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  • Writer's picturePhotoED Magazine

Lovely Lumens

Lumen printing is an easy way to make an image with the sun. It simply involves setting objects onto a piece of silver gelatin photographic paper and exposing them to the sun.

Artist/photographer Bob St Cyr shares his HOW-TO + a few new ideas to take your results in new directions.

You'll need:

  • Photographic paper - any size or age

  • A contact printing frame (you can also create a makeshift printing frame using any board and glass, such as an un-used photo frame.)

  • Two trays - for washing and fixing

  • Hypo fixer mixed at 1:9.

  • Tongs

STEP 1 - Once you've got your stuff set up, under a safelight or subdued/ low lighting, arrange your subject on the glass frame. Plants and flowers work well, but be creative and think of other 'flat-ish' things (string, lace, paper, etc) that could be used that when compressed will not break the glass, please be careful.

STEP 2 - Place the photo paper with the shiny side/matt side facing the items

on the glass, i.e., the side that would normally be exposed when

making a darkroom print.

STEP 3 - Replace the backing into the picture frame and compress the items

between the glass and photo paper.

STEP 4 - Place the picture frame in direct sunlight for about 60 minutes. This exposure time will vary depending on the strength of the sunlight.

STEP 5 - When it feels ready... and the paper has turned brown, carefully remove the photo paper from the frame and give the paper a quick water rise to remove any particles from the organic materials.

OPTION: If you like what you see at this stage - allow the paper to dry + pop it in your scanner - or take a digital pic, so you can work with this version of the image digitally. To make the resulting image last, it needs to be chemically fixed. However, fixing will change the contrast and colour, so you might want to digitize the image before fixing, giving you two different versions.

STEP 6 - If you want a permanent image, after washing the print, place it into

a photographic fixing bath for about 2 minutes. Remember to do this under tungsten light or subdued light.

STEP 7 - Thoroughly wash the print for at least 15 - 20 minutes in a tray of running

water. Empty and fill the tray several times during the wash.

STEP 8 - Hang your print to dry.

STEP 9 - If the paper curls when it's dry - you may need to flatten the print by pressing it between heavy books for a few days.

STEP 10 - Go DIGITAL - scan/ manipulate away for more options!

Here are some of artist BOB ST CYR's results


  • Brough, D. (2016, June 26). How to make lumen prints.

  • Daniel, M. (2004, October). William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877) and the invention of photography. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–



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