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Develop your own photo creations with the light of the sun. No chemicals required!

Photograms: the art of making photos by directly arranging objects on photo paper and letting them expose in the sun. Yep, you can create your own dark room in your hall closet and expose them on right on your back deck! The result is a cool, cartoon-y, high-contrast image that lets you preserve images of objects like a time capsule. The photo paper will fade eventually since you won’t be preserving with chemicals, but you can scan ’em, print ’em, or turn them into your own digital art gallery.

You’ll need:

Small objects to make your image with

Black and white photo paper (you can grab some at most office supply stores)

A sunny spot

A super dark room or closet

A light proof box

A sheet of glass that fits over your photo paper

A scanner

Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: create your image

Gather your items and make a collage on a piece of paper or cardboard. Leaves, shells, flowers, stencils or other nature items work great. You can also make tiny prints out of film negatives, if you have them! Now, memorize where you’ve placed everything on your work surface because the next time you’ll see them, you’ll be in your “dark room.”

Step 2: ready your chamber of darkness

Take your collage, photo paper (don’t open it!) and light-proof box and head to the darkest room in your house. Set them down and turn off all the lights. Now you can open up your box of photo paper. Take out one sheet and arrange your photo scene on the photo paper. Once you’re done, stash it in your other light-proof box and close it tight.

Step 4: reveal your image to the sunlight

Take the box with the photo paper in it to the sunny spot where you’ll be exposing it (you can also use a lamp – it’ll take a bit longer to expose, though.) Open the box, take out the paper and lay a piece of glass over it to make sure the wind doesn’t blow everything away.

Step 5: wait for your image to expose

Let your photo paper hang out in the sun for 30 minutes to an hour. If you’re using a lamp, it’ll take about 1 – 4 hours. The longer you let it expose, the more stark the contrast will be. While you’re waiting for it to expose, plan your next trip to the cottage, have a paper airplane competitioneat some flowers. You know, whatevs. When your photo is done, take the sheet of glass off and close the lightproof box to stop the exposure.

Step 6: preserve your masterpiece

After you’ve marveled at your photogram for a while, stick it in your scanner and get it on your computer. You’ll have to invert the image to make it positive (photograms make images that look like negatives.)

Once you’ve mastered photograms, you may be inspired to move on to amateur photography. Check out these 5 kid-friendly cameras for a starting point. More tech-minded artiste’s will also get a kick out of these memory keeping apps for smartphone scrapbooking.

Photos by aresauburnkeoshibuckovenpoppet with a cameramichellecarl via Flickr. 

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