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Paper Negative Resources

Using old cameras to create paper negatives without darkroom chemistry

This month we are encouraging people to dust off their old and vintage cameras and use light sensitive photographic paper to create black and white photographs without the need for photographic chemistry.  If you don’t have a camera we will show you how to make one!
Similar to the Lumen process we will show you how to create paper negatives with long exposures and use digital scanning techniques to view your images. Combining 180 year old technology with modern digital image capture.

Make your own Camera to create Paper Negatives

Use a shoebox and a found lens to make a basic homemade ‘Paper negative’ camera to create long exposure paper negatives. Results are scanned and inverted to view images - without the need for development.

Download or view full instructions in the guide below

basic paper cameras pdfjpg.jpg

Video on lenses for home made cameras and various analogue cameras

Finding and using old Cameras to create Paper Negatives

Information on using various analogue cameras to create paper negatives. From 35mm SLR cameras to 100 year old bellows cameras, includes ideas on exposure times, subjects. and advanced approaches.


Download or view full details in the guide below

Advanced paper negative camera pdf edite

Video on how to use an old bellows camera to create paper negatives by Justin Quinnell

Powerpoint presentation on paper negatives

brooms old and new image

Paper Negatives FAQs

How do you put the photo paper in the back of the SLR? I normally put film in there...

You can cut up the paper to fit your camera, then put in the back with the light sensitive emulsion facing the lens, (usually the glossy or semi-gloss side) then close the camera and off you go.


Is it same time exposure as film? Or do I need to use B setting and long exposure?

No, photographic paper is not nearly as sensitive and we are not using development so everything needs more time and more light. You may need several minutes, hours or even days depending on light conditions. The camera should have a T setting to keep the shutter open for an indefinite length of time.

How do you calculate exposure? I'm concerned about over exposure - I live in sunny Miami! 

It's really hard to over expose. More light should not damage your image, so maybe do a few experiments starting with a 10 minute exposre with your lens stopped down a bit. Don't point the camera into direct sunlight. There's a guy called Butkus online who has manuals for a lot of the box cameras so you can find out the time exposure guide for your camera.

Can you use cyanotype chemicals on paper and put that in an SLR camera?

You can try that, but you will need an even longer exposure time - it may not be sensitive enough to create an image.

Can you use colour paper or Cibachrome paper?

Colour paper should work, give it a try! You should be able to create an image which you can scan afterwards. But Cibachrome paper will probably not be successful as it needs to be developed and the developers are no longer available. 

Would a 5x4 large format camera work?

Yes, that would be great and give you a big image. Any format of film camera should work, just cut the paper to fit inside the camera. The bigger the format the bigger the image produced so we used old medium format cameras, old box brownies, or home made box cameras.


What chemicals do you need to develop the photographic paper after the exposure?

You don't need any developers or other chemistry, scan the image and invert to create a positive. Use contrast, levels and other controls in photoshop or other digital imaging software to create the best image. You can then print these out on photo inkjet paper.

Also, how do you store your paper negatives? What happens to it over time?

Store the paper negatives in a cool dark box or file - they are light sensitive and will fade or fog if left in the light. They cannot be fixed - this will wipe out the image.


Do you treat colour and B&W paper the same in your process?

Yes they will be treated the same, and don't need any development, but may make different coloured negatives - have a go and find out!

Would a small “toy” camera work?

It should work if the camera is light proof, has a lens, and a way to keep the shutter open. Have a try and find out, you may get some interesting results!

Useful Links

Caleb Charland:

Wayne Martin Belger:

William Arnold:

Tim Pearse:

Paper Negative Images Gallery

Birthday party in lockdown 1
Ian Wallace - MGIV_Brownie2_3days002_Pos3
camera with leaves photogram
Bellows photogram

Bellows camera placed on a sheet of photo paper with leaves

5 hours of sink
Staring at phone for 10 min utes
Bear and camera

Photo paper pre soaked

Selfie 6 mins
Selfie neg 6 mins
interior1-august bank holiday in lockdown
Homeschool 1
Bye bye Valerie
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