Some camera manuals and editing software refer
to producing Cyanotype images. These are
often similar in appearance to
images but blue and white.
These often differ considerably from earlier
cyanotype images that had detail in white out of a blue background. Although
today both are often referred to as cyanotype images, it's really the older
image style that is, and others are just
produced as a blue and white tint rather than black and white or sepia.
Cyanotype images or blue prints, were developed
as a means of copying notes and diagrams by Sir John Hershel, in 1842.
astronomer and scientist discovered the light sensitivity of iron salts. The
process he developed involved painting a piece of paper with iron slats
solution and drying it in a dark room and then placing an object on it, for
example a leaf, and putting it in the light, after about 15 minutes an image
was seen, where the shadow of the item was white and the rest of the paper
The paper was then washed in water where
oxidation occurred turning the blue area a bright blue or cyan and fixing
These images will fade if left in the light
for some time, but have the unusual property that they will largely restore
themselves if stored again in the dark. They do not store well in museum
board that would be ideal for other old prints, so if you come across an
original some research or specialist advice on storage should be sought.
Ann Atkins, often said to be the first female
photographer, used this photogram process to produce cyanotype books
documenting ferns and other plants from her seaweed collection.
The process can also be used with cloth, and
this can be hand washed by hand with a non phosphate soap. If a phosphate
soap is used the image turns yellow.
Cyanotype image by Anna Atkins
about 1851, original was 13.3 inches by 9.5 inches
Old Cyanotype Image of Hanewell Gardens (no
This is a very simple and cheap process,
and all you need is a UV light source, the sun or artificial light is fine,
and the basic chemistry toady is an 8.1% solution of potassium ferricyanide
and 20% solution of ferric ammonium, mixed together. You can increase
the sensitivity and contrast of the sensitive mix, by adding 6 drops of 1%
potassium dichromeate for every 2ml of sensitizer solution.
Developing/fixing is achieved with a 6% solution of household hydrogen
peroxide (3%), in household use this is used as bleach. As these solutions
are all very week, although normal care has to be taken, they are safe to
play with and often the first alternative process people choose and can be
used with children. You can add other items to modify it, and a lot of
information can be found across the internet from those who see this as their chosen art form.
There is a 68 page 10x8 inch book with
colour illustrations of the process called 'Blueprint to Cyanotype' by Malin
Fabbri and Gary Fabbri, Malin is from Sweden and Garry from the USA. The book is a result of a masters they
did from Central St Martins School of
Design in London on alternative photography. The first 22 pages, including
the basic method, chemistry etc, as well as contents of the rest of the book
can be downloaded for free,
from the publishers.
Some cameras can
produce tinted monochrome images.
The image to the left was taken with a
Nikon D300, on the setting the manual calls Cyanotype, other colours and
tints of colours are also available.
Creating Vintage Images - Old Look Photos