DARK-ROOM WORK The developing and manipulation of negatives for commercial work is far different from that required for portrait work and therefore cannot be handled in the same manner. Commercial customers demand detail, snap and brilliancy in prints—the portrait man is looking for softness, and with most of them, lack of detail.
While it is true that we do not make a business of selling negatives and it is really the print that we sell, nevertheless, the better the negative the easier it is to make a dandy print. Often an operator will say "Oh, well, I can get a print off of that"—possibly it can be done, but it takes time, wastes paper and all in all, it is poor business. If the operator will use a little brains in making his exposure, a little care in developing, there is very little excuse for a poor negative.
First of all, a good dark-room is a real necessity. While one can work in cramped, crowded, unventilated quarters—and the commercial man frequently has to do this under certain conditions while on the road—the studio dark room should be arranged conveniently, and above all, be well ventilated if the best efforts of the dark-room man are to be called forth. Such a dark-room, with ventilating system, is shown in Figure 68, a pen sketch. You will notice the small grating at the lower left hand corner, which is the inlet for air, with an outlet at the upper part, which is nothing more nor less than a large galvanized iron tube bent over to prevent the light shooting back into the dark room. An electric fan of about the 16-inch size is set in front of this tube, which draws the old air out through the tube and the fresh air coming in through the light-locked inlet down near the floor. Of course, care must be used in placing these two so that the course of the draft will not be over one's head while working at the sinks, or an everlasting cold would be the result.
There should be no other inlet or outlet open in the dark-room when the fan is on, except the floor ventilator—otherwise this sy4tem will not be effective, and the floor ventilator should be jusfa little bit smaller than the outlet.
It has been the writer's good fortune to have been engaged, several times, on experiments for large companies in ventilating big dark-rooms, and this is one system that really works. There are numerous others that work sometimes.
Another important item shown in this sketch is the indirect lighting system. This is an eaves trough, such as can be purchased at any tinners, with four electric bulbs, two red and two white, throwing the light up against the ceiling. With the red lights turned on, it makes a mighty nice room to work in, of course, having the side wall red lights for developing, while the white lights can be switched on and the red off. Where more than one man is working in a dark-room, it is good custom for the foreman only to have the master key that will turn on the white lights and which will prevent many a catastrophe. Also, under such conditions, about one of the best arrangements is the S-shaped entrance to a dark-room. However, these have to be carefully planned or they are the source of many a poor negative. While light does not travel around corners, it reflects around them, and I have been in dark-rooms, using a similar entrance, which I knew were not safe. At least two turns should be made, but three is better.
We have long been accustomed to seeing the inside of painted black, which is unnecessary. Many of the modern and up-to-date dark-rooms are painted red or orange, which, with the indirect lighting system mentioned, makes a very effective combination. Another really good stunt, especially in dark-rooms constantly in use and where there are possibilities of hypo and water being spilled on the floor, is to use a floor oil on the floor, applying it with a mop every few months, as it absolutely prevents dust and hypo f rom flying around.
A very important part of the equipment of a dark-room is the sink or sinks. I believe I have worked, in my time, with practically every kind of sink I have ever heard of and I like the wooden sink best of all. There are porcelain, cement, slate, soapstone, lead lined sinks, and wooden sinks lined with paraffine or marine glue, but, as above mentioned, you have trouble with all of them, and the plain Louisiana cypress sink, California redwood, or even white pine, with absolutely no paint on them, give the best results in the long run, with less trouble and expense. Of course, they should not be allowed to dry out.