This is the "Photography" page of the "Health and Safety Considerations in the Arts" guide.
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Health and Safety Considerations in the Arts  

Last Updated: Sep 27, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Photography Print Page

Black and White

      Black and white photography can be developed at lower temperatures and is therefore often less volatile which reduces the potential for exposure.  However, silver and strong acids and bases are still used, along with other chemicals and caution should be taken.

Health & Safety
Information on the chemical safety and health hazards from Ilford Photo. The focus is on black and white processes with general darkroom safety tips. 

Disposal and Containment

      It is important to remember that you can come in contact with these chemicals not only when you are actively developing images. Chemicals may leak out of containers and are volatile, which may cause harm to you, your family, and the environment. If you do decide to use strong acids, bases, and heavy metals, make sure you store them in proper containers, and that you are aware of the local hazardous waste disposal regulations and opportunities for household hazardous waste collection.   This is not only about following the law, it is also about keeping you and everyone and everything around you safe and healthy. 

Safety And Disposal Guidelines For The Use Of Photographic Chemicals 
A brief guide on proper containment and disposal methods (note this is for the state of Florida, so it may be slightly different than your own state regulations) and also the general hazards that accompany the photographic process.

Photo Processor ERP Forms and Certification Workbook
Links to the forms and certification workbook by the Massachusetts DEP on photo processing chemical waste. This includes forms on waste pick up, reporting spills, and instructions on procedures.


      Color photography uses the most hazardous materials and is considered the most dangerous. Color processing uses inorganic compounds and must be heated to very high temperatures, making the chemicals and baths more volatile.

Darkroom and Safety Guides

      There are many different types of photography, each associated with it’s own sets of risks as well as risks facing all types of photographers.  There are four main types of photographic process: black and white, color, alternative processing, and digital.
Overexposure: Health Hazards in Photography
By Monona Rossol
This book (published in 1991) goes through the different risks and dangers experienced by a variety of different types of photographers and ways to work more safely.
Photographic Processing Hazards 
A thorough description of the hazards in photography, written by Michael McCann, a practitioner who noted the issues with toxic chemicals in art materials early on.
Photography Darkrooms: Safety in the Darkroom
A description of the common dangers found in a darkroom and how to control and limit them.

Alternative Processing

      A catch-all phrase for other developing processes that do not fit into color or black and white. These are often monochromatic and have been used historically. While many of these processes are less harmful, there are also others that are very toxic. It is important to remember that categorizing a process or technique as an “alternative process” does not tell you anything about its toxicity.
Anthotypes – step by step instructions to making a print using plants 
Interested in venturing more into the realm of non-toxic/natural photography? Anthotypes have been made since the 1850’s and use plant material and photosynthesis to create the image. Lumen Prints and the chlorophyll process also use the sun to develop the image through bleaching.
The Frugal Photographer's Non-toxic Pinhole Camera Developer
Describes a method of using coffee to develop pictures.
Toning black & white photographs with organic materials 
A list of readily available organic colorants you can use to tone black and white images.

Toxics Use Reduction Institute - University of Massachusetts Lowell
600 Suffolk St. - Wannalancit Mills - Lowell MA 01854

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