How to print photos onto plants, yes really!

Aug 29, 2023

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

How to print photos onto plants, yes really!

Aug 29, 2023

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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Have you ever thought about printing your photo onto different objects? I mean, paper is so last year! What about printing them on a leaf?

In this ingenious video, Ben from Applied Science shows us how it can be done. The technique taps into the intricate dance of photosynthesis and starch storage, resulting in stunning leaf prints that are as captivating as they are educational.

The process is pretty clever and involves the careful patterning of light falling onto a plant leaf. The regions exposed to more intense light undergo photosynthesis at an accelerated rate, generating excess energy stored as starch granules. This energy becomes the basis for creating the images on the leaf.

Ben began with a simple method involving printed line art from a regular printer. The resulting images revealed a surprising level of detail. As the leaf dried, a natural shrinkage occurred, inadvertently enhancing the resolution. Subsequent experiments ventured into grayscale images and even negative-to-positive leaf prints, mirroring the principles of traditional photography.

The plant chosen for these experiments is the geranium. Geraniums have large, delicate leaves that facilitate chlorophyll removal and iodine penetration during development.

The process revolves around two essential steps: destarching and development. Destarching is achieved by boiling the leaf in alcohol, after which the leaf is rehydrated. Submersion in a solution of iodine triggers the development process, turning starch regions blue-black and forming the desired image.

Ben clearly got very into this. He designed a custom camera lens specifically optimized for the task at hand. The lens possesses remarkable speed and can capture an image on the leaf with incredible clarity. He also created a custom leaf holder to keep the leaf flat.

Ben also experimented with both sunlight and artificial light. The sunlight was a clear winner, which sort of makes sense, considering that plants have used sunlight to photosynthesize energy for millennia.

It seems like a weird thing to want to do. However, the results are quite interesting and beautiful. Give it a go, and maybe you’ll create something interesting too!

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Alex Baker

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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