The Darkroom – Old School Photoshop

In the beginning of April, I discovered the beauty of the darkroom.

Being a fine art student, I love working with hands-on technique.  The process of editing and printing with digital photography made me feel detached from the art of making.

   Ansel Adams once said: “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”.

I might not have fully understood Adams’ quote prior to learning how to develop photos, but today this makes a lot of sense.

The process begins from the moment I take a photo, however, it is when I reach the developing stage that I become one with my photos. When working in the dark room, I become fully immersed with my photographs. The atmosphere of the darkroom, with zero distractions from the outside world, puts me in a meditative realm where my mind only focuses on the process of developing.

Last month I started to realise that Photoshop is the Modern day darkroom. In fact, a lot of things found on Photoshop are modelled from the darkroom. I am still in the process of learning how to use Photoshop, but, I must say,  now that I am familiar with darkroom techniques, some questions have been answered.


An example, is the technique used in Photoshop called masking.  When using layering masks in Photoshop, the image being edited turns grey scale. In this case, masks are used to edit the opacity of an image using a range of greys made up of white and black; white meaning 100% opacity and Black meaning 0% opacity.  This never made sense to me, as usually the colour black is a completely opaque colour and white is usually a more translucent colour. When I asked why, a proper answer was never given.

When I started to work in the darkroom and develop my first film, this suddenly made sense. When one observes a negative, the darks are light shades and the lights are the dark. Layering masks in Photoshop has adopted the same technique.

Another tool which Photoshop adopted from the darkroom, is the dodging and burning tool. The icon actually looks like the tool used in the darkroom and also performs the same way.

Using the darkroom has helped me to understand Photoshop more, but it has also given me the preference to work manually rather than digitally due to the making process that Photoshop can’t provide.



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