) cameras work, they allow a range of effects in the hands of a capable artist that can of course be mimicked by digital means but may not gain the same "feel".

        There are a few examples at a lo [thelomography.com]

  • It's an artform (Score:5, Insightful)

    by al0ha (1262684) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @07:17PM (#47259151) Journal
    I began a career in photography in the 80s and as such I can definitely understand the kid's appeal to traditional photographic methodology, it is a true art form where skill and knowledge must be developed over time in order to achieve spectacular results. It is very gratifying to manipulate both film and chemistry in order to achieve the image you have imagined, and watch it unfold slowly in real time on paper as you swirl the chemistry over it. Good times for all, keep it up kids!
    • by tipo159 (1151047)

      What he said!

      I shoot B&W film, but scan in the negs and make prints on a printer. There is density that you can get with B&W film and playing with processing time that is hard to reproduce with a DSLR.

    • Re:It's an artform (Score:5, Informative)

      by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @09:09PM (#47259845)
      I learned photography in a darkroom in the 1980s too. Film and prints/slides are a terrible way to learn photography. You take the photo, then several days later you see the results and how you screwed up. When I went on trips, I had to keep a notebook where I wrote down the exposure settings for every photo I took, and weeks later I would cross-reference the prints with my notebook to figure out what worked and what didn't. The time constant for the feedback loop is too long for any useful learning unless you spend years at it.

      It is much better to learn with a digital camera. You take a shot, then instantly see the results. If you notice a flaw after you've downloaded the pics to your computer, you can call up the exposure information and figure out what you did wrong. Feedback is immediate and all your settings are automatically recorded for you to learn from.

      Once you've got that down, then you can fool around with old analog photography.
      • by rolfwind (528248)

        This isn't about learning photography, for kids it's about being retro/hip/individual.

        The fact that their pics come out like shit, under exposed, over, out of focus, etc will only add to it like paying extra for ripped, washed jeans or punk music played badly.

      • by Phat_Tony (661117)
        Or you can just learn how to expose film properly before you ever set foot in a darkroom, and then spend your time in the darkroom learning about dodging and burning, cropping, using multicontrast papers and filters, ferrotyping tins, different developers, etc. to get the look you want, in which case you get feedback within minutes and can keep printing until you get what you want.

        It's true it's not the fastest way to check framing, exposure, depth of field, focus, etc. Although it can also force people
      • by kamapuaa (555446)

        Yeah sure, the camera's auto-settings can do a better job with instant results. And a computer can do calculus equations lickety-split. The point isn't to have students take the best pictures possible, but to have them learn photography.

      • We had polaroid and competing instant photo's back in the seventies and eighties as well. Those were used by professional photographers to check if what they envisioned was what was going to happen on print/film and not just by people taking snapshots.

        The screen on the back of your camera will tell you something about your picture, but in no way will it tell you if you've made a successful photograph without already knowing what to look for and how to achieve it first. It can help you quickly adjust your

      • This. I learned photography in the 1970's, and you practically couldn't pay me to go back to those days. We enjoyed and/or endured it, because we didn't have any choice. Today, we do. Once I had a chance to try digital, I sold all but one of my film cameras by the end of the following week and have never looked back. (The one I didn't sell was actually non-functional... but it was the one I was gifted with on my 12th birthday and the one that started it all.)

        Without exception, I recommend to people tha

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        I learned photography in a darkroom in the 1980s too. Film and prints/slides are a terrible way to learn photography. You take the photo, then several days later you see the results and how you screwed up. When I went on trips, I had to keep a notebook where I wrote down the exposure settings for every photo I took, and weeks later I would cross-reference the prints with my notebook to figure out what worked and what didn't. The time constant for the feedback loop is too long for any useful learning unless

      • Film makes you much more disciplined. If you take a thousand shots with your digital camera you may have a much shorter "feedback loop" but you'll end up with a thousand shots to go through after every trip, and you'll waste a lot of money in hard drive storage. With film, you've got 36 shots, and that's it, so you learn to really frame things in your mind. You can learn the same thing by playing games with digital, but it's more tempting to cheat.

        You can still have a shorter feedback loop with film. I

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @08:23PM (#47259613) Journal

    It's retro. Retro is big right now.

    Daughter graduated from high school two years ago. She took darkroom, created pinhole cameras, and later got a Holga [lomography.com]. It's called Lomography [wikipedia.org], and it's become quite popular. Just recently she acquired a very old twin lens reflex and is experimenting with that.

    One of the advantages is that old school cameras use 120 and 220 film, a format that's still being propped up by the wedding photography industry. So film and developing are readily available, at least for now.

    One issue is that old passive handheld light meters degrade over time, and new handheld meters are kinda expensive. You almost need a modern camera to take light readings in order to accurately set up the retro camera.

    I see this as the photography equivalent of the resurgence of LP records.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Mmm - cheap medium format! Even the very crappy old "box brownie" produced negatives that can be blown up to huge prints today due to the sheer size of the negative. I used to use a decent 4x5 camera mounted on a table to take photos of broken mechanical parts (plus one on a microscope). Having big negatives made a massive difference in the ease of preparing photos for reports.

      One issue is that old passive handheld light meters degrade over time

      I've been lucky with mine but it hasn't been used a lot since

  • i worked in custom color and B&W darkrooms for over 10 years

    finally by the late 90's there were 3 jobs for over 200 techs in the SE Michigan area

    The oldest piece of hardware was a Kodak K10 that still had vacuum tubes

  • Throwing an exposed piece of apparently blank photo paper into a clear liquid bath and having a picture appear some 20 or so seconds later is about as close to true magic as you're likely to get. Its quite a thrill the first time you see it.

  • by jpellino (202698) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @08:59PM (#47259809)
    like seeing that print appear before your very eyes in a tray of developer.
  • There have been a lot of posts talking about the negatives of the dark room. In light of my own photography instructor passing away this week, I feel obligated to talk about the benefits. Here's what I learned:

    A physical photography class is a lesson in both physics and chemistry. It's not as in depth as a physics class or a straight chemistry class, but a basic understanding of lenses and chemical processes used to take and develop film offer up applicability for both of those classes, which is often b
  • What can be seen as a weak point can be one of the biggest advantages of analog photography with basic manual exposure cameras: it costs money and it takes time. Meaning, you learn to think more about the shot before taking it.
    I noticed this in my own photography:
    - I often photographed with a Rolleiflex up to the year 2000 or so; I had approx 3 pictures on a roll of 12 that I found really worth enlarging
    . - With an AF 35mm SLR back then I made 3 really good pictures on a roll of 36.
    - In digital I have 3

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