Alternative process photography is a whole universe filled with interesting printing methods and techniques.
Here are 10 amazing alternative photography processes for you to try.
10. Infrared Photography
In digital photography, you can use an IR lens. In analog, you can use colored infrared film. This is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to experiment with alternative photography.
Using these tools, you’ll be able to take surreal photos of everyday landscapes, people, and objects. This can improve the way you look at your surroundings. It’ll inspire you to take photos more often.
9. Wet-Collodion Process/Wet Plate
The wet plate process was invented in 1848 and is still a popular alternative photography technique today.
First, a piece of glass is covered in collodion and other chemicals to prepare it for the camera. While it’s still wet, it’s placed in the camera for a photo. It’s then put back in the darkroom to be developed and printed.
Thanks to the transparency of the glass, the results will end up looking very sharp and ethereal, as pictured above.
8. Gumoil Printing
Gumoil is one of the most tedious and complicated alternative photography processes out there. Few photographers use it regularly, but their results are always worth the hard work.
To put it simply, a positive image is placed on gum bichromate to turn it into a negative bichromate print.
Then, oil paint is applied to the print and removed over time using chemicals and cold water. Hardened parts of the gum make certain areas in the photo stand out. This results in high contrast, high-quality prints.
Here’s a helpful visual aid by Anna Ostanina.
7. Van Dyke Brown Printing
This is a popular analog printing process that doesn’t need a darkroom. You only need a few simple ingredients and it isn’t difficult to re-create.
Its name comes from the color of the resulting prints: a deep shade of Van Dyke Brown.
A canvas is covered in ferric ammonium citrate, silver nitrate, and tartaric acid. All this is exposed to ultraviolet light.
To make the print last longer and prevent fading, you have to clean and cover it in a hypo solution.
In essence, cyanotypes are blueprints that were used by engineers for many years. At the time, they were considered a quick and easy way to re-create drawings.
Today, they’re often used to create haunting photos with a blue tint.
There are several versions of cyanotype. The most common one doesn’t require a camera at all. The other requires digital negatives.
First, you need to coat a sheet of paper (some people use watercolor paper) with ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. This combination of chemicals results in a faded yellow color.
You can then cover the paper with a printed digital negative or objects. Many artists use plants.
The prints are then exposed to ultraviolet light. Some people use professional machines, car lights, or normal daylight for this step.
Once the print starts to turn green or blue, you can wash it. The parts that were covered will appear white, and everything surrounding them will have a beautiful blue tint.
5. Carbon Print
Carbon printing is one of the most tedious processes in alternative photography. It involves many complicated steps that ultimately lead to incomparable high-quality results.
Images printed using the carbon method have a lot of tones and never fade. They look striking in comparison to photos printed using other methods.
In short, carbon printing involves special tissues, watercolor paper covered in gelatin, and digital negatives. Some photographers print three layers of the same image for high-quality results.
This is all exposed to ultraviolet light, placed in cold and hot water, and then pressed on to paper.
This is a very expensive and time-consuming process. But the gorgeous results seem to be worth it.
The Daguerreotype technique was invented in the 1830s and has a specific vintage look. The results are heavy and fragile. They need to be stored in special cases such as frames or jewelry.
To make a Daguerreotype, you need to coat a copper plate using silver iodide, expose it to light, and fume it with mercury vapor.
Like many of the other alternative process methods in this list, the Daguerreotype is expensive and time-consuming.
But it results in unique and timeless photos that your ancestors were probably very familiar with back in the day.
3. Palladium/Platinum Printing
Platinum prints have a great tonal range and seem to last forever. They also tend to have a matte surface.
Some photographers coat sheets of paper with special emulsions. Then, they place their negatives on the paper and expose everything to ultraviolet light. The results are usually unpredictable and come in a variety of colours.
The unpredictable nature of this alternative photographic process is what makes it so attractive to many artists.
Perhaps one of the most abstract alternative photographic processes in this list, chemigrams are considered experimental art. Like cyanotypes, this process requires neither a darkroom nor a camera.
Photography students often experiment with chemigrams. Thes help them get a deeper understanding of abstract art and chemical reactions.
All you have to do is place different objects and materials on light sensitive photographic paper. Expose it to light, and place it in a chemical developer. The results will always look abstract and different.
This is a fun and easy project idea for those who enjoy combining chemistry with art.
1. Liquid Photographic Emulsion
Liquid light emulsion is a creatively flexible technique. You can print on practically anything you want!
You need to have access to a darkroom, special light, and chemicals for this to be successful.
Liquid light is painted on a surface and exposed in a darkroom. The results are haunting yet sharp. They are a great way to express yourself using everyday objects.
Most of these alternative photography processes were invented centuries ago. But we can still use alternative processes to express ourselves today.
With the help of creative printing and photographing techniques, we can learn to appreciate everyday life a little more and get creative using unusual objects.