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Creating Photographic Prints With a Darkroom Enlarger

Producing a photographic print in a darkroom can be as much a creative process for photographers as shooting the image itself. Darkroom enlargers play a vital role in achieving this by allowing photographers to produce different sized prints from their negatives. On eBay, you will find a wide range of both new and used enlargers at prices to suit all budgets.

How does a darkroom enlarger work?

Darkroom enlargers work by transmitting light through a photographic negative and then a lens onto a sensitised piece of photographic paper; the paper is then put through a chemical process to develop the image. The main parts of the enlarger are:

  • The head: This part holds and evenly disperses the light source.
  • The negative carrier: Which holds the negative, or transparency as it’s also known, in the correct place.
  • The column: Which allows the head to be moved up and down to change the size of the image.
  • The focusing stage: This part allows the photographer to adjust the focus of the image.
  • A baseboard or wall mount: To keep the enlarger perfectly still, as any movement will cause blurring in the photograph.
What types of darkroom enlarger are there?

There are many different types of darkroom enlarger, and specific features will vary according to make and model, so for more information on specific models check the manufacturer's website. Common types of darkroom enlarger include:

  • Condenser enlargers: One of the most commonly used black and white enlargers. Condenser enlargers focus light to a point, producing very sharp and crisp details on the prints that they create.
  • Variable contrast enlargers: These enlargers allow the user to manipulate contrast through the use of a built-in dial, and use diffused light for a softer finish to photographs.
  • Dichroic enlargers: Used for creating colour prints, these enlargers feature a head with built-in colour filters, allowing users to adjust the colour balance with a dial.
Where should the enlarger be positioned within the darkroom?

Most darkrooms are set up with a wet area for mixing solutions and print processing, and a dry area for negative handling and print composition. The enlarger should be kept in the dry area of the darkroom and should be on a firm, flat base or mounted to the wall to keep it stable.

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