A Homemade Photo Enlarger

After a bit of trial and error, the author found a way to make a reliable and affordable photo enlarger.

| November/December 1980

  • 066 photo enlarger - parts
    Materials and equipment for a photo enlarger include aluminum foil, plate glass, a cable release, a 35mm camera, a tripod, a cardboard box, a light bulb, and a light fixture with cord.
  • 066 photo enlarger - interior
    The "innards" of the enlarger box before it is sealed. The square hole at the bottom of the carton allows the light to pass out of the box and through the glass, negative, and lens ... and then project the image.
  • 066 photo enlarger - diagram
    Diagram of the homemade photo enlarger.
  • 066 photo enlarger - enlarger mounted on camera
    The author directly under the lens, at the point where the negative's image will appear. The camera — with the enlarger set on top — is attached to a tripod and placed face down. Note the cable release attached to the camera's top.

  • 066 photo enlarger - parts
  • 066 photo enlarger - interior
  • 066 photo enlarger - diagram
  • 066 photo enlarger - enlarger mounted on camera

Not long ago, a friend (and fellow photo hobbyist) told me, with no little pride, that he'd designed and built a low-cost homemade photo enlarger. I congratulated him on his ingenuity but — I confess — assumed that the device was likely an interesting plaything rather than a practical piece of photographic equipment. Therefore, when it came time for me to have an enlarger, I promptly made the rounds of my area's photo supply stores to see what such establishments had to offer.

It soon became clear that I'd have to do one heck of an enlarging job on my budget before I'd be able to purchase one of the expensive pieces of equipment. I was, as the saying goes, between a rock and a hard place. So (extremely grateful that I'd kept my doubts about his creation to myself) I called my picture-taking buddy and asked him to tell me how he'd built his enlarger.

Well, to make a long story short, I wound up assembling five of the devices before I felt I'd really developed the design to its full potential. The fifth enlarger, though, worked like a charm ... and as an added bonus, I believe I learned enough in the course of putting my rejects together to tell you how to produce a "perfect" blow-up-maker on your first attempt!

Here We Go

Before you begin work on your homemade enlarger, gather the necessary components: your 35mm camera and a tripod (most such cameras come equipped with a 50mm lens, which will allow you to make 8" X 10" and larger prints ... a "macro", or close-up, lens will give you the capability of making smaller prints, as well), a box of aluminum foil, a scrap of plate glass, a cable release, a corrugated cardboard box of about 4 1/2" X 4 1/2" X 10", a roll of gray duct tape, an enlarging bulb (you can buy one at almost any photo shop), and a translucent plastic milk carton (a piece of which will be built into the enlarger as a filter, to prevent "hot spots" from marring your photos).

Now, mount your camera on the tripod. with the lens facing down, open the imagemaker's back, and set one small end of the box on the opening. (This will enable, you to see how well the box will "mesh" with the tripod/camera assembly and to make modifications if necessary. For example, I had to trim the carton a bit to accommodate some inconvenient protrusions on my tripod!) When the components have been "custom fit" to one another, remove the box and — on the end that will rest upon the camera — cut out a centered 1 1/2" X 2" rectangle. (The light will pass through the hole and through the negative, projecting — by way of the camera's lens — the enlarged image on your photo paper.) On the opposite side of the container, trace and cut out a hole large enough for the socket of your light fixture (roughly 1 1/2" in diameter).

Once the openings are made, you can line the interior of the box with aluminum foil (dull side out), taping the reflective material securely in place. Then put the light fixture in position and screw the enlarging bulb into the socket from the inside of the box.

1/31/2018 10:23:17 PM

What wattage of bulb would you recommend?

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