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How to create watergrams

How to create a contact print of water or watergram


This technique of creating a contact print is relatively unexplored in the photographic world, but all things darkroom and analogue are coming back into fashion and this is a great way to create something unique for an A-Level or GCSE photography project or just for a bit of fun in your home darkroom.

What you will need:
Darkroom – develop, stop, fixer and water bath
Photo paper
Shallow. water tight tray
Studio flash head/on camera flash/flashgun/desk lamp
An assistant if possible

The Process

Whilst the lights are still on fill your plastic tray with a little water, enough so it will be able to cover the photographic paper and set down on a flat surface. Then fill your cup about half way and then set this down next to the tray in a position that is easy to locate so you wont knock it over. In order to create a contact print, you’re going to need light, this can be tricky depending on your circumstances. I would recommend experimenting with test strips to ascertain correct exposure before going all out on a piece of A4. If your DSLR has on camera flash, start with that. Take the lens off, put in manual mode and press the button on the side of the body that releases the flash. Enter the camera menu and locate the flash exposure compensation and then set to -3.

Turn the main lights off, turn on the red lights and place your photographic paper in the tray so it is submerged. If you have an assistant their job will be to pour the water from the cup into the tray whilst you aim the camera at the tray and pull the trigger to set off the flash. Once the flash has been triggered, stop pouring the water, remove the photographic paper and begin the developing process.


Examine the results, if the paper is still mostly white, your image is underexposed and you need to either move the flash much closer to the paper or re-enter the camera menu and methodically increase the flash exposure until you get it right.

If you don’t have a DSLR with on camera flash, you can alternatively use a desk lamp that you turn on and off as quick as you can. The main disadvantage with this is the flash duration. In order to freeze the motion you need a fast burst of light, but with practice it can still be done. If you have access to a studio flash head these have a much shorter flash duration, but have a much higher light output so you would need to vary the distance of the flash to the paper in order to achieve correct exposure.


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