Photography – A Beginner’s Guide – Photograms 4 – Process – Hands – An article by Goff James

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Experimenting with photograms.

A photogram is a type of contact print, made without the use of a camera or negative.

A photogram is created by placing objects on light sensitive material and then exposing it to light.

For more information about the whole process of creating photograms refer to my article ‘Photograms 3 – Process’.

As a beginner, don’t be afraid of experimenting with photograms and trying to understand the processes involved. They are great fun.

The following are some further notes and reminders to assist one the process.

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The darkroom, if one has access to one, needs to be lit with a safelight red dome that does not fog paper. The safelight allows one to see what one is doing in a room that would otherwise be totally dark.

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Printing paper 

Printing paper is coated with a light sensitive emulsion and is used to expose the items on to make the photogram.


It is important that the chemicals are at the correct temperature. The temperature of the developer is the most important part but, unlike film, one can watch as the image appears and adjust the developing time accordingly. Watching the image appear I found quite fascinating.

Unlike film, one can watch as the image appears and time the development accordingly.

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One needs to use the correct timings time when the paper is in the developer, stop bath and fixer, although accurate timing is less important than it is with film processing.

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The developer reacts with the exposed areas of silver in the paper’s emulsion turning these parts black to form an image.

Areas that receive more light become blacker when developed. Areas that receive no light stay clear. It is the developer that produces a result.

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Stop Bath

The stop bath contains the acid solution that quickly counteracts the developer to prevent over development of the paper.



The fixer dissolves any unused silver halides that were not developed and stops the paper from being light sensitive.

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Diluting Chemicals

The chemicals that one uses for development need to be diluted before use. The dilution rate is 1:10 parts water. The chemicals are harmful and need to be handled with great care.

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The Development Trays

Three shallow trays not much larger than the prints being made need to be used to avoid using too much solutions to cover the print.

The trays hold:

the developer,

stop bath and

fix for processing.

Goff James, Hand, 2017

Running Water 

Running water is required to ensure all traces of fixer are removed before the print is dried.

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Electric Dryer

After completing the development process the prints need to be dried. The prints travel through the dryer which allows air to travel over both surfaces to ensure rapid drying.

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If you have a photo editor don’t be afraid to experiment. This is your photography world you can do what you like.

I trust that you find some of these ideas useful within the context of your own photography. Don’t be afraid to experiment and allow different ideas to develop as you go along. Toyed with the use of monochrome and the effect and impact that it might have or not have on narrative creation.

Remember what I referred to in previous articles about taking photos and photograms; the same applies to considering your own and others photos.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Experiment! Experiment! Experiment!

There are no right or wrong answers or ways of doing it. 

Don’t worry about the theory and trying to remember everything about how to take or consider how to look at or stage a photograph.

Don’t worry about what you might think is right or wrong in talking about or taking photographs.

 Make mistakes. Laugh. Have funJust Enjoy the process.

Happy Photography. 

Photograms Attribution © Goff James, Art Photography Poetry

Art Photography Poetry


Reference List

Andrew Johnson—traditional-darkroom-ideas-4688