Making Photograms

Posted on Posted in How to

A photogram is a picture that is printed without a camera or printer. It is when you put objects onto light-sensitive paper and the expose it to light creating a negative silhouette. For my MEDI167 module and my exhibition I tried creating photograms. This post will be about how I got on.

(Although all my photograms were successful,  I wouldn’t use this as a ‘how to guide’ as I can’t remember everything I did)

There are two ways to make photograms, the easy way is to use a ilfolab 2150rc table top processor which develops the paper for you, or the old-fashioned way of processing it using chemicals. I attempted both.

We will start of with the easy way:

Firstly you need access to a dark room and light-sensitive paper. I used the facilities at Plymouth University, and bought paper from their library shop. I could only afford the basic Glossy black and white paper at 10×8 this was adequate for what I needed.


Making sure you have put the safe light on in the dark room you can safely, before taking the paper out of its packet make sure that the light on the enlarger is working and is the right size. Also make sure the timer is working. Once everything is ready it is then safe to remove the paper out of its packet.


Place the paper on the enlarger and put the object or in my case a hand on the paper set the timer to how every dark you want the background. The longer the light is on the darker the background will be. For mine I had the timer set for 20 seconds to get more detail.


Now the paper has been exposed it is now ready to be processed. The machine is the same as the one I showed you in the blog about developing negatives, the ilfolab 2150rc table top processor develops and fixes the photogram in one go. After the photogram has gone through the machine it has been processed and can now be exposed to light (make sure all the paper is put away before turing the light on).

The second and more time-consuming way is by using chemicals. You do exactly the same as the previous method but instead of putting it in a machine at the end you put the paper in different chemicals.








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The most tricky part of the process is getting the chemicals ready. It is best to get the chemicals ready before you start making the photograms, so you can see what you are doing. You need developer and fixer, most of these chemicals need diluting with water and most of the bottles will tell you what ratio you need. You need three tanks, one with developer, one with water and the other with fixer. It is also essential to have a bath of running water in it. Once all the tanks are set up you can then start making the photograms.


With the exposed paper place it into the first tank of developer, make sure it sits at the bottom of the tank. This needs to be in there for roughly 1 minute, occasionally moving it throughout. Then using a pair of tongs grab a corner and hold it up out of the tank, let any excess drip down. Place the paper in the second tank of water for 30 seconds and give it a shake a couple of times. Using the tongs again hold the paper up and let any excess water drip off. The paper then goes in the final tank of fixer for 2 minutes. Shake the paper regularly and make sure it is fully immersed.


Once the paper has been through all three tanks it now needs to be washed. As my prints were only 10×8 it only needed a minute in water. If the paper is any bigger I would advise longer in the water. Make sure the paper is fully immersed and is shaken regularly. The university had large baths so I only needed 30 seconds in each.

It is now safe for your photogram to be exposed to light. With a special squeezer (not the technical term) remove any excess water from the print and place on a drying rack.

Once the photogram is dry the process is finished. I really enjoyed the longer process and felt I have more control over how my photogram looked. Both methods were effective and fairly easy, the photograms I created are better than expected and are ready for my exhibition.


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