A few years ago I had a great darkroom setup in my basement that I converted from a (mostly) unused bathroom. It had a wet side and a dry side, built-in exhaust, and plenty of space.
That came to an end when I sold that house and moved into an old Victorian-style home where bathrooms are a sparse thing and any plumbing in the home was an afterthought.
Not long after relocating, I started to ponder how I could possibly create a darkroom space at the new house. Of course, I had grandiose dreams of a new build that was even better than my previous space.
However, after reality set in, I ended up just converting a small section of the attic into a closet-like room that was light-tight. And unfortunately, there was a small problem- no cost-effective way that I could run any plumbing to the space.
The Bucket System
The solution that I came up with isn’t particularly ground-breaking and takes a little bit of extra effort, but it totally works.
What I ended up doing was purchasing a few 5-gallon buckets and a water jug with a pump attachment. Everything was available at the local home supply store and set me back about 20 bucks, but the system works like a charm.
The jug with the pump and spout is filled with distilled water which sits on top of an upside-down bucket. Under the spout is the “waste” bucket to catch any overspill and to pour all the development chemicals into after the print session is finished. Next to the waste bucket is a “rinse” bucket filled with tap water.
I’ll run the print through the develop/stop/fix steps, and then into a “pre-wash” tray filled with water to remove some of the fixer. Then I’ll move the print into the “Rinse” bucket where it will sit for a few minutes while I accumulate a few other prints.
After there are a couple of prints collected in the rinse bucket, I’ll take it to the bathroom where I can wash those prints properly with running water. From there, the prints go on the rack to dry, and the rinse bucket is ready for another batch.
The water in the rinse bucket will usually work for the duration of each session, but I do change out the “pre-wash” tray a few times dumping the water into the waste bucket and refilling it from the distilled water jug.
At the end of the print session, I dump all of the chemical trays into the waste bucket for easy disposal. And that’s it! Pretty simple setup with only a minimal amount of extra hassle.
Is this the ideal darkroom setup to print in? Definitely not. But a functioning darkroom is hands down better than no darkroom at all. With a few buckets and some blackout curtains, you can turn any room or closet into a darkroom. So break out that old enlarger and set of trays you have stashed away and go make some prints!
About the Author
Chris Kuhn is a photographer and video creator at the YouTube channel Film is more fun where he documents his many film-related experiments. You can find more of Chris’ work on his website, YouTube, Facebook , and Instagram. This article was also published here and shared with permission.