Making a cyanotype multi-exposure camera

Is it even possible to make a cyanotype camera? Pedro Leal shares how to make a cyanotype camera that takes several instantaneous cyanotypes in one image.

Writer and photography / Pedro Leal


I made walking into an aesthetic project, and I register the experiences through drawings, and visualise images accompanied by thoughts, which I write down. But, I wanted to bring together the experience of images and thought and this journeys into a combined image, but how?

In Portugal we have a saying: “The necessity sharpens the resourcefulness!”. and I stated to explore different ways to make these images possible.

Starting with the simplest idea, I collected several herbs to compose an image, this was followed by an envelope/pocket with several already sensitive postcards, which I exposed and developed at home or on location, then I realized… what I needed was a support, like a film that I could expose and develop on location, wherever I was!

To explore this I used a large can, with a window and an acetate-like glass, but it was very complicated. I continued to refine the idea, simplifying and testing it until I arrived at the Cyanotype Portable Camera, which works similar to a Polaroid camera.

“This camera turned out to be perfect for me, it’s light, and fits in a hand or pocket.”

The main benefits of this portable multi-exposure cyanotype camera are:

  • The mechanism is simple and manual
  • It adapts to the needs of the outdoor terrain
  • I can develop the images as I expose them, with a simple bottle of water or better in a puddle, in a lake, in the sea

How to make a multi-exposure cyanotype camera

1. Cut gap
Make a slit
Sand the edges
Sand the edges
Tape it
Tape it – Insert part of a tape and glue it on the inside, glue the same portion over this one and to the out side, to make a flap.
Film starter
Film starter – To insert the cyanotype paper roll easily, cut a round piece of plastic/film and tape it to the cyanotype paper roll.
Pull the film through
Pull the film through the slit
Cyanorid camera
Cyanotype Portable Camera – ready


Expose the cyanotype

Now the camera is done, expose the cyanotype

Cyanorid expose
A cyanotype being exposed

Develop the cyanotype

Developing is also done on the go, in whichever water is available.

Cyanorid develop
Cyanotype being develop in a puddle



As a designer, the camera also interests me as an object. I look for “Form and Function”, where less is more. The simple construction also responds to my concerns about nature and the environment. I recycle packaging by giving it a new functionality. I upcycle products and use low-impact developer. The cyanotype camera has zero functional problems, as it is completely manual and customizable. Another benefit of the camera are people as this camera and this technique can be easily produced by everyone.

Other experiemenal cameras

The pocket camera

Pocket camera expose 3
Cyanotype from pocket camera being exposed
Pocket camera develop
Pocket camera image being developed
Cyanotype muli-exposure camera final print
Cyanotype muli-exposure camera final print

Cyanotype muli-exposure camera final prints

The big can camera

A cyanotype can camera.

Big can camera prototype
Big can camera prototype
Big can camera expose
Big can camera expose

I challenge you to build one!

Pedro Leal born in the western part of Europe, studied photography and drawing. his work is influenced by the sea, the sun and nature, exploring the limits of cyanotype. See his gallery here.

15 thoughts on “Making a cyanotype multi-exposure camera”

  1. Hi, Millie Mathison, Johnny Gnash, Malin and all…

    Thank you all for your interest in this project.
    For me it is an almost daily performance, which brings me great pleasure and draws attention to social and environmental issues, in contact with people while performing, whether at exhibitions or in social media.
    I would like to take it further to other places on the planet… If this tells you something, please contact me and share your ideas…
    all the best,

  2. Hi, Heinz Egger,
    Thank you for your interest, wild I as developing this project, I thought how good it would be to do it, with children or in a school project.
    Have you always done the experience with your grandchildren?
    Can you share the images?

  3. Claire Griffiths
    Thank you for your question and your interest, yes, chemicals worry us all. Cyanotype is one of the photographic processes with the least impact on nature.
    I would like to be able to discuss this subject… What are your thoughts? any suggestion?

  4. Hi Byron Hayes,
    sorry for the delay on answering…
    Yes, the sustainability of the process is one of the objectives.
    I don’t use any plastic film for 2 reasons, keeping it as simple as possible and assuming distance/blur as something that interests me due to mystery and weightlessness.
    The tape has 2 functions to prevent light from entering and to protect the paper film.
    If you have any further questions, contact me directly, the contact details are in my alternative photography gallery.
    Have a good trip and good experiences…
    Share the result please

  5. Hola Evelyn, ¡gracias por tu pregunta!
    Una vez expuesta y revelada, puedes recortar la impresión o después hacer un rollo seco en la cámara del tubo, si quieres que la pieza final sea un grupo con varias imágenes. Si necesitas más información te puedo enviar fotos de todo el proceso por whatsapp.

  6. Hola Pedro, ya hablamos anteriormente! Lo que no me queda claro de la cámara multi expósito es donde queda el pedazo de papel expuesto y revelado . O lo
    Vuelves a insertar en el tubo hasta la próxima exposición?

  7. I use watercolor sketch books, and elastic and thin sheet of plastic cut to size of page. I pretreat the pages. Leave them all in the book and wash when I’m able

  8. Hi, everyone…
    Thank you for your interest in this project, please share your experiences!
    If you want to participate, send me your address, I will send a postcard…
    Pedro Mendes Leal

  9. This is fabulous, we are travelling Wedtern Australia in 2024 so to be able to capture these images and leave nature where it belongs is exciting for me. Obviously the paper is already prepared. When you’re exposing the paper are you just laying the plants on top of the paper with no plastic film? and leaving it to the sun gods for your preferred time and then exposing in water. Is the tape on the inside of the tin to protect the paper from the cut made in the tin. Sorry for all the questions. This is an amazing piece of information. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  10. I love this idea! I’ve often wondered about developing Cyanotypes outside in ‘found’ water, puddle, river, sea etc. Is it safe environmentally though? Isn’t it introducing chemicals into that water which would not normally be there? What about the wildlife using that water? Any experts know about this? Many thanks

  11. Thank you for sharing this magnificent idea. This is, what I am going to make with my grandchildren! We will have a lot of fun, i am sure.

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