How to make a photogram

Follow this step-by-step guide to create your own photogram.

A photogram is an image produced on light-sensitive paper without using a camera or lens. An English inventor named William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) created photograms in his early experiments, and his friend Sir John Herschel (1792-1871) helped him to fix the prints to make the image permanent and light-proof using a chemical called sodium thiosulphate.

To make a photogram, objects such as leaves, buttons, lace, a scissors etc., are placed on top of a piece of photographic paper and then exposed to daylight. A negative image of the objects is created on the page: the areas that are covered by the objects show up white, while the areas of the paper that are exposed to light show up dark.

Let's make a photogram!

Watch this easy step-by-step guide!

How to make a photogram



  • Sunprint or nature paper (This is light-sensitive paper that can be bought online or in an art supply shop)
  • A piece of stiff card
  • A large sheet of black card folded in half
  • Tracing paper or clear plastic acrylic cover
  • A shallow dish of cold water
  • A selection of interesting objects e.g. leaves, buttons, lace


  1. Decide how you would like to arrange your objects into a composition.
  2. Place the sunprint paper, with the blue side facing up, on top of the stiff card.
  3. Arrange your objects into your chosen composition on top of the blue sunprint paper.
  4. Cover the objects with the sheet of plastic to hold everything in place and place inside the folded black card.
  5. Go outside and remove your composition from the folded card and place it in direct light until the sunprint paper turns light blue.
  6. Place it back inside the folded black card to transport it inside.
  7. Place the sunprint paper only in the dish of water for three minutes. Make sure it is completely covered with water.
  8. Remove from the water and allow to dry.


Video by Brian Cregan for the National Gallery of Ireland.

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