Photography tips for making solar prints from everyday subjects
Necessary time : 30 minutes
Competence level: Beginner
Kit required: Sunprint Paper • Printed photos or interesting objects
Watch the video: learn how to take a solar footprint
As the seasons change and the sun reappears, use the increased light to create your own homemade solar footprints. This is a great home garden project – and it’s also something you can do with kids of all ages when they’re out of school.
First of all, what is it Solar footprints? Simply put, Sunprint is a special type of photographic paper based on the cyanotype process and sensitive to sunlight. You can choose it in line or in craft shops.
When you expose it to daylight, the areas that block sunlight appear white and the rest of the paper turns bright blue. These blue prints have character. You can either make prints of physical objects directly on paper, or transfer images taken on your DSLR via a transparency sheet, which is the method we demonstrate here.
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The beauty of this project is its simplicity. You don’t need a darkroom, a fancy kit, or in-depth knowledge of film processing to get started. Plus, unlike traditional photo prints, Sunprints can be made without any photo chemicals, so they’re really great to try with enthusiastic kids who have art and science projects.
Find out how to turn your own digital photos into authentic homemade photo prints using this quick and easy process. All you need is some sun, some water and some imagination. Expose, develop, then rinse the paper in water, and watch – as if by magic – a beautiful, lasting image begins to appear.
FIRST STEP: Prepare your image
You will need a negative version of the photo you want to turn into a Sunprint
01 CHOOSE YOUR SHOT
First, decide which photo (s) to try. Typically, high contrast scenes work best, as the end result will only be in a blue monochrome. Images already in black and white lend themselves well to the technique. Avoid complex photos and those that rely on lots of tonal details.
02 TURN IT
In Photoshop (or similar editing software), convert your digital image to grayscale mode and invert the tones by going to Image> Mode> Grayscale, then Image> Adjustments> Invert (or press Cmd / Ctrl + I). You may want to increase the contrast of the negative a bit before continuing.
03 PRINT IT
Print your image the same size you want it to be on your Sunprint paper. Printers can be a hassle, so it may require some testing and adjustments to the layout options. Use standard photo paper rather than fancy photo paper and, if possible, print your images in black and white or grayscale.
HEAD OUTDOORS: Soak up the sun
You only need a few household items to start this project
STEP BY STEP: Lay Out the Paper
Follow this simple method for unusual home prints
01 GATHER SUPPLIES
Fill a developer container with water and set it aside. Take Sunprint paper, roughly matching its size with your negative. If your kit doesn’t have Perspex, use glass from a cheap photo frame.
02 IN THE SHADOW
The blue chemicals in Sunprint paper are sensitive to ultraviolet light. It is important to place your prints indoors or out of direct sunlight, otherwise the paper may start to expose too quickly.
03 PREPARE THE PHOTO
Place your negative on the Sunprint paper (blue side up). Line up the glass, negative, Sunprint paper, and a piece of cardboard, then use a few pieces of tape to secure it together and keep it from slipping.
04 TAKE THE SUN WITH YOUR IMPRESSION
Let the print bask for about 20 minutes and check the exposure of the paper by lifting one corner of the frame. When the edges are white, it is fully exposed. On a cloudy day it may take an additional five minutes.
05 TAKE WATER
When there is a clear imprint of your image on the paper, rinse your Sunprint. Remove it from the back of the glass and place it in the water pan. It will go from negative to positive before your eyes.
06 SEE THE MAGIC
Take your print out of the water after a few minutes and let it dry naturally. The colors will intensify as the paper dries. Avoid touching the surface of the paper and ideally fix it or lay it flat somewhere. There !
ALTERNATIVE APPROACH: USING OBJECTS
Why not try placing flat objects, such as feathers and leaves, directly on the Sunprint paper? Flatten your favorite things between the paper and the acrylic or glass sheet, then follow the same method of exposing and developing. The exposure time required will be much shorter, as sunlight will not have to penetrate the paper.
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