The Traditional Darkroom - Winter 2009


VICO 350 call number 06925

VICO 550 call number 06958

M, W 1-3 pm in Seigfred 302 or in the 3rd floor darkroom

Instructor: William Schneider, 301 Seigfred Hall, email:

Class Goals:

This class provides a chance for the interested student to investigate topics concerning traditional black and white printing techniques. Students will learn to develop film and print using silver halide materials and chemical developers. Topics will include b/w film developing, b/w printing, contrast control, dodging and burning, optimizing camera exposure and film development, presentation of finished prints, together with practical, aesthetic, and business information. This is currently an elective class in the School of Visual Communication.


A student taking this class must realize that photographic materials cost money. You will spend $200 to $400 this quarter participating in this class. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have enough resources to complete the class.

In addition, you will need a camera that is capable of exposing b/w film. The format is up to you - 35mm, medium format (120 film) and view camera 4x5 are all acceptable. If you wish to explore plastic camera aesthetics, please make sure that you balance that with traditional pictures made from better cameras. Because sharpness is a commonly expected goal, exclusive use of a plastic camera will not sufficiently test your abilities.

For this class you are expected to have an understanding of camera operation. For undergraduates, this is achieved through the course prerequisites of VICO 328 or VICO 392.


Three major components plus attendance, class participation, and student production will comprise the grade assigned in this class:

Final Portfolio (70% weight) - a collection of your ten best prints will be assessed primarily on print quality and to a lesser extent, content. They do not have to be mounted or matted, although that is certainly welcome.

Any topic or combination of topics is suitable - i.e. landscapes, studio shots, photojournalism, etc., however obvious lack of effort in finding an interesting picture will lower your grade. The pictures in the final portfolio must be made solely for this class. File photos and pictures submitted for other VisCom classes will receive failing grades.

The grade assigned represents the educated opinion of the professor. Unlike mathematics, physics, natural sciences, etc. there is no completely objective or scientific way to do it otherwise.


Weekly Prints (20% weight) - after printing steps have been demonstrated, one nicely done print will be due each week. These will be assessed upon the print quality and content expected at that point in term.


Quizzes (10% weight) - one or two quizzes will be administered to evaluate retention of lecture material.


Attendance: Two absences are permitted for any reason. Use them wisely. However missing additional classes beyond the two allowed will lower your final grade by 1/3 letter for each instance.


Participation: During critiques you are expected to share your thoughts. If you do not participate in any critique except by being called upon, your final grade will be lowered by 2/3 letter.


Production: After the necessary skills have been demonstrated, you are expected to shoot and develop a minimum of 1 roll of film (or 4 sheets of 4x5) each week. In addition, you are expected to produce a minimum of 1 new contact sheet of recent work each week.

Scripps College Model Usage Policy:

The Scripps College of Communication has a requirement for model releases to be completed and delivered to the instructor for all photos employing students as models in private situations. Outdoor editorial or journalistic photographs are not included in this policy. The instructor will distribute one model release and one copy of the college usage guidelines in class. Additional copies can be made or downloaded from the class website at:


The darkrooms are owned and operated by the School of Art, not VisCom. We use their facilities as guests. Please be a good neighbor to their students and to the lab manager employed by the School of Art. Return all borrowed items to the cage on time. We wish to continue the good working relationship we have with them.


Lockers for storing chemicals and other items are controlled by the School of Art and are rented through their fifth floor office (so far - look for signs around the building if that’s changed). You will need a locker for this class.

Office hours:

My office hours are M,W 10-11:00, and T,Th 1:30-3 pm. Please schedule appointments through the VisCom front office. The front office phone number is 593-4897.

Your Email:

Make sure that you check your university OAK email for class announcements. Email forwarded to another account is not always reliable.


For many, darkroom work is a pleasure. Please be mindful of others in the darkroom so that they can enjoy the experience too. If you take music into the darkroom, please don’t blast your neighbor. Pay attention to proper procedures so that you don’t ruin their prints or film - that means paying attention to cleanliness in the working areas. Clean up spills quickly so that the next person doesn’t place a box of expensive paper or their film in a puddle of chemicals. Common sense and courtesy are encouraged.