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Moving Beyond Digital Photography: Exploring Alternative Photography Techniques

A polymath from humble beginnings, spiralling. Bit of a wretch.



Cyanotypes: The most beginner friendly alternative photography technique

As the name and images suggest, cyanotypes produce a print which is cyan-blue in color, with objects/subjects depicted in white. One of the easiest alternative methods to learn, this technique does not require a darkroom, only needing a negative film or any object, and a couple of easily available chemicals.

The two chemicals mainly required are Potassium ferricyanide (25 gm in 100 ml of water) and Ferric Ammonium Citrate (10 gm in 100 ml water).

These two chemicals are mixed with water separately, and then mixed together in a third container in equal proportion, and then are applied on to the paper/card to create a cyanotype. Using gloves and keeping the chemicals away from skin contact is advised.

Once the chemical mix is ready, it is painted on to the paper, depending on the size of the print required. Once done, a negative is placed on a piece of glass, and placed on the painted area.

The sandwiched negative is then exposed to UV light. This light is usually natural sunlight, however UV lamps are also used. Interesting objects, flowers or shapes are utilized by placing them in the stream of light hitting the paper, which creates fascinating silhouettes on the print.

Exposure time can vary between a few minutes to a few hours, hence some trial and error is involved in finding the optimum amount of exposure time.

Once exposed, the paper is washed and rinsed, until all the chemicals are washed off. The paper is rinsed gently until the water is clear, which helps in quickening the blue color of the print, due to oxidization.

Once washed, it is hung out to dry. The cyanotype is ready for exhibition.



Anthotypes: The most eco-friendly technique

Anthotypes use the most naturally available photo-sensitive material to create photographic prints: flower petals, fruit peels and plant pigments.

The first step is to grind/mash the flower petals to create the anthotype emulsion. Almost any kind of flower can be used to create the emulsion, however the exposure time and image created by each type is different and unique. A mortar and pestle is used to grind the flowers, although even a blender will do the job.

After grinding a petal pulp is created, to which, a few drops of water or oil or alcohol is added to dilute the pulp slightly. Once that's done, the pulp is strained through a coffee filter or a cheesecloth to ensure all the liquid is collected, and no pulp is strained through. The strained liquid is observed carefully, to ensure that no pulpy bits are visible, as the solution is now ready to be applied on to the paper.

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The strained liquid is then applied onto any paper/card surface to create an anthotype print . After application, the paper is left to be dried, away from sunlight.

The next step is a critical part of the process where a photograph or a printout is chosen. High contrast images, with good amounts of deep blacks and whites are ideal for creating anthotypes. Unlike cyanotypes, this technique utilizes positive images printed on acetate, with transparency of the object playing a key role. The technique bleaches the pigment, and blacks in the image will ensure that shapes are created more recognizable. Ideally, images printed on an inkjet printer work best, as they ensure the right transparency.

Once the image is chosen, it is placed on a glass piece and placed onto the painted area, and then exposed to sunlight.

Exposure time can be anything between a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the type of flower/peel/pigment chosen. This technique allows one to check on the bleaching process, and exposure time can be tweaked accordingly.

Chlorophyll Prints


Chlorophyll Prints: Using Photosynthesis for photographic prints

As the images and the name suggests, this technique utilizes the natural process of photosynthesis to create prints, using leaves instead of paper as the surface for printing. This process requires the least amount of specialized ingredients to create a print, however, the time period can be slightly longer than the other techniques mentioned.

The first step is choosing the right photo. The photo chosen cannot have too many dark areas and light patches. To put it simply, ]uneven tones are avoided, as they will not result in the ideal print. Digital photographs can be converted to black and white, while maintaining a balance between dynamic contrast, and a sufficiently broad tonal range. A big reason for this is, that plant leaves have lesser tonal range compared to paper, hence tailoring positives is essential to get the best results.

The positive is then printed, using inkjet printers. Depending on the requirement, multiple copies are printed and stuck together, to get a better density of the image.

Leaves with wide surface area are chosen, and also ensured that they flatten completely, so that when the positive print is pressed on it, every part of the leaf comes into contact with it.

The positive print is placed on a piece of glass, and placed on the leaf. It's then exposed to the sun, for a few days at the least. The exposure level can be checked periodically, and the exposure time can be tweaked accordingly.


Nelson Wilbury (author) from India on May 24, 2021:

Thank you! All the best with your prints!

Amy Jackson from Brooklyn on May 24, 2021:

Chlorophyll Prints are amazing and seem very difficult to create. Anyway, I love the technique you have explained. Great!

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