Created By: nyanman on June 20, 2012


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In quite a lot of media where film is used for a photograph, you are likely to encounter a scene where the photographer is in a darkroom developing the print, when the door is opened, destroying the print. It always happens before the print has been put into the fixer, as the image is destroyed completely. The main part here is that the photo is then worthless and either cannot be saved, or requires lots of technology to recover. Sometimes, this can be used by a character to destroy evidence of something they have done. In real life, to print an image requires the negative to be developed and fixed, and thus rendered insensitive to light. A print that was developed and then exposed to light becomes a solarized print, not a piece of solid black paper. Also, as the negative was able to be printed from, even if a print is destroyed, you can make as many prints as you want.
Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • June 20, 2012
    Actually if a print is developed but not fixed, then exposure to light will cause it to turn pink or redish. Solarization only occurs when the print is further developed after fogging. (It's technically not solarization, but an effect that looks similar.) Film doesn't show much effect if it's briefly fogged in between development and fixing.
  • June 20, 2012
    It sounds like a good idea. I think it happens a lot in 1990s's detective series.
  • June 20, 2012
    Sometimes Alice snaps a photo and Bob will take her camera, open it, and remove the film, thus destroying the photo.

    • Get Smart had Max open the door to the darkroom, ruining the process, a few times. Once they even inverted it: CONTROL has created film which you can process in full light. Max walks in, sees them working on the film, and turns the lights off. That's what destroys the negative.
  • June 20, 2012
    Happens in The Great Muppet Caper, destroying Gonzo's evidence of the jewel theft. (Though I think the prints get "solarized" before going black entirely).
  • June 20, 2012
    • In the "Wacky Deli" episode of Rockos Modern Life, one of Ralph's attempts to sabotage the titular show is to walk into the camera room while the guys are taking the film out of the camera and into the can, thus overexposing it. He even has a searchlight with him to make extra sure. Like all of his other attempts, however, it just makes the show even more popular.
    • In the infamous "Lemon Wacky Hello" episode of Just Shoot Me, the board with the magazine layout falls just as Elliot takes a picture of it. Maya figures they can reconstruct the board from the picture, but Elliot, under the influence of the aforementioned Lemon Wacky Hello, takes the film out of the camera right that very moment, musing that "it's usually dark when I do this."
  • June 20, 2012
    Does This Count?
    • In an episode of Kung Fu Caine helps a Native American who believes a photographer, having taken his picture without his knowledge, has stolen his spirit. Since the Native American worships the sun, the water, the wind, and fire, one step in the process to restore his spirit is to expose the negative to the sun until it blackens. Then he burns the photo in a campfire and pours water over the flame, causing smoke to be released to the wind.
  • September 11, 2012
  • September 11, 2012
    If this is about spoiling a darkroom print by walking in, this desparately needs a better title. Not So Darkroom makes me think it's about the illumination of the darkroom itself (and most darkrooms use lamps which the print paper isn't sensitive to anyway, so yes you can have decent illumination).
  • September 11, 2012
  • March 20, 2013
    I would expand this to the dramatic darkroom scene. It can be ruined by someone blundering in, but this would include the tense scenes where the character is carefully processing the incriminating or exculpatory film. The photo paper is dipped in one tray of chemicals then another, and slowly, dramatically, the image appears.
  • March 20, 2013
    I'm not 100% sure on this, I'll try to dig it out of the vast Random Archives, but
    • In The Amazing Spider Man #262 a rival photographer gets Peter Parker on film changing into his Spider-Man outfit. Parker ends up "accidentally" ruining the film in order to destroy the evidence. EDIT 8/1/14: Having checked the archives I was wrong. The photographer still has the negative at the end of the story, but ultimately realizes that it'll be impossible to find that one face in all of New York City.
  • March 24, 2013
    Western Animation
    • The Pink Panther cartoon "Smile Pretty, Say Pink" has the Pink Panther mistake flashbulbs for eggs, and devour a dozen of them. Then, whenever he hiccups, Pink lights up. Terrified of his plight, Pink runs into a photographers' dark room. There, he hiccups, lights up, and runs away, leaving Big Nose with ruined film.
  • March 24, 2013
    Not sure if this counts, but:
    • Ghostbusters plays with this heavily in the second film. The Big Bad ghost the team has photographed causes all the pictures taken of him to spontaneously combust while still in the darkroom. Ray and Egon barely escape with their lives because the door is locked.
  • March 24, 2013
    Happens in a The Far Side comic. A photographer is excited to see that he's developed an indisputable photo of a flying saucer, just as his mother(?) opens the door to bring him a snack.
  • May 19, 2014
  • July 31, 2014
    Bumping. Very interesting idea, though it's probably less likely to be found in contemporary fiction because digital photography more or less replaced the good old classic.
  • This should be Up For Grabs; it's got a couple of hats, though none of the examples in this thread have been added to the OP.
  • June 27, 2015
    • ''Western Animation/Gravity Falls" - in "The Land Before Swine", Dipper sets up three cameras around a steak in order to get a picture of whatever's been stealing sheep and trashing cars in the area. He develops the photos (revealing a pterodactyl) just as Soos barges in with a bowl of "victory nachos" - so long, evidence! Of course, it's rendered moot when the beastie zooms by after grabbing Waddles.
  • June 27, 2015
  • June 27, 2015
    ^ I guess if you know what a darkroom is, it's pretty clear. It's also a technical term, so it should be given the option to stay and teach people even if (to start with) some don't get it.

    I think In the book (not film) of I Am Number Four it sort-of happens twice: John hides in the darkroom when his hands start glowing, at the same time destroying all the photos that Sarah had in there. This has the added bonus of wiping his face off pictures, and Sarah thinks he did it deliberately because of his dislike of having his picture taken. Later in the big fight in the high school the pair hideout/develop more pictures in the darkroom when a Mog blasts the door open with a light-beam weapon.