How Is The Print Made
The film negative is fitted into a carrier based on its size (120, 35mm, etc.). That carrier will hold the negative once placed into the photo enlarger. A photo enlarger is a transparent projector that turns developed negatives into enlarged prints. When the enlarger switches on, light shines through the negative. This light is often diffused by a piece of glass or other material to ensure even illumination. The light then passes through the enlarger's lens, much like a projector. You can adjust the lens aperture (how wide the lens opens) to control how much light passes through. A smaller aperture (higher f-stop number) means less light but a greater depth of field (more of the image in focus), while a larger aperture (lower f-stop number) means more light but a shallower depth of field. The light then projects the image from the negative onto the baseboard below.
The projected image is a larger version of what's on the negative, hence the term "enlarger." You can adjust the focus by moving the enlarger lens closer or further from the negative and changing the final print's size by moving the entire enlarger head (which includes the light source and the lens) up and down. Once everything is set, you place a piece of light-sensitive photographic paper on the baseboard, which is then exposed to the projected image for a certain amount of time, controlled by you. This time is calculated by making a "test strip," where a single sheet is exposed in strips at increasing times.
For example, a sheet is exposed in strips at increasing times like 5, 10, 15, or 20 seconds, and the strips are used to determine proper development time. This time, the lens aperture, sensitivity of the paper, and things like contrast filters determine the brightness of the final print.
Once the print is removed from the enlarger, it is moved through a series of baths. First, the print moves to the developer, then it is extracted using tongs and put in the stop bath tray; then, the same is done and placed in the fixer. Developing usually lasts 1 minute to 90 seconds, stops around 30 seconds to 1 minute, and fixers around 3-5 minutes; however, these times can change based on the paper used, the mixing ratios, and the brand of chemicals themselves. After fixing, the print can be rinsed in running water to remove residual chemicals, squeegeed gently to remove excess water, and placed on a drying rack to dry. Once you feel comfortable with this workflow, the world of darkroom prints becomes wide open.