Many photo 1 classes don’t actually teach you the right way to work with 35mm black and white film. They show you the very basics then make it more of an art critique class, where the focus is on themes and content. By the end you’ll have a better understanding of composition but you’ll actually have low-quality photographs. You have to take a more advance photo class to learn how to do it properly and effectively. The chemicals used require an exact process in order to develop the best negatives. Intro classes don’t go into depth because people who aren’t invested won’t be interested in all the test that have to be done before you can take good photographs. Not all cameras are the same and not all film is the same. Multiple tests need to be done to determine what conditions should be used for each camera and sets of film. Not teaching this right off the bat means you have to relearn everything in an upper level class. It’s a disservice to the serious photographers that want to learn and adds to the misconception that all photography requires is pushing a button.
Being in a darkroom is like entering a unique domain. There’s a specific system. Time moves significantly slower so that when you get back to the outside world you’ve easily lost hours. The smell is a mix of the chemicals required to make your images appear, developer, stop bath, and fixer. Considering the toxicity it’s not something one should get too used to but for me it’s become a comforting aroma. The light is a low amber color because of the light sensitivity of the photographic paper. The need for near darkness adds to the calming affects of the process. It’s not a difficult procedure to learn however the cost of the materials makes you vary weary of mistakes. After you’ve exposed your paper to the desired image and placed it in the first tray of chemicals, you watch as the picture slowly reveals itself. It’s interesting to watch beginners do this for the first time the look on their face is usually one of awe. Digital provides instant gratification but film makes you wait to see if you’ve obtained the desired results. When you have to spend more time and effort adjusting the many components there’s a greater sense of satisfaction when it finally turns out perfect.