Black and White Darkroom Printing Workshops
This page gives an overview of the darkroom worshops, an introduction to the tutor - Ilford Master Darkroom Printer Dave Butcher, and allows you to book online.
There are also some links to several documents which have been written which could help you get the most out of your course.
Visit my hints and tips website for free technical information and advice: darkroomdave.com
Browse through or jump straight to:
Dave Butcher was trained over many years by Ilford Photo at their UK factory, which specialised in black and white products. Dave is probably the last active darkroom printer trained by Ilford. So, if you want to learn the Ilford way to make black and white prints come on one of his darkroom courses, or book a private course for even more personal attention. These are particularly suitable for beginners with no experience of darkroom processing and printing as well as those with some expertise who want to improve. If you have specific needs send an email or call Dave to discuss them.
We mostly now run 1-to-1 darkroom courses in order to provide the best individual tuition. We also run a couple of group courses each year on dates that we set well in advance. Our group courses for black and white darkroom printing with Dave Butcher are now run with a maximum of 2 people. Book early if you want to come on one of these.
Our darkroom workshops are appropriate for anyone with an interest in learning the basics or improving their black and white darkroom techniques with Dave, the only Ilford Master Darkroom Printer trained by Ilford. All courses last 1 or 2 days and are based at our darkroom and studio in the Derbyshire Peak District (just 17 miles from Manchester Airport and 2 miles from the nearest railway station).
The darkroom is well equipped with 6 working enlargers all able to take 35mm or up to 6 x 7 cm 120 negatives:
- DeVere 203 with Multigrade head
- DeVere 203 with Varicon condensor head
- Durst M670 Color
- Durst M670 BW
There are also 2 enlargers capable of taking up to 5 x 4 inch negatives:
- DeVere 504 with Ilford MG500H Multigrade head
- Durst 138S with Ilford MG500H Multigrade head
There is also a large processing area (complete with extractor fan), archival print washers, dryers for RC and FB papers, as well as a film dryer, and associated equipment completes the darkroom. Here are some images to give you an idea of the darkroom as used for courses.
If you are thinking of buying an enlarger and you're not sure which you would prefer why not come on a course to try out the main contenders that you are likely to find in the secondhand market.
I learnt my techniques whilst working for Ilford Photo for 21 years, which included running their photographic printing department for several years, and still do ad hoc work for them in their Ilford Darkroom Masterclass scheme and Ilford Artisan programme as well as making prints for their exhibition stands at events like Photokina, etc.
Courses can be tailored to the needs of each individual. We recognise that each individual will have different needs and will work on whatever is appropriate with each participant. These are not group sessions where everyone has to do the same thing!
The maximum number on any black and white darkroom printing group course is 2 so you will have lots of attention from me.
Each session starts with Dave showing example black and white prints of what can be achieved in the darkroom, then a short demo of split grade printing and, apart from short breaks for food and refreshments, the rest of the day will be spent hands-on in the darkroom making prints the Ilford way.
You will be using Ilford Multigrade RC 14 x 11 inch paper throughout and will usually be able to take away 4 or 5 competition / exhibition quality prints from your day with me.
Ilford Photo support Dave Butcher Photography by kindly subsidising the cost of all paper and chemicals used on darkroom workshops.
Usual number of places available: 2
Cost: £175 each (from 2018), including paper, processing chemicals and buffet lunch
Approximate Times: 10 am start, 4 pm finish
Meeting Point: Briarwood, Tunstead Milton, Whaley Bridge, High Peak, SK23 7ER
Briarwood Darkroom Days
An alternative to a group course is to make a private booking for a 1-to-1 black and white darkroom printing workshop.
The cost is £300 for 1 day and £500 for 2 days. Dates can be arranged to suit the individual.
We can cover the basics or quite advanced techniques, you decide what is of most use to you. It is also possible to use Multigrade FB whereas this is impractical with a normal 2-client course. This is the way to make rapid progress with your darkroom printing.
Ilford Photo support Dave Butcher Photography by kindly subsidising the cost of all paper and chemicals used on darkroom workshops.
A buffet lunch is also included in the price.
Call me on 01663 733771 or send an email to email@example.com to discuss the possibilities.
I have written an article on black and white darkroom printing techniques for clients who have been on my courses. It is freely available to both clients and anyone else.
Here is some extra information to help you decide to come on one of my courses, or prepare for it:
Still undecided? Here are a few comments from some of our clients over the years:
Hello Dave and Jan. Thank you both very much for my darkroom day. You provide, as always, great hospitality, a relaxed atmosphere and a great deal of helpful tuition, just hope I can retain a high percentage of it. I also found that turning over negative holder, as yours, made it sit down better and eliminated the bit of stray light that I was having to block out. The small bits like that all add towards a smoother workflow. Thanks again, MT, Cheshire, 12-March-2017
It is a good thing as an artist to continually train, push forward, develop and improve, so I set myself a challenge to book a course with an Ilford Master Printer. Dave Butcher, who is based in Derbyshire, worked for Ilford Photo for 21 years, including running the photographic printing department and more recently has become a genius teacher. The course was split over two full days and time was spent working from my own medium format 6x6 negatives and included using all four different enlargers in the darkroom. The experience of using this range of equipment, although confusing at first, was invaluable. Now it is time to put all I’ve learnt into practice and disappear back into my own darkroom enlightened and much improved. LHM extract from blog post, Dumfries, 8-August-2016
Hi Dave, I just wanted to say a big thank you for a fabulous weekend. When I book courses blind, I am never quite sure that they'll deliver what I originally had in mind. I have to say that I got exactly what I needed from you and a whole lot more! I now have the confidence to start up at home and I understand the basic process well enough to experiment. I suspect that I'll take some time to master the basics and then come back to you for the next stage... I'll certainly keep in touch. It was so kind of you to give me enough equipment to get going with. You'll be pleased to know that I have also invested in a Leica M4 (it was that or the M6 and I liked the classic look of the M4 a little more!) after some heavy research last night, so I'm well on the way! Also, please thank Jan again for her kindness and hospitality. She's very understanding to have strangers invade her home like I did! You both were so welcoming and I'm glad we're no longer strangers :) All the best and take care, AGB, Cambridge, 11-July-2016
During the course, I learnt the technique of Split Grade printing, probably the most useful and powerful method of darkroom printing. It is the technique used by Ilford printers for pretty much all hand prints. Once mastered it considerably reduces the amount of dodging and burning adjustments. It involves using both low and high contrast exposure instead of the usual single exposure. On the final day I left bursting with ideas and inspiration and with a head full of new skills and top tips that Dave had imparted, along with a number of hand printed (by me!) large prints ready to frame and exhibit.
Hi Dave, Just a note to thank you and your wife for the day I spent with you on Sunday. Best wishes. JD, Northants, 30-April-2014
Dave, Many thanks again for a brilliant day last Saturday. Got home at 8.30 and relieved I did not have to attend the bowls club social as Christine was at least as tired as myself! I had a flash of inspiration about the lost negatives and found them where I guessed, still held in the contact printing box where last used. I wonder if you can comment on my enlarger, as I recalled it is indeed a Durst F30 with 75 watt bulb, (can take 150), condenser lens and F 4.5 x 50 mm Minolta lens. I have attached a few pics. The negative tray looks straightforward. The condenser lens is removable and it looks like there is provision for a filter above it in the holder. Does this make sense? The filter would be 65 mm square to fit. i.e. your style of filters with the projecting handle would not fit. Saw some filters like yours on eBay( new, £55) but looks like I need to research further options. Very best regards to Jan and thanks again to her for a tasty and attractive lunch. Regards, BG, 16-December-2013
Hi Dave, good to hear from you and pleased to hear you are planning to reprioritise in 2014. I continue to benefit from my time with you - more confidence in the darkroom. Unfortunately I have been quite unwell since I returned. I am keeping my schedule for the beginning of the year clear at the moment until I see a significant improvement in energy levels. I will be back in touch in January to see what time you still have free for a weekend with you. I am looking forward to some snow and have the film loaded in readiness. In the meantime all the very best to yourself and Jan, JR, Scotland, 5-December-2013
A Good Sunday to you both, hope you have enjoyed some rest and relaxation since I left on Wed afternoon. The journey back was horrendous. I didn't make it to my sister until 10.50pm and between pelting rain, huge HGVs, gusting wind and Manchester in the rush hour felt a nervous wreck. Next time I will fly/bus it. However the days tuition has been of great help. I thought you would like to know Dave that after a day in the darkroom, using split grade I have produced A print I can 95% say I am pleased with - a dappled sunlight in woodland. Thank you. The photographer I was trying to remember for his Japanese prints is Michael Kenna and the reason I couldn't shoot the winter tree further to the right is of course a whopping pylon! Is April 18th/19th any good for a two day location/darkroom tuition booking? JR, Scotland, 20-October-2013
Hello Dave and Jan, I am writing to thank you both for a great day. My darkroom course was a revelation after so many years of not doing any wet processing. All my fears of showing off my rusty and inept talent in front of an enlarger soon went with Dave's patient guidance. I was very nervous about the films I brought along having in the past had some very late nights trying to print other peoples poor negatives. That said I am very pleased with the images I came away with. I am amazed at the simplicity and ease with which split grade printing produces good consistent results and probably great results from me with practice. The easel you gave me is far bigger than mine and will be useful. I am now on the hunt for an Ilford 500 enlarger with the CPM keypad but they are to say the least rare! Remember me if you hear of any that become available. As soon as I have another date without my family I will get in touch and see If we can agree another date, possibly for 2 days, one with photography. Best wishes to you both. PH, 3-August-2013
Hi Jan and Dave, Thank you once again for your help and kindness giving me the equipment, I will make good use of it I promise. My friends were all very complimentary of you guys, so thanks for a lovely cuppa! Will pop in for a tea any time we are local again, take care. See you soon. Best regards, JA, Manchester, 23-February-2013
Hi Dave and Jan, Thanks for a great day, will be up early and in the darkroom tomorrow, can't wait to replicate your techniques at home. I spoke with Diane about the dryer and they are trying to track it down. Kind regards, SB, Ilford Photo Sales Director, 4-July-2013
Dear Dave and Jan, I just wanted to drop you both a quick note to say thanks again for a great day on Saturday. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, and certainly learnt a great deal in such a short period of time. I can say for certain that the experience has re-opened my eyes to the importance and elegance of film. You were both so kind and welcoming (and in Dave's case incredibly patient in dealing with such a novice!). I will no doubt be building my own darkroom in the near future, so keep me in mind if you ever have the need to find a good home for any kit! Thanks again, AL, 19-November-2012
Hi Dave and Jan, Just a quick e-mail to thank you both for your hospitality last Sunday. I had a brilliant day. The darkroom tuition and your expertise was awesome, and I came away with a new vigour for photography in particular monochrome. The tones in the prints were superb and I have looked at them every day since.I have bought more film and started negotiating the use of the bathroom as a temporary darkroom, perhaps next year. I am already looking forward to another session next year when I have more material to print. On that subject if anyone does donate a M670 to you I could certainly find a good home for one. To Jan thanks for supplying the drinks and lovely lunch. You always make me feel welcome and not just a number. The whole day was fantastic and split grade printing is the best. These are definitely the best prints I have ever made(with a lot of help) but with this system I do feel confident that I could make good prints, far better than I ever thought. For years I have marvelled at monochrome images from my heroes and with your help it has unlocked the door to the secrets of quality printing. This is an art form and I am looking forward to opening the door a little more next time. I managed to get some dyes and the next job is spotting before mounting and framing, and this weekend I will be going to Patchings to enquire about mount boards and mattes. I managed to show my wife all the prints except the walkway, so it will still be a surprise. She loves the waterfall at 3 Shires Head but doesn't like the grass moving against the rock, you can't please everyone! Once again thanks for the great day and continued success. Good Luck with the shows and see you soon. Take Care, GJ, 24-October-2012
Hi Jan and Dave, I will just tell you that I am so pleased to been with you on sunday and monday! I learned a lot from you, and was so happy about your hospitality! Have a nice day! Best regards, ER-N, Denmark, 3-October-2012
"Dear Dave and Jan, Just a quick note to thank you for your kind hospitality and the course last weekend. It was a pleasure to meet you both, I had a fantastic time and really felt I picked up a wealth of knowledge to improve my printing. Unfortunately, I think I have brought the Peak District weather back with me as it hasn't stopped raining since I got home!", GS, Sussex, 11-June-2012
"Dave, A brief word of thanks to you and Jan for making me feel so welcome yesterday. Thanks also for your time and patience in the darkroom - I hope your back is ok after that lengthy session. You are both excellent and pleasant company. Thanks also for the voucher and suggestion about the Ilford print service. If you get chance to let me know about the Mamiya service guys I'd appreciate that. All the best to both of you and I hope our paths cross again in the not too distant future. Now where's my tape measure? It's about time we put that wardrobe to good use….Best Regards", PF, Sheffield, 21-May-2012
Hi Both – Thank you very much for your hospitality and for allowing me to take your photographs by pinhole. Jan – my wife deigned to let me watch her eating the crème brulée. She enjoyed it very much and says, “Thank you, so much. Please send the recipe.” Of course, I endorse that request. Dave – I’m very grateful to you for sharing your techniques with me. I was inspired, not only by the technical side but also by the general discussion, and will be in my own darkroom tomorrow, printing some winners. We had a very decent day in Padley Gorge on Monday (not a pinhole in sight) and hope that your trip to Leeds did all you wanted of it. Thanks again and, Dave, I’m looking forward to seeing you tomorrow week at Smethwick. Bess twitches, PY, 2-May-2012
"Dave, Just wanted to say thank you for a great day yesterday. Sara summed it up on the way home when she said "I've learnt more today than the whole of last year" (referring to her photography evening class). We're certainly looking forward to putting the technique in to practice when we next get in the darkroom…life is going to be so much easier! We had a good run home and got back at about half past midnight, which was as good as could be expected really. Thank you for a very enjoyable and informative session. Perhaps join you on one of your other workshops in the near future.", LD & SN, Aberdeen, 13 June 2011
"Dave and Jan, Thank you for the newsletter and the Christmas greetings. I hope you, too, have a happy Christmas and best wishes to you both for the New Year. I really enjoyed the darkroom course, and your hospitality. As a result of what you showed me, I have gone back to basics with my printing: no machines, no meters, no calibration, just back to using my hands and eyes again. And it's a revelation. I'm learning so much more that way about how the materials perform and how to manipulate them to get what I want. I'm following the simple steps you showed me for split-grade, and successfully using the memories on my timer. (I've even started to work a little quicker - you were very patient with my slow pace. I got some glimpses of the speed at which you must normally work, towards the end of the day when you started to join in!). It was a bit of a mixed bag of negatives that I brought with me that day. Some quite ancient, thin and damaged. That was deliberate. It represents what I print from mostly. And I am pleased with the results we got from them. I've done quite a bit at home since the course and am feeling better able to get reasonable results. Now that I have been shown how easy it is to make local changes to density and contrast, I'm assessing my prints more constructively too. Thanks for that. All the best." PT, Cambridge, 24 December 2010
"Dear Dave and Jan, Huge thanks for your hospitality and the immensley pleasurable and rewarding darkroom workshop. Even more thanks for the enlarger. Really looking forward to setting it up and using it. My wife was knocked out by the prints. Thanks again to you both for a really super day. Cheers." RR, 11 April 2010
"It was lovely to see you both yesterday, and thank you for your kind hospitality - the girls had a great time! We had a brilliant weekend visiting Speedwell Cavern, WInnats ridge, Pool cavern, and of course, your latest exhibition in Buxton. We particularly liked the series of 4 trees, and the clouds in the valley shot. We've hung your picture in pride of place in our kitchen, which has a bit of a Parisian feel, so it's really complementary. It's the first thing you see from the hallway. Mark really loves it, and for me it's my daily inspiration before I put my photographic cap on! Thank you so much for the equipment. I've spent the evening looking through all the pieces and it completely exceeds my expectations! Between us we have sorted out a way of attaching the filter tray under the lens and I have swapped the 50mm lens for the 80mm Schneider lens I have - it works a treat! Now I'll need to get my darkroom up and running as soon as possible. Thanks again and I look forward to seeing you at Focus in a few weeks time." KN, Leicestershire, 10-February-2010
"Dear Dave, just a short note to thank you and congratulate you on an excellent course yesterday. I thoroughly enjoyed it and truly learnt a lot. It has been a long time since I worked in a darkroom. The last time would be in the 1970's when I was working in Canada. Wonderful.I have spent all morning searching for the below lens filter kit. Nobody seemed to have it. Eventually I found a firm called Second Hand Darkroom and they have it. I would be very keen to hire your services to do a 2 day course, part of the time learning more about printing and the other part on finishing photos, i.e.mounting, retouching blemishes, getting photos ready to frame, etc. If this is of interest to you I would try to find 2 companions. Also is your lake district course suitable for old men with vertigo and younger men who only take digital photos? My son and I could be interested. Once again thank you for yesterday. I will now go on your website and print off the printing notes. Best wishes." CB, Bradford, 8 November 2009
"Just a line to thank you, and the lovely Jan, for a truly memorable and absorbing day. I'm genuinely gobsmacked at the transformation of my prints but hope that, with sufficient practice, I'll be able to replicate that quality in my own darkroom. I very much look forward to seeing you again in Eskdale in March - assuming that my credit card has recovered from the pounding it took yesterday..." RL, 12 October 2009
"Thank you for a great day last week in the darkroom. I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot. I loved seeing your photographs on the walls and now have 'Sandwood Bay' on mine! An inspiration. Thanks also to Jan for looking after us. You both make a great team and I can't recommend you highly enough. If you are ever in Sutherland please give a call. P.S. I love reading your blog about the Munro's and photos." CM, Bonar Bridge, 22 September 2009
"Hi Dave & Jan, Thank you for your kind hospitality at last weekends darkroom course, I have been back in the darkroom twice this week and have seen a significant increase in printing quality and production. Your advice over getting flat fibre based prints has worked and i'm still learning how to increase the tonal range of my prints. I would be very grateful if you could advise me on further courses in the darkroom with your self so I become a more proficient printer. Thanks." PW, Sheffield, 19 June 2009
"Hi Dave, Just want to thank you for the great workshop and warm hospitality. I really enjoyed the day and I’m planning to attend the landscape workshop sometime in the near future, probably after I get back from Canada in late august. I’ve mentioned the print glazer that you offered to my long suffering wife and was surprised that her reaction was somewhat neutral, therefore, I feel there is hope. Just have to find a suitable place for it and I’ll be in touch if all works out. I was very much taken by the Mamiya 7 and believe that you mentioned that there is a dealer near you that carries them and is the least expensive in Britain, Could you please give me the dealers name again? Thanks again and best regards. NS, Manchester, 15 June 2009
"I just wanted to thank you both for an excellent day yesterday. My wife and daughter were blown away by the print of the Venice mask, not a normal reaction to my prints and I am now sold on the split grade technique. I hope to see you again sometime in the future." MB, Chilbolton, 13 March 2009
"Dave, Many thanks to you for an excellent day on Thursday. Old paper now consigned to recycling - I found a date stamp: 1990 - so it was well past it's use by date! Restocked, and spent this afternoon practicing my newly acquired skills - result: four very satisfying prints. Thanks again.", RG, 14 March 2009
"Just a thank you to say how much i enjoyed the darkroom workshop on Sat 8th November. It was a complete pleasure working in the darkroom under your guidance. My new student loan comes in, in January so I will book another darkroom course with you then. Would it be possible to put my name down when you are offered any complete darkroom's, that you mentioned Saturday. I realize there must be a long waiting list from your clients, but I thought I would mention it, as I am very interested. Picking up such darkroom equipment would prove no problem for me. Thank also, your lovely wife for making me feel so welcome and the gorgeous cake I took home, DS, Lincoln, 13 November 2008
"Many thanks for a super day yesterday. It was fantastic ( as was lunch) it wasn't until I was going the wrong way through Stockport that I realised I should have taken advantage of the picture frame sale for at least my pics alone ! Must have been sniffing too many chemicals. Hope your evening in Chester was good. Many thanks again and kind regards to you both. LM, Heswall, 9 November 2008
"Many thanks for darkroom course, it was very enjoyable and helpful." NF, London, 17-October-2008
"I would just like to say that I strongly admire your images and the way you apply your knowledge and skills in the darkroom to great effect. Your visit [to my University] has had a big effect on me and straight after I wanted to jump right back into the traditional black and white process. ....again thank you for having such an influence on me." DL, Stoke-on-Trent, 27 March 2006