17 Photograms

Photograms are a type of camera-less photography where objects or materials are placed directly onto light-sensitive paper and then exposed to light. The resulting image is a silhouette of the object on a black background.


There are many types of photographs but let’s stick to black-and-white images using the same chemicals and processes you will be using to print your photographs from film negatives.

The process of making a photogram is relatively simple. In a darkroom, a light-sensitive sheet of paper is placed under the enlarger. Then, objects or materials are arranged on top of the paper. These objects can be any opaque or semitransparent or translucent materials such as leaves, flowers, wires, textured fabrics, etc. Once the objects are in place and create a desired design, the paper is exposed to light. The length of time for the exposure will vary depending on the light source and the type of paper being used. So do a test strip, it will save you time and money.

After exposure, the paper is developed, just like traditional photographic paper. The result is a black-and-white or greyscale image, with the objects appearing as white or grey areas against a darker background.

Photograms are often used in art to create abstract or surreal images that play with light and shadow. Because the process is camera-less, photograms also allow for a greater degree of experimentation and spontaneity in the creation of the final image.

Materials Needed:

  • Light-sensitive paper ( photographic paper)
  • Objects to be used in the photogram (such as leaves, flowers, or other semitransparent, translucent, or opaque items)
  • A light source (such as the light under the enlarger)
  • A darkroom for developing the photogram
  • Developing chemicals for prints


  1. Start by setting up your trays with the chemical solutions in the darkroom
  2. Turn off the darkroom overhead lights and turn on the safe orange/red light only.
  3. Cut a sheet of light-sensitive paper to the desired size.
  4. Arrange your objects on top of the paper in any pattern or configuration that you like. The objects will block the light from reaching the paper differently depending on their transparency level.
  5. Now follow the steps for how to make a contact proof

Making a Photogram by ILFORD Photo

To learn how to use the darkroom and the chemicals and how to make your first photographic image without a camera or a negative please go to chapter 16 PRINT PROCESSING (PRINTING THE NEGATIVE)


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Photography: What, How, Why Copyright © 2023 by Maria Politarhos and Randy Matusow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book