Using Your Storage Unit as a Darkroom

Darkroom Storage

By Molly Hammond, USstoragesearch.com

Plenty of people are content to use digital cameras and drugstore photo services to preserve their memories. But lately, there’s been a return to the art of photography, specifically developing and printing. Sure, iPhones and Instagram are as popular as ever, but there seems to be room for photographers looking to get back to their roots with darkrooms—that is, if you can find the actual room to do it.

Since developing photos in a darkroom requires such a specific setup, it can be difficult to dedicate a whole room in your house to it, even though the space you need is only the size of a closet or small bathroom. Fortunately, with some self storage facilities now starting to provide storage units with electrical outlets, you can pay for a space that’s completely dedicated to your shutterbug passions without paying through the nose.

Here are a few things you’ll want to consider when setting up your own darkroom.

Finding the Right Space

A 5×5 unit will generally be big enough, but if you prefer more counter space or have larger equipment, a 5×10 will also make a great darkroom. A 5×5 self storage unit is comparable to a small bathroom or hall closet in your home, whereas a 5×10 is approximately the size of a walk-in closet.

The cost difference between these unit sizes is usually negligible, and if you end up with a little extra space in your darkroom, that’s all right! You can always use it to store props and backdrops from your photography sessions, or other things you need for photography that you don’t need taking up space at home.

Since even the smallest units can accommodate your setup, the most important thing about selecting a storage unit to use as a darkroom is finding one equipped with electrical outlets. Your equipment won’t do you any good if you can’t turn it on!

Self storage units with electricity are relatively new in the industry, but they are available, so it’s a simple matter of checking with your facility to see if they have units equipped with electrical outlets before you reserve. It’s also important to find a unit with climate control since swings in temperature can be dangerous for the chemicals in your darkroom and the photos you’re working on.

Things to Store in Your Storage Darkroom

Once you’ve found the unit that fits your needs, you’re ready to move in! Of course, you’ll want all of your photography equipment, but you’ll also want a handful of other items to prepare your unit for its new role as a darkroom.

  • Blackout Supplies: You’ll want to create what is called a “light tight” space, which means that no light sneaks in from outside when the lights are off and the door is closed. Simply cover any cracks in the door, windows, or other sources of light with black sheeting, curtains, or plastic bags. Products like blackout blinds are also available, if you decide they’re necessary.
  • Fan: A fan in your unit will disperse the fumes given off by your photo-developing chemicals. Darkrooms are fairly small places, and a lack of air movement can make them uncomfortable in a hurry.
  • Water: Darkrooms usually have running water, but the process can absolutely be done without it, as long as you find a way to bring in your own water. You can purchase a water cooler for your unit, or you can bring in jugs of distilled water. In either case, you’ll want to get yourself a bucket or two—some for holding clean water and others for rinsing. Remember to dispose of used water when you’re finished.
  • Light: While regular light is the last thing you want to bring into a darkroom, you will want to bring a safelight. These bulbs glow brown or red and allow you to see what you’re doing without light that will damage your prints. They can be purchased just as regular lightbulbs and fitted into any lamp, so be sure to pack yours!

Setting Up the Darkroom

Setting up your station in mini storage should be easy—a few tables or shelving units should provide the workspace you need. Divide your unit in two: a “wet area” and a “dry area.” The wet area will house your trays of developing solutions and your water. The dry area will be home to your enlarger, paper, and other tools.

Keeping the two spaces separate is an easy way to keep unwanted chemicals off the paper you’ll be putting your photos on. If this darkroom is the first one you’ve used, and you need guidance on which chemicals and tools to purchase, tutorials found here and here can help you make a list!

With all this in mind, you’ll be able to convert your storage unit into a dedicated darkroom that will surely be the coolest unit around—and so much more convenient than trying to make art in your bathroom or closet at home!

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