20141202_163851 20141202_170232 Photograms lesson



In this assignment students will:

  • explore the darkroom environment.
  • examine the parts and using the enlarger.
  • understand the chemical process of traditional photography.
  • examine the process of making a photograph.
  • create a set of photograms images based on a theme.

A photogram is a photographic image made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive material such as photographic paper and then exposing it to light. The usual result is a negative shadow image that shows variations in tone that depends upon the transparency of the objects used.

How to make a photogram

To make a photogram, first you will need to have a variety of opaque to transparent objects.

The objects will be placed on photographic paper in the darkroom with the safe time on, enlarger light off until processing.  I will give you the paper for this project, but you will have to have your own supplies by next class.

Follow the steps below:

1 Set up the light source so that it covers an area bigger than the paper you are going to use.

2 With the lights out and the safelight on, at a safe distance, arrange your objects on the paper.


3 Make a test strip: A test strip helps you determine the proper printing time for your image.  Every enlarger will have a different light, so it is best to make a test strip every time you change enlargers, batches of film, or have a new lightbulb installed.  Pick one enlarger and try to stay with that enlarger until you get a feel for the process.

(Click on Darkroom_Printing to open worksheet on test strips. Follow test strip 1 for this project.)

4 Switch the enlarger on and expose for the time determined by the test strip. As a guide ten seconds should be long enough with the lens set at f/8.

5 Carefully take the objects off the paper and place the paper in the developer, then stop bath, then fix (see test strip article for times).

6 Wash and dry – success your first photogram! Ideally this should have clean white silhouettes against a rich black background. If you use transparent objects you’ll end up with results more like Man Ray’s rayograms with areas of grey too.

Research artist MAN RAY.  He was the inventor of the “rayograph” which is now what we call photograms.


How do you think he made this?
How do you think he made this?

More Examples of Photograms:

Some subjects to use
Nuts & bolts, keys, feathers, ferns, pieces of cut card shapes, stencils, scissors, tools, nails, safety pins, paper clips, springs, plastic and glass items, netting, developing reels, negatives, bottles, hands, feet, lightbulbs, shells, dried fruit slices…and, most of all…imagination.

Assignment: For this project, you will explore the elements and principles of art to create a set (two images) photogram series.  They can be more abstract or have a literal approach (ex: two photograms that tell a story.)  

Here are four different photogram making techniques.  You can mix the techiniques or just stick to one.  Try playing with all of them if you have paper.  

OPACITY:  Select at least three objects of different opacities (opaque, translucent, transparent). Arrange and set timer for five to ten seconds.

 MOVEMENT: Use your hand to move objects while the enlarger light is ON (five to ten sec).

 MULTIPLE EXPOSURE:  Use a series of two to four short exposures on the same photo paper. Set timer for one to three seconds and use cardboard to cover part of paper. Move cardboard or objects and repeat.

PAPER NEGATIVE: Create a sharpie and/or pencil drawing on printer paper and contact print.