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What’s a Darkroom Safelight? – Lens Notes


Kaiser Darkroom Safelight (4018) with Pink Filter

What’s a darkroom safelight?

A safelight is a kind of lighting fixture used to supply working gentle in photographic darkrooms. By definition, the safelight is a light-weight supply emitting gentle in an space of the spectrum that doesn’t have an effect on the sunshine delicate supplies for which it’s designed.

A safelight is crucial in any darkroom, because it offers illumination with out affecting the photographic supplies. Many darkroom processes can be inconceivable or impractical and not using a safelight. Safelights are additionally utilised in most different fascilities dealing with photosensitive supplies like medical imagery labs (x-ray radiology), lithography printing outfits and others.

There are several types of safelights for various gentle delicate supplies. Relying on the kind of materials, there could or will not be a safelight accessible for it. Fashionable panchromatic pictures movie is delicate to all elements of the seen gentle spectrum, so no safelight is appropriate for it. Such supplies could generally be dealt with beneath infrared gentle with appropriate optical aids.

Alternatively, orthochromatic movie is barely delicate to blue and inexperienced gentle and might be safely used beneath a purple safelight. That is additionally the case with most black and white printing papers, though there are some specifics which we’ll cowl under.

Beware that the suffix secure could entail a false sense of safety. Most photosensitive supplies will finally fog beneath most safelights, given sufficient publicity. Completely different papers and movies range tremendously in sensitivity, and can behave in another way beneath the identical safelight. It’s a great apply to at all times do your personal assessments earlier than you decide to any severe darkroom work with new tools and/or supplies.



What are the several types of darkroom safelights?

There are a number of several types of safelights in the marketplace, they usually differ primarily of their gentle filtering mechanism. There are two principal approaches to a safelight: a full spectrum lightsource behind a filtering medium or a slim band gentle emitter. For many of the historical past of photographic printing, safelights have been predominantly of the previous sort. Solely lately, with the speedy improvement of slim band LED gentle sources, did the latter form emerge. As we speak, each are available, both new or on the second hand market. Listed here are the most well-liked safelight sorts with their benefits and drawbacks:

Interchangeable filter safelights

Most likely probably the most conventional sort of darkroom safelight fixture consists of a housing with a bulb socket and a filter body. One such mannequin is the Kaiser Darkroom Safelight pictured above. The primary benefit of this design is the flexibleness it offers. The interchangeable filters to permit the safelight to work with a wide range of gentle delicate supplies.

An obstacle of any such safelight is it’s want for upkeep. Safelight filters fade with use, and should be monitored and changed as wanted. Filter producers present pointers, however testing along with your specific setup and supplies is greatest. Fading does occur gradully and may sneak up on you, so fog testing should be finished at common intervals.

Delta 1 Brightlab Universal Red Junior Darkroom Safelight 11 Watt
Delta 1 Brightlab Common Pink Junior Safelight 11 Watt

Naked bulb safelights

One other conventional photographic safelight is the naked bulb safelight just like the Delta 1 pictured above. It’s the easiest type of safelight, as it’s only a common gentle bulb coated with filtering materials.

Benefits of safelight bulbs are simplicity, flexibility and affordability. They slot in all customary fixtures. You possibly can have, for instance, a safelight desk lamp with the twist of a wrist. Naked bulbs are additionally cheaper and smaller than devoted safelight housings. This makes them a probably higher possibility for the informal darkroom consumer. They’re additionally an ideal possibility for customers that don’t print in devoted darkrooms, however should adapt different areas.

The primary drawback of the naked bulb safelight stems from it’s all-in-one strategy. An interchangeable filter safelight can take any outdated bulb you may have mendacity round the home, supplied it’s inside it’s becoming and wattage limitations. In case your naked bulb safelight blows and also you wouldn’t have a spare, your printing session would possibly come to an abrupt finish.

Similar to the interchangeable filter sort, the filtering materials of the naked bulb can be vulnerable to fading, so testing and monitoring is, once more, obligatory.

HEILAND ELECTRONIC LED Darkroom Safelight lamp for BW and Color
HEILAND ELECTRONIC LED Safelight for BW and Colour

LED safelights

Regardless of it’s conventional roots, analog pictures advantages from the most recent developments in lighting. The latest addition to the safelight household, LED safelights vastly outperform their old style siblings. The largest benefit of LED as a safelight is the sharp spectral cutout. What this implies is {that a} typical LED emitter with peak output (for instance) at 600nm emits just about no gentle outdoors 590nm to 610nm.

A correctly chosen LED is subsequently an ideal safelight supply, as all the sunshine that’s emitted is inside the secure spectrum. Such LEDs require no filtering and there’s no filter issue gentle loss. In comparison with an incandescent bulb behind a filter, the place a big proportion of the sunshine is absorbed by the filter, LEDs are extraordinarily environment friendly. Subsequently, LEDs additionally produce little or no warmth in operation, which might be very benefitial in a small, non air conditioned darkroom.

The shortage of filters in LED safelights lamps additionally makes them very low upkeep. A typical LED emitter is rated for round 50,000 hours of operation. As there are not any filters to fade, an LED safelight ought to carry out persistently all through it’s lifetime. Relying on the quantity of darkroom printing you do, this would possibly make an LED the one safelight you ever purchase.

A key benefit of the slim spectral output of LEDs is you could make your darkroom as brilliant as you need. Typically LEDs permit a lot greater darkroom illumination for a lot longer than conventional incandescent safelights. After all, as with every different safelight lamp, it is advisable check your specific setup earlier than you start printing.

When daylight hits a prism at simply the suitable angle you’ll be able to see all of the completely different wavelengths individually / picture by Max

Darkroom safelight colors and spectrum ranges

Whereas the basic purple safelight is the vastly recognizable darkroom staple, it’s removed from the one sort of safelight used. Digging deeper, you’ll encounter safelights described as amber, brown, yellow-green and others. In actuality, the color of the safelight is simply a better (and fewer correct) option to describe the spectrum vary of sunshine it outputs.

The humanly seen portion of the sunshine spectrum covers a wave-length vary from roughly 380 nm as much as 780 nm. A typical purple safelight filter, just like the Kodak 1, transmits gentle with a wavelenght above roughly 600 nm, in Kodak’s case all the best way as much as infrared. An amber safelight (Kodak OC for instance) sits decrease at about 590 nm and has (considerably restricted) use in coloration darkroom processes. Darkish inexperienced safelight filters, just like the Kodak 3, let by gentle round 510nm and are used with some panchromatic supplies.

Choosing the proper safelight

Choosing the proper safelight is a vital step in equipping a pictures darkroom, regardless if it’s a everlasting or a brief setup. So what precisely do you want? There are a number of questions it is advisable reply to pick the most suitable choice for you.

What coloration?

Step one to pick the very best safelight is to find out what coloration (or spectrum vary) gentle you want. That is an important attribute. It would slim down your choice significantly earlier than you even get to the opposite choice standards. As we’ve mentioned above, safelights are available in many various flavors. So how have you learnt which one you want?

An excellent place to begin is consulting the producer suggestions of the supplies you intend on utilizing. Just about all photographic supplies producers present knowledge sheets for his or her merchandise, and, amongst different helpful issues, these sheets include safelight pointers. Right here’s what Ilford has of their Multigrade RC Papers technical data sheet:

Safelight suggestions

ILFORD MULTIGRADE papers can be utilized with most typical safelights for black and white papers. The ILFORD safelights are particularly really helpful as they typically permit darkrooms to be brighter, however fully secure. For direct lighting, don’t expose the paper to the safelight for greater than 4 minutes, and the gap between the paper and the safelight must be a minimal of 1.2 metres/4ft.

This isn’t very concrete, so we are able to dig a bit of deeper. Should you don’t wish to go along with the producer’s really helpful unit, or if one shouldn’t be accessible, it is advisable discover a appropriate substitute. To do that accurately, it is advisable discover out the spectral sensitivity of the photosensitive product you wish to use. On this case, in the identical knowledge sheet Ilford offers the spectral sensitivity of it’s Multigrade paper:

Spectral sensitivity of Ilford Multrigrade paper range
Spectral sensitivity chart of Ilford Multrigrade paper vary

From the chart above, we are able to see that the paper is delicate to the sunshine spectrum from about 370nm to 550nm. What this implies is that any safelight filter that filters out these wavelenghts is appropriate to be used with Ilford Multigrade. A basic Kodak 1 safelight filter will do properly with this paper. Taking a look at this from an LED safelight standpoint, any fixture emitting gentle from about 600nm upwards (to be on the secure facet) is ok. Keep in mind that the upper you go, the much less seen the sunshine shall be. On this instance you would possibly wish to stick between 600nm and 650nm. Something above 650-700nm begins getting outdoors of the seen spectrum and into infrared.

Now you can use this data to slim down your choice of safelights. At all times verify the spectral traits within the fixture producer’s specs to substantiate that the unit is appropriate to be used along with your supplies.

Darkroom printing developer tray beneath conventional purple safelight

What sort?

Now you’ve decided what kind of spectrum output you want and have narrowed the choice down. Subsequent, you’ll be able to transfer on to choosing the right sort of safelight for you. That is extra of a private choice than anything.

Are you’re simply dabbing in darkroom printing for the primary time? Should you simply wish to check out just a few prints in a blacked out rest room, you would possibly wish to begin small. A naked bulb incandescent or LED safelight is the simplest and least expensive possibility. You possibly can simply screw these into any fixture and be finished with it. As soon as you’re finished printing, screw an everyday bulb again in and nobody will ever know you’ve been printing.

In case you are equipping a devoted darkroom and intend on doing varied processes there you would possibly want one thing extra sturdy and versatile. A basic interchangeable filter fixture with the corresponding filters to your processes is a complete resolution. Alternatively, an alternative choice could be a devoted LED safelight. Some superior fashions just like the Heiland above provide selectable spectral outputs inside one unit, together with a white gentle mode for normal viewing.

How brilliant?

Within the darkroom, brighter is sort of at all times higher, inside cause. In case you are questioning wheter to go for a brighter or a dimmer bulb, at all times err on the facet of brigher. You possibly can at all times dim down the sunshine with a filter, a dimmer change or just by bouncing it off a wall or ceiling. Making do with a dim bulb is a bit trickier. Do remember the fact that most LED bulbs can’t be dimmed, so plan accordingly.

The one space the place safelight illumination management issues most is the enlarger baseboard or easel. If the safelight depth on this space is just too sturdy, you’ll have a tough time seeing and focusing the picture projected by the enlarger. It may additionally intervene with using a focus finder or when doing any dodging and burning. Moreover, you’ll improve the dangers of paper fogging with extended publicity.



Safelight Q & A


Can any purple gentle be utilized in a darkroom?

Nicely, sure and no. Should you get a random red-tinted lightbulb or LED emitter, you could or could not be capable of efficiently use it as a safelight. You would possibly get fortunate and it could simply be the suitable spectrum to do the job, or it could break that valuable field of Ilford paper. We don’t suggest simply shopping for a bunch of purple lights and hoping one among them works, however should you encounter one you wish to check out, check it extensively earlier than you do any severe darkroom work with it.

What safelights are utilized in radiology?

The sunshine delicate supplies utilized in radiology are predominantly inexperienced or blue delicate, and as such can safely be used beneath a purple (>600nm) safelight illumination. Nevertheless, any radiology technician ought to seek the advice of the movie producer’s pointers earlier than commiting to a working setup.

Is there a safelight that can be utilized when creating movie?

In the case of common trendy photographic movie, the quick reply isn’t any, there isn’t any safelight for that. The overwhelming majority of photographic movie used immediately is what’s often known as panchomatic, which implies it’s delicate to all elements of the seen gentle spectrum. Due to this fact, no gentle you could see can safely be used when creating such movie.

The one exceptions to this are specialist ortochromatic movies usually utilized in radiology, industrial imaging or sure printing processes. These movies are blind to elements of the seen spectrum, which permits for a safelight for use in improvement. Photographers that make use of such movies for pictoral use might be able to develop them with an acceptable safelight.

The one option to observe the event of panchromatic movie is by use of infrared night-vision goggles, reminiscent of utilized by navy or hunters.

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