Glow-in-the-Dark Photograms: Turn Your Photos into Spooky Glow-in-the-Dark Wonders

Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2, 3

All Hallow’s Eve: it’s the holiday that summons our creative jojo powers from the beyond.

There’s something about the crafty sea serpent costumes and elaborate dino pumpkin sculptures that really gets our inner DIY-er pumped.

That’s why we’re harnessing our Halloween-infused excitement into a truly awesome photo project that our pal Ken Setzer taught us: glow-in-the-dark photograms!

This mystifying project will transform your very own photos into spooky glow-in-the-dark wonders and will even get you back into the dark room…if you dare!

Mua ha ha. Ha.

How to Turn Your Photos into Spooky Glow-in-the-Dark Images!

p.s. Got an idea for an awesome new Photojojo Store goodie? We’d love to hear it, anytime! Just contact us *here*.

Why Is it cool?

beforeGlow-in-the-dark (GITD) surfaces are sensitive to light, just like film or photo paper, so why not expose them to actual images and see what happens?

You know how you “charge” a glow-in-the-dark surface by holding it up to a light?

Well you can hold it up to a monitor, and charge it with whatever image is on your screen! Photograph the result before it fades away, and you’ve captured your image in an eerie, otherworldy, ectoplasmic beauty.

What do I need?:


  • Any digital camera
  • Computer
  • Digital photos
  • Any photo editing program
  • A room that can be made dark
  • Glow-in-the-dark sheet OR Glow-in-the-dark-paint (Found in craft stores & online)
  • Paint brush and 8×10 cardboard (only if you’re using paint)
  • Book the same size as your glow sheet (optional)
  • Artist tape (optional)

Step 1: Prepare Your Glow-In-the-Dark Surface

beforeYou can make your very own GITD photogram in two ways. Choose the one you like the best or try both!

  • Use glow-in-the-dark paint
  • Use a glow-in-the-dark sheet

If you decide to go the glow-in-the-dark paint route, you’ll need to paint an 8×10″ piece of cardboard using a paintbrush and GITD paint. We recommend a cardboard that has a super smooth surface. You can also use any smooth object to paint onto, though.

We got a nice glowy surface with about 6 coats. (You’ll probably want the paint to dry a little between each coat.) Let the paint dry completely before you start to make photograms.

If you decide to go the glow-in-the-dark sheet route, you’re ready to go! Move on to Step 2.

*TIP*: Keep your cardboard or sheet in a book or face down in order to keep it unexposed to light. This will prepare it to be “charged” with your image.

Step 2: Get Your “Dark Room” Ready

beforeImagine your glow-in-the-dark surface is your light sensitive photo paper, and your computer monitor is the light that will expose your image.

It’s just like a dark room! (Exciting!!!)

First, open the image of your choice on your computer. You’ll lose detail in your photogram, so pick something with good contrast and a strong, clear subject.

Size it on your screen so it’s as close as possible to the size of your GITD surface. Also, turn your monitor up to full brightness.

Second, make sure you have these things ready to go: your GITD surface and your camera ready with the correct settings. (We kept ours on a high ISO, flash turned off, and left our exposure on automatic. Tips on focusing in Step 4.)

Step 3: Turn Off the Lights

before Turn off the lights.

The only light should be coming from your monitor.

Place your GITD surface directly on your monitor, on the image you want to glow-ify. Hold it steady to avoid blur, for about 30 seconds.

We used artist tape (a low-stick tape) to keep our image extra steady.

Step 4: Photograph Your Glowy Photogram

Quickly place the GITD surface in place to be photographed, and shoot the picture before the glow fades away.

Focusing may be tricky in the dark.

Automatic focus sometimes works, but if you have trouble, try focusing on the spot where you’ll be placing your GITD surface before you start the process and keep your camera in the same position throughout (for example, keep your camera on a tripod).

It may take a couple of tries to get the right exposure, also. Adjust your aperture and shutter speed if you have those controls on your camera. Keep in mind, if it doesn’t seem bright or contrasty enough, a photo editing program will do the trick.

Once you finish your first exposure, you’ll get in a rhythm of exposing new images…you might spend all night in your “dark room” o’ glow!

Step 5: Get ’em on your computer

Load the photos from your camera onto your computer and open them in a photo editor.

Crop out the areas outside the GITD image. Lighten, and increase contrast with a curves or levels adjustment.

You’re done!

Your glow-in-the-dark photograms are ready to share with your friends online, to print out and send as freaky Halloween postcards, or to simply creep yourself out on those spooky nights home alone.

Experiment, and you should be good to glow!

Take It Further:

  • Print out glowing photos of friends and family and give them out on Halloween — people love to see how they’ll look as ghosts! Trees, woods, old buildings also make good creepy subjects.
  • Print out photos or any image (even text!) onto regular printer paper. Place it over your GITD surface and flash it with an external flash or bright light (a bright flashlight works).
  • Use transparencies or large film negatives with the same method above.
  • If using paint, keep your brush strokes visible by using a coarse brush and layering coats or leaving uneven brush stroked edges. Your images will have a painterly look!
  • Cut out shapes and place ’em on your GITD surface. Flash it with an external flash or bright light to expose. We cut out dinos and letters to spell out “Photojojo”
  • Experiment with texture. Scratch up your cardboard to get a scratched surface or throw glitter on top of your paint before it dries. Paint onto faux fur for weird effects…all kinds of possibilities!
  • Make shapes with your paint. Paint your GITD surface into the shape of a heart on your cardboard or stripes or an oval, anything really.
  • Set up a glow-in-the-dark wall! Turn your cardboard or sheets into a mural, then use an external flash or bright light to imprint your shadow on the wall — like the Nickelodeon Flash Screen!! AKA the coolest toy of all time.
  • Check out our Halloween shooting tips. A thorough guide!

    Kenneth Setzer is a photographer and graphic designer who lives in Florida. Photo credit to Ken for GITD photos of girl’s face, train, lighthouse, tree, and Queen Victoria.