Lumen printing (Lycksten)

Sarah Lycksten shows us how to have fun with lumen printing and photography – exploring and experimenting with new techniques!

Writer and photography / Sarah Lycksten

Lumen print by Sarah Lycksten
Lumen print by Sarah Lycksten

Take a black/white photo paper, put a piece of plant, flower or something else organic on top and finish off with a piece of glass.  Leave in the sun for half an hour or why not when you go to work and you’ve got something to look forward to when you come home.

Bring your photo-sandwich inside and rinse of any organic bits, put in fixer. You will find the image changing rapidly in the fixer and usually get a pleasant surprise when you look at it in normal light. Rinse and you should have an archival image as long as you’ve taken care to not leave any organic residue that would make the image deteriorate eventually.

Sounds simple, and it is, but there’s a lot more you can do with it.

The composition is important. You will benefit from trimming your plants to make out more detail.

You can also experiment with putting stuff on the glass, partially coat it with paint, foodstuffs or place items on top, like a shadowgram. Use tape at the edges to create a border.

Wet the paper before you put the plant on and you will get a darker image with more detail in the subject.
Lumen photography by Sarah LyckstenOr just spray the plant with water before you put it on the paper but make sure you get it in the right position straight away because the damp areas will show in the final picture, unless that’s what you are after.

It is a technique that puts you in the hands of chance and the fact that every image will be unique. So many factors affect the final image like air humidity, UV-factor, the subject’s humidity, temperature etc. But you can alter the exposure in some ways dodging or burning in parts of the image with a magnifying glass, although it will take a bit longer than with your usual darkroom print.

Lumen photography print by Sarah LyckstenIt works well with most papers, especially old brands. Different papers give various colors.

A great way of using up old fogged papers.

Handcoated papers work well to, and a fantastic way of using up old liquid emulsion that might be fogged. Liquid emulsion gives brilliant colors from bright yellow to purple and orange!

Take care not to leave in too strong heat for too long. The heat will melt the emulsion. I usually leave them on the balcony but not in direct sunlight.

If when you come to fixing your image, you find the paper has stuck to the glass, just spray the back of the paper with water, if you can’t soak the whole thing, and it should come loose.

When you have your final print you can always reverse it. Use your Lumenprint as a negative and put face to face on top of an unexposed paper and expose it.

You can tone or bleach it.

Print by Sarah Lycksten
Photograph made by Sarah Lycksten

Using negatives instead of flowers you need a negative with lots of detail and contrast. It will give a very soft image with a surreal feel to it.

Like this pinhole picture by the sea turned into something more resembling a desert landscape.

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6 thoughts on “Lumen printing (Lycksten)”

  1. Mordancage and lumen printig are two different processes. Household hydrogen peroxide will not work with the mordancage process. You will the more concentrated 30% to 40% solution to lift the emulsion from the paper base.Lumen printing is a printing out proscess using B&W papers, B&W films,color papers,color films,liquid emulsions that are made by extreme over exposure to UV or sunlight. I have over 1,000 examples of lumen prints in my pumen print set on flickr. The examples are made with over 100 different papers.
    John Fobes

  2. Hi,
    Please forgive my bad english. I’ve tryed severeal times lumen prints. A very nice process with a tecnhic similar to the older salt prints. I have uses for many times de scanning just after got the image. But i have tryed to fix the image. First i ve used the normal fixer in proportion of 1 to 20. But the image vanished always.
    After readings about salt prints and van dyke process i realise that the solutions has to be this:
    – Wash the lumenprint,
    – Fix with a solution of 15% sodium thiossulfate with 1% of sodium carbonate for 1 minute.

    Then wash.

    I ve tryed and realize that this made possible the lume print stay more dark and got some good pictures.

    This happens because the normal fixer are acid and will react with the mettalic silver.

  3. Hey Judy,
    I’m a photo student as well and am currently working with lumen printing. I really love it!
    I’m not sure if your professor says to do it differently but I learned that after you exposure the print in the sun to put it directly in the stop bath and then in a diluted fixer solution (just dilute a regular fixer solution with water). I don’t know if that will help the silver to lift but it may help you get a better image.
    Hope that helps a little! Good luck and have fun!
    Rachel Broadbent

  4. I recently started to process a few mordancage images. I first used fiber paper and soon realized that this was not going to work. I then printed on RC. I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I completed the print, develop, stop bath, fix and then rinse. I then soaked it and bleached as instructed, developed then rinse. When I placed the print back into the nordancage solution it did not lift the silver, could this be due to the fact that I used the typical household hydrogen peroxide? Approximately how long does the image have to soa in the solution before the silver begins to lift? I am a second year photo student but love the darkroom experience, this particular process interests me more than anything else. I would appreciate an assistance that you could give in the process.
    Judy McDonough

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