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Beginners Darkroom Photography

Course Times & Enrolment

Thursdays from 28th September 2023 (Code PG003-102) Thursdays from
28th September 2023 6:30pm - 9:30pm • (10 classes)
ECA Darkrooms • Tutor: Alicia Bruce
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

This course will introduce you to the basics of black and white photography as an art and design practice to develop the beginnings of a personal language. Using a 35mm analogue camera, the course will focus on exploiting the camera’s manual settings to take a range of different types of pictures and will introduce basic technical processes in the dark room to develop and print a range of photographic outcomes. You will also be encouraged to consider an aesthetic approach to subject, lighting, composition and mood.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous photography experience required. You will require your own SLR 35mm film camera.

Special Information

Essential materials you will need to bring to the first class:

  • A manual 35mm SLR (Single Lens Reflex) analogue film camera.
  • Black and white 35mm film (ILFORD HP5 400)

And subsequent classes:

  • Box of 50 Sheets Ilford Multi-grade Resin coated paper- 10x8inches, glossy 
  • 5-10 rolls of exposed 35mm black and white film (Ilford HP5 or Ilfiord FP4 for hand processing)
  • 35mm negative storage sleeves 

Materials and equipment provided for students as part of the course and included in the course fee:

  • Access to the photographic workshop with processing, developing and printing facilities

  • Darkroom chemistry

Content of Course

Over the weeks the course will cover:

1. Introduction to SLR Camera Controls; SLR Camera Check, a presentation of contemporary photographers and their work. Shoot a roll of film for week 2.
2. Group Film Processing Session of black-and-white 35mm film.
3. Introduction to working in the darkroom. Learn how to print contact sheet.
4. Demonstration of a photographic enlargement.  Gain an appreciation of general darkroom procedures. Select an image to enlarge to 10”x 8”.
5. Continue darkroom printing. Refining printing techniques. Introducing filters and the ‘dodging’ and ‘burning’ techniques.
6. Individual tutorials. Opportunity to process more film and continued printing. Continue darkroom printing.
7-8. Opportunity to process more film and continued printing. Continue darkroom printing.
9. Final printing session. Mounting demonstration.
10. Class pin-up.

Teaching method(s)

This course will be based and delivered in specialist art and design studios or workshops and will typically include a range of practical exercises, introductions to techniques, processes and concepts, and set projects which lead to more focused and personal exploration. Each week, students’ progress will be monitored and supported by the tutor who will suggest follow up reading, research and practice to undertake each week to support their studies. Teaching will include practical demonstrations, one to one tuition, group discussions and critiques

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Use and handle a 35mm camera to deploy a range of picture taking techniques and genres within an art context and considering the work of professional photographers;

  • Understand the fundamentals of light and time in balancing an accurate exposure and show competence in processing and printing black and white photographic images;

  • Show competence and selection skills in print presentation.


Core Readings

  • Gillanders, R., 2004, The photographic portrait: techniques, strategies and thoughts on making portraits with meaning, Devon: David & Charles

  • Barthes, R., 1994, Camera Lucida: reflections on photography, New York: Hill and Wang

Web Sources

Web sources may be suggested during the course.

Class Handouts

Course information will provided on enrolment and class hand-outs during the course.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.