I've read about some of the early pioneers of photography, who hauled heavy wooden boxes of equipment up and down mountains to bring back the first landscape images of those remote places.

They were - and had to be - very self-sufficient, spreading their plates with emulsion they made themselves to take the photos, dragging water up from nearby streams to develop their pictures, and so on.

Their chemistry must have been very basic, and yet it must have been reliable enough to make the endeavours worthwhile.

What is the simplest (and preferably, least dangerous) photosensitive material I could manufacture at home, to spread on a plate, and take a photo with a pinhole camera?

I presume much the same materials could be used to manufacture materials from which to make a print from the negative plate.


1 Answer 1


Cyanotypes are probably the simplest process you can do at home. All that's required are a UV light, decent paper, ferric ammonium citrate, potassium ferricyanide, a photographic negative shot on film (or something similar printed digitally on a transparent medium), and some water. The UV light is necessary because cyanotypes are not very sensitive to normal light. UV light is much quicker to expose them.

If you live in Canada or the U.S., Photographer's Formulary in Montana has these chemicals available for sale (I have no connection except being a satisfied customer). There are other vendors of these chemicals as well. They're not super commonly available but are definitely not impossible to find.

The images have a unique cyan-blue tint to them and don't look at all like traditional photographs. This is both a plus and a minus, but personally, I like the look of them. I've never done the process, but I've always wanted to and your question is reminding me that I should get to it!

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    \$\begingroup\$ The potassium ferricyanide sound terrible but it has low toxicity. The cyanide is locked to the iron and will not release. It has been used for over 100 years without harm. This is the bleach of choice for color film and the reducer of choice to correct overdeveloped film. Millions and millions of rolls and prints treated with this stuff. It remains the best choice for such applications but the name scares so color film processing has switched to EDTA, not as good --- check your salad dressing, contains EDTA. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 4, 2018 at 6:28

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