How To Make Instagrams, Hand-made Exposures on Instant Film!


Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2, 3

Did you know that history’s first photographic images were made without a camera?

It’s true!

Way back in the 1830s, William Fox Talbot discovered he could place objects on photo-sensitive paper to make images called “photograms.”

We’re going to show you how to make them with instant film, so we call ‘em “instagrams!” (We also call them “awesome!”)

How To Use Your Instant Camera to Make Instagrams!

p.s. On Friday we sold out of our new Camera Lens Mugs faster than you could say espresso. But more are on the way, so order now for a mid-August delivery!

Why it’s cool:

Photographers and light enthusiasts have been making photograms for over 175 years.

They’re usually made in a darkroom with stinky photo chemicals and expensive equipment.

Now you can easily make them at home with your instant camera!

Plus: Old school photograms look like negatives with reversed colors. Instagrams stay positive and look fantastic as soon as they develop!

What You’ll Need:

  • An instant camera and film
  • An external flash or a flashlight
  • A dark room without windows (or windows that are covered and let in no light)
  • Dark cloth (a dark towel, blanket or sheet will work fine)
  • Your own selection of small objects to experiment with (small enough to make shapes on your instant film)

Step 1: Picking your subjects

You’re going to be putting objects directly on the surface of your instant film, so you’ll probably want to stick with the small stuff.

We experimented with string, postage stamps, scissors, pins, and candy, but the possibilities are endless.

There’s no lens to focus with, so try to remember:
“Flat = Focused.”

Small objects that lay flat like keys, string, postage stamps, scissors, paper clips or drawings will work best for sharp outlines.

Step 2: Retreat from the sun!

It takes about 0.01 seconds of daylight to expose a picture onto film, so you’ll have to embrace your inner vampire and go somewhere far, far away from any light that might leak onto your instagram.

If you don’t have a secret underground lair, you’ll want to do this project at night in a room without windows. (Or you can cover your window with dark cloth, but it must absolutely block out all light.)

Turn off the lights and give your eyes a few moments to adjust to the darkness. If you can see the stuff around you, it’s too bright.

Don’t worry! It’s easy to fix.

Grab your dark fabric and use it to cover up any light leaks you can find. (We used a black towel to cover the crack under the door to our closet.)

Step 3: Preparing your workspace

You won’t be able to see your ingredients in the dark, so it’s important to set them out somewhere you can find and use them without seeing them.

Make sure you know exactly how to open and close the film compartment on your camera.

If your camera is loaded with film, be careful not to open it while any lights are on.

Step 4: Do it with the lights off

Do this, except without the lights!Turn off the lights, and double check that you can locate and use all your ingredients without seeing them.

If you can find everything and can’t see your hand in front of your face, you’re ready to go!

Step 5: Make a picture!

With the lights still off, open the back of your camera and take out the film cartridge.

Place it film side up on the table, and put your object on top of the film.

Gently press down to make sure that the object is touching the film surface. (You might want to try holding it down on the edges with one hand.)

Use your flashlight to quickly flash your object & film from above. If you’re using an external flash, point it at the ceiling and fire away.

Take your object off the film and reload the cartridge in the camera.

You can turn the lights back on after your film is safe inside the camera.

Step 6: Develop your instagram

Depending on what type of instant camera you are using, you film may have already automatically ejected when you reloaded the cartridge.

If not, cover the lens on your camera with your hand and press the shutter button to eject the exposed instagram.

Wait about 5 minutes to make sure your print is fully developed, and analyze your results.

Step 7: What happened?

If your instagram came out looking great, congratulations!

If not, don’t worry. It takes a few tries to get the hang of things.

  • A light or white picture means that your film was exposed to too much light.

  • A dark or black picture means that your film didn’t get enough light.

Films that are made for Polaroid 600 and Fuji Instax cameras will need less light than films like SX-70 or PX 100 film.

  • Extra tips, tricks, and things to try:

    On the left, we put some magazine paper over a flower. On the right, we used socks as a background with string.

    • We found that using a flash with our Fuji Instax film often made the photo too bright, but covering the flash with a piece of colored paper made it easier to control.
    • Graduate to 3D objects for weird results. (Our dino looks like a ghostly dog!)
    • Cover your film and object with colored fabric or a magazine page before flashing for a nice colored background.
    • Use a piece of glass on top of your objects to help press them against the film tightly for good focus.
    • Use your negatives or slides to make an instant contact sheet.
    • Try making a double exposure by flashing two different objects before developing the film.
    • Combine items like a page from a newspaper and a tree leaf for a textured double exposure effect.
    • See how much light travels through your everyday stuff. We tried gummy worms, socks, and sponges. (Shoutout to our pal Marcy who hung out with us at Photojojo Movie Night and helped us make the sponge image!)
    • Share your experiments in our flickr group!


    We made these ones with bear shaped sponges and gummy worms.

    Been wondering what the tilt-shift hub-bub is all about? Our pal Bhautik will teach you how to make a DSLR tilt-shift lens for under $10!
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  • Posted in DIY, Photojojo Original