If you want to make progress, you need to make sure that you don't repeat
your errors, at least not too often, and that you do repeat your successes.
Without a log of everything you did, it is impossible to maximize your
progress - I learnt that especially when doing a job in pharmaceutical R&D.
That's why I decided to rely heavily on a set of forms I designed; it has
become a set that covers everything from shooting (35mm and sheet) to
darkroom work. Everything is written down in a way that I can always refer
back to it and filed in a file with tab sheets; the first thing when preparing
my darkroom is fetching the file.
I present it here so that others may benefit. All the links
to the forms are to PostScript versions; the forms have been designed for
the A4 paper format (210x297mm) although the full paper size hasn't been
used (my DeskJet can't print on the last inch). If you need another format,
please tell me.
- 35mm exposure log
- Allows you to enter basic exposure data: camera mode, f-stop, shutter
speed, exposure correction, flash, remarks. Space for type of film
and start/stop date, plus serial number (every roll I shoot gets a
serial number for reference).
- Sheet exposure log
- Ansel Adams-inspired form that lets you enter full exposure data for
up to two sheets: basic exposure, filter factors, bellows extension,
zone placement decisions, etcetera.
- Chemical usage log
- Per container, I have a sheet on which I can note contents, usage,
the results of tests, expiry date, etcetera. I use these to keep
track especially of stuff like film fixer.
- Film development log
- Referring to the rolls/sheet by the serial number, this form has
a line per roll/sheet(set) that lets you enter EI, developer, time,
temperature and comments.
- Enlarger calibration log
- A form that I use to note the results of maximum black tests so I
can always refer back to them.
- When making a teststrip, I tape this form on the base board and put
a little bit of non-permanent (PostIt) glue on it (Scotch has a stick
with the stuff, very handy). You can note exposure data for up to
7 tries on the form, and I always stamp the final test strip (eg. when
doing maximum black tests) to the form and file it. If something goes
wrong, I can refer back to the test strip and recheck my decision at
- Print log
- Like every roll/sheet, every print worth keeping gets a serial number
in my darkroom. This form lets you write down, for every print, the
negative you used, the enlarger settings, exposure time, whether and
how much dodging and burning you used, and some comments. With this,
people wanting extra prints just need to shout the serial number and
I'll have them a copy within minutes.
- Note sheets
- To complete the set, a form that is basically a notepad. It has a
column for an id (again, I use a serial number here) so you can easily
refer on a not-so-easy print to note 123 and use the space on
this form to write down a more complete specification of the dodging
and burning applied to a certain print.