Expand Your Creative Photographic Skills With Lumen Prints


Cameraless photography is all about creating an image without a photographic camera system. Instead, it applies the principles that govern the chemical reaction of light and sensitive surfaces. There are various techniques: Cyanotypes, Screen Print, Chemigrams, Rayograms, Chlorophyll prints, and so on.

Most of the time photographers choose to work with some kind of camera system. The creative decisions that we make regard our camera settings, lenses, or film format.

However, sometimes none of the above fits what is in your mind. That's when camera-less, experimental photography can open vast possibilities, and we can expand our photographic techniques. One of the most popular camera-less techniques is the Lumen Print.

1 hour exposures in full sun at 3.00pm, on expired Kodak photographic paper, before and after fixing process. Lumen Prints by Elisa Parrino

Lumen prints occur when organic elements are in contact with photographic paper that will react to the light and leave a mark. Thanks to this process, we can create abstract images that can better suit the imagination of a visual creator.

The image cast is the negative form of the object you will place on top. Since the photographic sheet will start the developing process once it is exposed to light, the surface covered is the layout of the shape itself.

The amount of time the organic material is in contact with the paper will determine how much of the shape will be imprinted. When not pressed, the layout of the organic elements will be less defined. When left longer and fully pressed onto the paper pattern is detailed.

20 min exposures in partially cloudy day, on expired Kodak photographic paper, before and after fixing process. Lumen Prints by Elisa Parrino

After being exposed, the image will appear, and the lumen print is complete. What you'll get is a non-permanent image if you do not fix it. That means if still subjected to light, it could change its appearance. To make a more permanent print you can fix it with a standard process.

Alternatively, you can employ the fixer as part of your abstract creation by letting it drip on the sheet, adding an extra layer to your composition. The fixer will lighten the areas it touches, creating positive/negative patterns.

5 min exposures in full sunshine at noon, on expired Kodak photographic paper. Lumen Prints by Elisa Parrino

Composition in camera-less photography plays an important role. It is a good training exercise to strengthen your skills, to be edgy and experimental, and to see what works and what doesn't. It helps to understand the important role that space, and how you use it, has in your images. Experiment by placing your objects to create intentional dynamism in your frame.

When we shoot, these decisions are made in a split second, however with experimental techniques, time is differently managed. We can be more intentional and thoughtful with our creation. It is by no means any easier. Quite the opposite. Sometimes, our instincts on the spot can be more sagacious. With less time we are forced to trust our intuition. When we have enough time to focus, doubts and second-guessing ourselves can curb our confidence.

Once we put our work out in the world, how it will be perceived or understood is out of our control. But before that moment of farewell, we must trust our creative process during our production. Trust yourself and allow mistakes to happen. Only by learning will you build the depth of your artistic practice.

Do you use alternative printing techniques in your practice? Have you tried Lumen prints before? Share your thoughts in the comments bellow.

written by eparrino on 2022-10-04 #gear #tutorials #technique #lumen-print #alternative-printing


  1. leisuresuit
    leisuresuit ·

    I do cyanotypes and gum bichromate prints. I'll have to try lumen prints. Nice writeup.

  2. eparrino
    eparrino ·

    I have to try both of those! @leisuresuit

  3. jolom
    jolom ·

    I enjoy cyanotypes, lumen prints, cyanolumens, anthotypes, and I've even done lumen negatives by placing plant material directly on film and placing in the sun. Lots of fun and creative possibilities! Thanks for sharing!

  4. lomodesbro
    lomodesbro ·

    I like the way you have shown the various exposure times and how they influence the final print. I can't wait to try a splash of fixer. Congrats on an informative article on lumen prnting

  5. chelzillapeacock
    chelzillapeacock ·

    One Thing i get confused with, lumen prints go straight into fixer, and not developer?

  6. eparrino
    eparrino ·

    @chelzillapeacock You don't need to develop a lumen print, the reaction is between the objects places on the paper and the sun light. :)

  7. chelzillapeacock
    chelzillapeacock ·

    @eparrino ah ok, just goes to fixer, straight? Ty

  8. eparrino
    eparrino ·

    @chelzillapeacock Yes, If you like, you can also not fix it, leave it with the colors from the sun exposure, but It will always be sensitive to the light.

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