Awfullogrammes
(Also known as - why I dont get asked to do weddings!)

In 1800 Humphrey Davy and Thomas Wedgewood met up at Dowry Square in Bristol to discuss capturing images using light. 220 years on we have:

The evolution of the Awfullogramme

I came up with this technique when trying to do pinhole photography workshops at universities throughout the winter of 2013 - 14.
It was so overcast that every day resembled a continual total solar eclipse with exposure times (3 seconds in sunlight) going over 30 seconds. This, combined with the usual hurricane conditions which occur every winter in my beloved country, required drastic indoor pinhole action.  The Awfulogramme was born!


An Awfulogramme takes advantage of the unlimited depth of field allowed by a pinhole camera, combined with the short exposure (1/5000th of a second) produced by a flashgun. This short exposure reduces all camera shake, allowing the camera to be hand held.

The slow ASA (light sensitivity) of the photographic paper means that to get enough light onto the photo paper, both flash to subject and pinhole to subject distances needs to be as close as possible, ideally no more than 5cm, although this can be increased slightly by using more powerful flashguns.

A slave unit which fits onto one of the flash guns, enables twice the illumination and more balanced lighting.

How to take an Awfullogramme

You will need:

  1. A beer can camera loaded with light sensitive photographic paper and access to a darkroom with chemicals etc. (See the video here)

  2. Two hand held 'Manual' flash guns. (As powerful as you can find, 32 guide number is good)

  3. A slave unit (A gizmo which sets off a flashgun when it 'sees' another flash going off)

  4. A victim

  5. Several hands to hold and operate all this stuff!

Taking the photograph

1 - Find an indoor area. (This allows the shutter to be removed for a good number of seconds in ambient light before the light sensitive paper gets too affected)

2- Charge up the flashguns and hold them frighteningly close to the subject-victim. The flash guns need to be pointed at the subject rather than the camera. (I find its best to get the subject to hold these in position, which gives them something to do their hands whilst looking scared!)

3- Peel the shutter off the camera then hold it far to close to the subject-victim and set off the flashgun (the one without the slave unit).

4 - When the subject-victim starts recoiling and saying things like "Whoa, that was hot" whist screaming "I can't see!", replace the shutter on the camera then apologise for not suggesting they close their eyes before the exposure.

5 - Develop the paper negative then scan into a scanner to make a positive, messing about with inverse and contrast and levels settings if required.

Me in the Bear Pit intimidating the good folk of Bristol and part of the final exhibition!

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