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Shooting in darkroom under safelights

Lisa Wiegand

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Hi everyone,


I'm shooting a documentary with the F900 and am going to have to shoot a photographer developing a print in his darkroom. We will be shooting the process of the print developing in the tray. I am going to have to shoot this under "safe-light" and am not sure if there is anything I can do to ensure I have enough light for exposure. I am planning on pumping up the gain - but am not sure if it will be sufficiant. Does anyone have experience with this situation? Is there a way to measure the amount of "safe light" -- how much is too much for the print developing process?


Thanks in advance.



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With film you have big focus problems with the red light in a dark room. I?d be tempted to fake it. Shoot the pictures developing by bleaching photos to white and reversing the footage.

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With film you have big focus problems with the red light in a dark room.


If I'm not mistaken, this will be shot on video (F900)


Similarly, the image will look softer than usual due to the subsampling of the red channel. I think a safelight is too dim to shoot under, even with a tremendous amount of gain.

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A safelight is sort of a sodium-yellow these days, not red.


If this is for a documentary, faking it may not be ethical (depends of the nature of the documentary and what "rules" you give yourself to follow). You may just have to live with an incredibly noisy image. Turning off the shutter will also help get you a little more exposure.


I'd try finding a darkroom and taking some digital still images to see what can be recorded under a safe-light. Considering it's too dim to expose film, I suspect it will be pretty hard to see anything.

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I don't know if this would work, but perhaps you can arrange a test? At least it's a high definition 1080i camera:


The Sony HDC-X300K camera "head" (no tape transport) has a "Slow/Cumulative" shutter feature, which Sony claims can cumulatively expose "up to 64 frames; minimum illumination 0.003lx". Objects or people which move in the scene will blur -- possibly quite a bit depending on the exposure/settings -- but it might work?


Here's the link to Sony's site:



Since the camera doesn't have a built-in tape transport, its HD-SDI output would have to be recorded by an external recorder such as a HDCAM deck. Note also that this camera has 1/2" CCDs and it uses it's own special lens, so it won't be a perfect match for the F900. But given the special darkroom location perhaps that won't be an issue?


Of course, if a F900 has a similar feature, please ignore this suggestion an excuse my ignorance.


All the best,


- Peter DeCrescenzo

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I think you would be in the ball park if you bought your own lamps.


Newer darkrooms aren't dark at all... just red.


Turn shutter off for another stop you'll be ok.

Rent a prime lens fro another 1/2 stop.


Little bit of white rim light shouldn't be a problem.

Maybe light the background only so you have a silhouette with nice clean blacks.


Bounce a low wattage Fresnel into a tray of water to create a little ripple liquid effect on the face, shouldn't effect the print too much.


Consider a lock off shot where you light left/right/top/bottom on a seperate pass.



Mike Brennan

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