Solargraphy, What is it, and how do you do it????

Solargraphy, What is it, and how do you do it????

Here is how and what it is...and what you need.

Solargraphy (according to Wikipedia)
Solargraphy is a technique in which a fixed pinhole camera is used to expose photographic paper for an extremely long amount of time (sometimes half a year).
 It is most often used to show the path of the Sun across the sky.

First let me explain the above photo.
This is a 6 month exposure looking over Beachy head lighthouse, East Sussex UK

Did I come here everyday to take a photo?? NO, I strapped the camera onto an old fence post and walked away, 6 months later I came and collected it.

Camera on old fence post

You can easily see the edge of the cliff and the Lighthouse, the lines in the sky are the path of the sun.
The lowest line is the shortest day (winter solstice) and the highest is the longest day (Summer solstice), everything in-between in the rest of the 6 months, the gaps are the cloudy days.

What you DO need

The easiest thing to use is a Drinks/Beer can, you can also make your own out of whatever you want, but drinks cans are the easiest place to start.

Photographic Paper, 5x7 fits perfect into a standard Beer can - Ilford Multigrade IV RC Deluxe
Available on Amazon or through eBay

Darkroom photographic paper is light sensitive, normally used to create photographic prints in a darkroom. If you leave it in sunlight it will very quickly change colour.

You DO NOT need any Chemicals or even a Darkroom.

Putting it together

Cut the top of the can out, a normal can opener will do the job.

Place a small pinhole (using a pin) in the side, in the centre is a good place to start.
If you like you can sand over the pinhole to smooth it out

In a darkened room (away from sunlight) place the photographic paper into the can, ensuring the pinhole is still visible and not covered by the paper.

Black duck tape the hole in the top, as much as you like, also place a piece over the pinhole.

Should look something like this, except with a bit of tape over the pinhole.


Find a location you can place it for as long as you want.
Attach with cable ties/zip ties, or anything else that works, I normally use jubilee clips, but I use a much stronger casing than a Beer can.

When set up, remove shutter and walk away.
(Tip, it is also worth putting a small note on camera saving what it is, some have been reported as bombs before)

Best time to set it up for a full six months is to set it up either during the winter or summer solstice.
But you will get results from just 1 full day.

This captured November 1st 2014, The day my first son was born.
I used a flat pinhole camera for this, instead of a can, a can adds more of a curve to the sun path.

This was the result from a 3 month exposure, I started this 3 months before the winter solstice.

Going from a 6 months to a year long exposure wont make much difference as the sun will just go back of itself. But its still cool do complete a year long exposure.

2016 in one exposure

When you have finished your chosen exposure time, place tape over shutter and remove.
When home in a darkened room, have a flat bed scanner ready. Open can and you should have something like this.

Place it on the flat bed scanner, scan it, open it in an editing program of your choice.
Then invert it, Negative to Positive.

You can use GIMP which is FREE
In GIMP you go to - colours then Invert

Make and tweaks and changes you like and enjoy your final results.

 6 month exposure overlooking the Beachy head lighthouse.

172 Sunrises over The Seven Sisters

6 month exposure of Eastbourne pier

6 month exposure at The river Cuckmere

If your camera gets water damaged you can get some cool looking results...sometimes

This was placed looking up an electrical pylon

Hope you found this helpful, any questions..please feel free to ask in the comments.


  1. Hi, I love it congrats, I have one question, when you remove the paper from the can to scan it, you never will expose to the light? if I haven’t a scan how can I convert to positive?
    Many thanks

    1. Thank you, when you remove the paper, it will be fine for a very short while in a darkened room, avoid sun light. I normally get around to doing mine in the evening, have the scanner ready and open and scan straight away. If you don't have a scanner the only way you can convert that I'm aware of is by taking a photo of it, use a smart phone or normal DSLR, most phones have apps that will convert, or upload to computer and convert in any software of your choice.

  2. This sounds like a very interesting project! And so simple to make. Thanks for sharing this and may God bless you and yours.

  3. I find an elongated can that is tilted to look up, with the pinhole close to the top allows you a better chance to capture the zenith paths:


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