I want to build a pinhole camera, make pictures straight onto paper and develop them myself.

From my research online, it seems I need "direct positive" paper. Anywhere I look, I find Harman Direct Positive Paper as my best bet. Unfortunately, on its page it states:


As it turns out, this company's supplier has gone bankrupt.

So, is there any other manufacturer of direct positive papers? I mean, literally, is there anyone left in this market?

  • 2
    No idea, but positive paper was probably a specialist item even when everybody still shot film. While it would certainly be more convenient to have it, you could just make paper negatives, and then make contact prints from those.
    – inkista
    May 11, 2014 at 20:29
  • 1
    Actually, instead of making contact prints from a negative, scan the negative print then do the rest digitally. May 11, 2014 at 22:33
  • @inkista - That's a very nice idea, in this tutorial. I'll probably go this way. Thanks :)
    – kamituel
    May 12, 2014 at 7:19
  • 2
    @OlinLathrop - I've considered that. Only thing is I'd like to make a photo from scratch, without any digital tools. Just as an excercise ;)
    – kamituel
    May 12, 2014 at 7:20
  • 1
    Look for Imago positive rc paper via Google...
    – user40110
    May 26, 2015 at 14:14

2 Answers 2


If you are willing to do it the hard way, you can use standard black-and-white photographic printing paper and do a reversal processing on it. What that means is that you will be making a negative, but then making a direct positive from the negative without an additional imaging exposure (though there will be an additional exposure to light).

It will require some testing, of course, to determine the "ISO" of the paper and get a feel for the processing procedure, so you'll probably write off your first box of paper as the "entry price" into the Weird Photographic Processing Society. But it's essentially the same procedure used for creating black-and-white slides.

First, expose the paper in the camera, then develop to get a "good negative" and stop -- but do not fix. That will precipitate the silver out of the areas that you eventually want to remain white, and proportionally precipitate the silver elsewhere according to its desired lightness. Expose the paper to a uniform light source, which will turn the remaining halogenated silver into a latent image. Then bleach the silver (negative) image out with a potassium ferrocyanide solution, which will "reset" the silver that was previously developed out to halogenated silver (silver halide). Now you can develop normally, including stopping, fixing and archival washing.

You can probably expect some funky colour responses from this process. Single-grade black-and-white papers aren't sensitive to much of the spectrum, and will look an awful lot like 19th-century photographs. Variable-contrast (VC) papers are nearly orthochromatic (sensitive to everything but the red end of the scale), but the blue-sensitive and yellow-sensitive parts of the emulsion have very different contrasts.

You can also use a liquid emulsion (make sure it's for photography, not screen printing) applied to substrates of your choosing (handmade papers, textiles, boards, metal, etc). If you choose to use a liquid emulsion, then you also have the tintype option: a negative silver image over a black background looks like a positive (it reflects more light) so you don't even have to do a reversal. (It's a reasonable alternative to a Daguerreotype in an era where nobody will let you play with mercury anymore.)

  • Wow, this sounds like a lot of steps that could go wrong ;) What kind of light would you suggest? How long exposure to this light are we talking about? Also, is potassium ferrocyanide something I can easily get?
    – kamituel
    May 20, 2014 at 6:27
  • Well, it's as easily available as any photo chemistry these days; you'd just be using more of it than usual. (It'll be called "bleach".) And any light will do, really -- traditionally, you'd use an enlarger with no negative and an aperture of about f/8 to give you a time you can easily control; you can use a bare "nightlight" bulb. As for the length of exposure, you can figure that out with a single test strip (gradually uncovering the paper in, say, ten-second intervals, then finding out which time is the shortest that gives you black when developed).
    – user28116
    May 20, 2014 at 9:31
  • Sorry for not accepting your answer earlier, I totally forgot. Anyway, it's a very good answer, thank you!
    – kamituel
    Jun 3, 2014 at 7:54

You can also use standard black and white paper and then contact print it. It's similar to reversal processing but you don't need more chemicals other than stop and develop, it has the side effect of mirroring the image.

  • 2
    Acutally the side effect is desirable in this case, since the original will be mirrored. The contact print will un-mirror it. Jun 25, 2015 at 21:40
  • Oh that's right! Jun 26, 2015 at 11:43

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