Alternative film and analogue photographic processes

Within the realm of alternative film and analogue photographic processes, the possibilities are endless. From unconventional film development techniques to experimental darkroom methods, the world of alternate process photography offers a creative escape for those seeking to break away from traditional practices.

Check out our list of these processes below, outlining many of these methods


Albumen Printing: Utilizing egg whites to bind light-sensitive chemicals to paper.

Albumen Print courtesy of wikipedia


Albumen printing is a fascinating alternative photographic process that dates back to the mid-19th century. The key ingredient in this technique is egg whites, which are used to bind light-sensitive chemicals to paper. By coating paper with a mixture of egg whites and silver nitrate, photographers can create beautiful prints with a warm tone and fine detail. The albumen acts as a binder, helping the chemicals adhere to the paper and capture the image effectively. 

Some have experimented with adding a splash of ale to the albumen solution for a subtle tonal variation in their prints. This ale photography experiment has led to intriguing results, adding depth and character to the final images.

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Cyanotype: A process using iron compounds to produce blue-toned prints.


Cyanotype image courtesy of

Let's jump into the fascinating world of cyanotype photography - an alternative film and analogue process that produces stunning blue-toned prints. This technique dates back to the 19th century and involves using iron compounds to create unique and striking images.

To start with cyanotype, you'll need to prepare a light-sensitive solution by mixing two chemicals - ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. Once you have your solution ready, you can coat it onto a variety of surfaces such as paper, fabric, or even wood.

The magic begins when you place objects or negatives on top of the coated surface and expose it to UV light. The areas not covered by the objects will turn a vibrant shade of blue during development.

One of the joys of working with cyanotype is its versatility. You can experiment with different exposure times to achieve varying shades of blue in your final print.

Additionally, by manipulating the concentration of the chemicals in your mixture or trying out different textures for your base surface, you can create truly one-of-a-kind pieces that showcase the beauty and artistry of alternative film processing techniques like cyanotype. 

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Daguerreotype: An early photographic process using a silvered copper plate.


Dagguerotype images couurtesy of


The Daguerreotype process is a fascinating glimpse into the early days of photography. Developed by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre in the 1830s, this technique involved creating a one-of-a-kind image on a silvered copper plate. This meticulous process involved preparing the plate, sensitizing it with fumes of iodine, exposing it in a camera for an extended period, and then developing it over mercury vapor to bring out the image.

It required both technical precision and artistic vision to master. What's intriguing about Daguerreotypes is their unique aesthetic quality.

The images produced have a remarkable level of detail and clarity, capturing moments in striking sharpness. The reflective surface of the silvered plate gives these photos a luminous quality that sets them apart from other early photographic processes.

Each Daguerreotype is truly a piece of art, with its own character and depth that modern digital photography often struggles to replicate. Today, recreating Daguerreotypes can be seen as both an artistic homage to the pioneers of photography and an exciting experiment in alternative processes.

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Gum Bichromate: A hand-coated process using gum arabic and light-sensitive dichromate.


Gum bichromate printing is a fascinating alternative photographic process that allows for creative experimentation in the darkroom. This hand-coated process involves using a mixture of gum arabic and light-sensitive dichromate to create unique prints with a painterly quality.

The gum arabic acts as a binder for the light-sensitive dichromate, which hardens upon exposure to UV light, creating a relief image on the paper.

Gum bichromate printing requires careful attention to detail and an understanding of how different factors can influence the final result. By hand-coating the paper with the emulsion mixture, photographers can control various aspects of the print, such as contrast and tonality, resulting in one-of-a-kind images with a soft, ethereal quality.

Each step of the process - from coating the paper to exposing it under UV light - offers an opportunity for artistic expression and exploration. The results of this alternative process often yield richly textured prints that blur the line between photography and painting, making gum bichromate printing a favorite among those who enjoy pushing the boundaries of traditional analog photography techniques.

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Platinum/Palladium Printing: A noble metal printing process for rich and enduring prints.


platinum paladium prints image source:


When it comes to alternative film and analogue photographic processes, Platinum/Palladium Printing stands out as a method that truly elevates the art of printing. This noble metal printing process is cherished for its ability to produce prints of exceptional richness and longevity. The use of platinum and palladium in this technique results in images with exquisite tonal range and a distinctive aesthetic quality that sets them apart from more common methods.

One of the key advantages of Platinum/Palladium Printing is the permanence it offers. Prints created through this process are known for their exceptional archival quality, ensuring that they will stand the test of time.

The noble metals used in this method not only contribute to the unique visual characteristics of the prints but also enhance their durability, making them a prized choice for collectors and artists seeking long-lasting works. 

From coating the paper with light-sensitive solutions to exposing it to UV light and carefully processing the final image, every step is a labor of love that yields stunning results. 

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Van Dyke Brown: A simple alternative process using iron-silver compounds for brown prints.


Van dyke brown print, image source


Van Dyke Brown, offers a unique method to create stunning brown-toned prints. This technique involves using iron-silver compounds that result in rich and warm brown hues, adding a vintage and artistic flair to your images. The process is relatively simple compared to other alternative methods, making it accessible for those looking to begin experimenting with artisanal film processing at home.

To start the Van Dyke Brown process, you will need to prepare your iron-silver compounds by mixing them with a light-sensitive solution. This homemade developer for film is key to achieving the distinctive brown tones characteristic of this technique. Once your solution is ready, you can coat your chosen substrate—whether it be paper or another material—and expose it under UV light or sunlight.

The magic happens during development when the iron-silver compounds react with the light-sensitive solution, creating intricate patterns and shades in varying intensities of brown. 

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Salt Printing: An early photographic process using a sensitised salt solution on paper.


Salt print hipshot lomography


Salt printing is a fascinating early photographic process that dates back to the mid-19th century. This technique involves coating paper with a sensitized salt solution before exposing it to light and developing the image.

The resulting prints have a unique aesthetic, characterized by soft, delicate tones and a vintage feel. 

To create a salt print, one must first prepare a solution of sodium chloride (common table salt) mixed with silver nitrate. This mixture is then applied to high-quality paper, such as watercolor paper or cotton rag paper, creating a light-sensitive surface ready for exposure.

When exposed to light, the silver chloride in the salt solution undergoes a chemical reaction that forms an image on the paper. The print is then fixed using a hypo clearing agent to stabilise the image and prevent further darkening.

By adjusting factors such as exposure time, paper type, and toning methods, photographers can create unique images that showcase the beauty of this alternative film processing technique.


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Wet Plate Collodion: A 19th-century technique involving wet plates coated with light-sensitive chemicals.


wet plate collodion image source:


Wet Plate Collodion photography is like stepping back in time to the 19th century, where photographers worked with wet plates coated with light-sensitive chemicals. This old-school technique involves coating a glass or metal plate with a mixture of collodion, silver nitrate, and other chemicals to create a light-sensitive surface.

The plate has to be prepared and exposed while still wet, hence the name "wet plate." It requires a steady hand and precise timing to get the perfect image captured on the plate. 


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Gelatin Silver Printing: A traditional photographic process using gelatin emulsion.


Gelatin silver Printing image source:


Gelatin silver printing is a classic technique in black and white photography that gives images a timeless quality. This process involves coating photographic paper with a light-sensitive gelatin silver emulsion, which captures the image when exposed to light.

The gelatin emulsion is crucial for creating sharp details and rich tones in the final print. Many photographers appreciate the traditional feel of gelatin silver prints, as they offer a depth and contrast that digital photography often struggles to replicate.

To start the gelatin silver printing process, you need to first coat your chosen paper with the gelatin emulsion. This can be done by either hand-coating the paper or using pre-sensitized papers available commercially.

Once the paper is coated and dried, it is ready for exposure in a darkroom using a negative or other image source. The exposed paper is then processed through a series of chemical baths to develop and fix the image, revealing the final black and white print.

Experimentation is key when delving into gelatin silver printing. You can try different exposure times, contrast techniques, and toning processes to achieve unique effects in your prints.

If youd like to read more in depth about this process, check out our blog here

Tintype Photography: A variation of wet plate collodion producing images on metal plates.


Tin-type portrait image source:


Tintype photography is a fascinating process that harkens back to the early days of photography. It involves creating images on metal plates coated with a light-sensitive emulsion.

The result is a unique and timeless aesthetic that captures a moment in a truly distinctive way. Tintypes have a nostalgic quality that adds depth and character to any image, making them popular among photographers looking to experiment with alternative processes.

The process of creating tintypes starts with coating a metal plate with collodion, which is then sensitized in a silver nitrate solution. The plate is exposed in-camera while still wet, requiring relatively long exposure times compared to modern film or digital photography.

Once the exposure is made, the plate is developed and fixed on the spot to create the final image. This hands-on approach to image-making adds an element of unpredictability and artistry that sets tintypes apart from other photographic methods.

One of the unique aspects of tintype photography is its ability to capture fine details and textures with remarkable clarity. The metal substrate provides a stable base for the emulsion, resulting in sharp images with rich tones and depth.

The imperfections and quirks inherent in the tintype process contribute to its charm, giving each image a handmade quality that resonates with viewers on a visceral level. Whether you're new to alternative processes or an experienced photographer looking to expand your creative horizons, experimenting with tintype photography can open up a world of artistic possibilities.

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Caffenol Development: Developing film with coffee


caffenol development image source:


When delving into the realm of alternative film development processes, one intriguing method that stands out is caffenol development. Imagine brewing up a batch of coffee, not to sip on while working on your photography project, but to actually develop your film! Caffenol is a homemade film developer that combines instant coffee, washing soda, and vitamin C powder to create a unique concoction that can bring your images to life in unexpected ways.


If youd like to read more about this process, check out our blog here

Beernol development: Developing film with beer


developing film with beer


Analog photography enthusiasts have always been drawn to unorthodox film processing methods, and one of the most intriguing experiments in this realm is beernol development. Imagine using your favorite craft brew as a key ingredient in the film developing process - it's like combining two beloved hobbies into one unique experience.

Beer film development involves using beer as a primary component in the developer solution, imparting subtle tones and characteristics to the final images.

This DIY beer developer recipe typically consists of beer mixed with other chemicals commonly used in traditional film developing solutions.

The interaction between beer chemicals and photographic emulsion can produce unique visual effects, adding an element of surprise and intrigue to each image. By embracing alternative film processing methods like beernol development, photographers can push the boundaries of traditional darkroom practices and unlock new avenues for artistic expression in their work.


Photograms: camera-less photographs


Photogram of a rose image source:


Photograms are a fascinating avenue within the realm of alternative film and analogue photographic processes. These camera-less photographs are created by placing objects directly onto photosensitive paper and exposing them to light. The result is a unique image that captures the silhouette and details of the objects in a bold, graphic way.

It's like magic unfolding in the darkroom as you witness the image slowly appear during development. When it comes to experimenting with photograms, the possibilities are endless.

You can use a variety of objects such as leaves, feathers, keys, or even lace to create intriguing patterns and textures on your prints. By arranging these items on the paper in creative ways and carefully controlling the exposure time, you can achieve stunning and abstract compositions that tell a visual story without using a traditional camera.

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Lumen Prints: Lumen prints are a camera-less process


lumen print source:

Lumen prints are a fascinating aspect of alternative film and analogue photographic processes that offer a unique way to create images without the use of a camera. This technique involves placing objects directly onto light-sensitive paper and exposing them to sunlight or artificial light sources. The result is ethereal, dream-like images that capture the shapes and textures of the objects in a truly magical way.

It's a hands-on process that allows for experimentation and creativity, making each lumen print one-of-a-kind. The process is akin to creating photograms but with a more spontaneous and unpredictable outcome, adding an element of surprise and delight to the creation process.

For those delving into unconventional film development methods, lumen prints offer a refreshing break from traditional darkroom techniques. Instead of meticulously controlling every aspect of the image-making process, lumen printing embraces imperfections and happy accidents as part of its charm.

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Carbon Prints


Carbon printing image source:

Carbon prints are a unique and fascinating alternative photographic process that involves coating paper or tissue with a layer of gelatin containing pigment. This method allows for the creation of rich, detailed images with a wide tonal range and a distinctive appearance.

The gelatin layer acts as a binder for the pigment, which can be applied in various ways to achieve different effects. Whether using brushes, sponges, or other tools, artists have the freedom to experiment and create truly one-of-a-kind carbon prints.

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Chlorophyll printing


Chlorphyl printing image source:


Chlorophyll printing is a fascinating alternative photographic process that involves using plant pigments to create unique and organic images. This technique taps into the natural green pigment found in plants, particularly leaves, to produce stunning prints with a touch of nature's beauty. By harnessing the chlorophyll found in plant life, photographers can create ethereal and botanical-inspired images that resonate with a sense of earthiness and vitality.

To create chlorophyll prints, one typically collects fresh green leaves from various plants such as ferns, grasses, or flowers. These leaves are then placed on light-sensitive paper or film and exposed to sunlight or artificial UV light sources.

Over time, the chlorophyll within the leaves transfers its pigments onto the medium, resulting in intricate patterns and textures that reflect the delicate structures of the foliage. The process requires experimentation and patience but can yield truly mesmerizing results that blur the line between photography and botanical art.

One of the appeals of chlorophyll printing is its unpredictability and serendipity. Each print is unique depending on factors like leaf type, exposure time, and environmental conditions.

If youd like to read more in depth about this process, check out our blog here

Emulsion lifts


Polaroid emulsion lift source:


Emulsion lifts are a fascinating and creative technique in analog photography that allows you to transfer a photographic image from one surface to another. This process involves separating the emulsion layer from the film base and then transferring it onto a different substrate, such as paper or fabric.

Emulsion lifts offer a unique way to experiment with your photographic images and create one-of-a-kind pieces of art. To start the emulsion lift process, you first need to select a film negative or transparency that you want to work with.

Then, soak the film in warm water to soften the emulsion layer. Gently peel away the emulsion from the base using a soft brush or your fingers.

Once you have lifted the emulsion, carefully transfer it onto your desired surface. You can experiment with different textures and materials to create varying effects with your emulsion lifts.

One of the exciting aspects of emulsion lifts is the element of unpredictability and experimentation they offer. Each lift results in a slightly unique outcome, influenced by factors such as temperature, humidity, and handling techniques.

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Chemigrams example source:


Chemigrams are a fascinating and experimental darkroom method that combines elements of painting, photography, and chemistry. This unconventional technique involves applying various substances onto light-sensitive paper to create unique images.

Unlike traditional film processing, chemigrams allow for a great deal of creativity and spontaneity in the darkroom. One of the key aspects of chemigrams is the ability to use a wide range of materials to manipulate the image-making process.

From household items like vinegar and salt to art supplies like acrylic paint and oil pastels, artists can experiment with different textures, colors, and effects to achieve their desired results. The interaction between these materials and the light-sensitive paper produces unpredictable yet captivating outcomes.

Since the process is highly variable and dependent on factors such as exposure time, temperature, and chemical application, no two chemigrams will ever be exactly alike.

If youd like to read more in depth about this process, check out our blog here


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