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How to create contact prints

Best photography ideas – How to create a contact print or photogram

This technique harks back to the origins of photography, also referred to as Rayographs after Man Ray. Photographers that you can research for your A-Level or GCSE photography project are:
Man Ray, Christian Schad, Martha Madigan and Lazslo Moholy Nagy.

contact print

what you will need
darkroom – develop, stop, fixer and water bath
photo paper
enlarger/studio flash head/on camera flash/flashgun/desk lamp

It looks easy, but takes a long time to master. Different objects will have different levels of transparency and density which will vary the exposure time, so if you’re layering objects the exposure time will vary greatly. This is a great opportunity to score marks for your project as your work will improve quickly and it is easy to reference other photographers work as creating work in their style is often a case of finding similar objects to lay on top of the paper.

The Process

Make sure you have laid out all of the items you intend to make a print of in easy to reach locations. Turn on the red lights, make sure the safety filter is deployed on the enlarger and turn on the enlarger preview lights. Raise or lower the enlarger to match the size of photographic paper you’re using, place the paper on the enlarger making sure that the light covers all of the paper. Arrange your objects on top of the page, taking care over your composition. Remember what ever is touching the paper will be sharper than those that are hovering slightly above it. Again exposure time may take some tweaking, fresh developer should give you an exposure time of one to two seconds. When the print is in the developer, if it looks like its turning black, don’t take it out for fear of losing your print and make sure you leave it for at least two minutes. If you take it out two early you’ll never know what correct exposure should be for your prints, if its completely black, you’ve overexposed it, sure you lost that image but going forward you’ll have a much better idea for all future prints. Also if you take your print out too early just to save it, it will probably be streaky anyway, so let it do its thing and learn from the outcome.

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