Inside-Out X-Ray Photography

Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2

We’ve always been jealous of Superman’s x-ray vision, and we’ve finally decided to do something about it.

It doesn’t involve Kryptonite, nor an alliance with Lex Luther, but rather a bit of old-fashioned x-ray photography.

Sure, x-rays are dangerous, but they don’t call us PhotoDANGERjojo for nothing. Read on for a couple ways we’ve found to reveal the secrets of high-heeled shoes (nails and steel rods), hairdryers (frighteningly complex systems of wires, coils, and plastic) and more!

(BTW, don’t think you’ll be able to detect the color of your sweetheart’s undies like Superman once did. X-rays don’t pick up color, buddy.)

Photojojo’s X-Ray Photography at Home

See also: Nick Veasey’s x-ray photography. His bulldozer x-ray above combines over 500 individual x-ray images, and his portfolio is stunning.

How it Works

X-rays are essentially similar to visible light rays: both are wave-like forms of electromagnetic energy. We can’t see x-rays because our eyes are only sensitive to the particular wavelength of visible light. X-ray machines direct the rays through soft tissue (like skin) to bounce off denser tissue (like bone) and create an image of your insides.

Why X-Ray Photography is Cool

The insides become outsides! X-rays are useful, of course, in science and medicine. But they’re revolutionary in the way we think about photography. In x-ray photography, the artist uses a different kind of light to expose what we can’t normally see. When x-rays aren’t used to highlight our bones, everyday objects take on a different life. Insects become aliens, dolls become frightening zombies.

3 Ways to Do-It-Yourself, for the Non-Superman

1. The X-Ray Machinexray_thumb.jpg

You can buy x-ray machines on eBay. Yup, for reals. A few thousand bucks (in some cases, a few hundred) and you can pick up a used medical or dental x-ray machine of your very own!

If that seems steep, but you’re handy and like taking risks, The Scientific American Book of Projects for the Amateur Scientist from 1960 shows you how to make an x-ray machine for less than 20 bucks. We haven’t done it, but we’re betting it’s more than a weekend project. The instructions alone consume an afternoon.

2. Your Friendly Local Radiologist
handxray_thumb.jpgIf you’ve been going in for regular physicals, say hey to your doctor when you see her at the supermarket, and have been a model patient, chances are good a plate of cookies and a winning smile (and perhaps a plea in the name of art) might win you a show at the x-ray machine at your next checkup.

Or, next time you break a bone, ask to purchase your x-ray. It’s not as odd a request as you might think (that’s one of our thumbs to the right).

3. Sunprints: The Safe Almost-X-Ray
sunprint1_thumb.jpgThe scientists at Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley created this coated paper that uses the sun to expose and water to develop. Super simple, sunprints are like x-rays without the pesky cancer risk.

Purchase a Sunprint kit, then gather interesting objects like feathers, bones, or bike sprockets. Place them on the paper (blue side up), expose them to sun for 1-5 minutes, then rinse your Sunprint with water and dry it flat.

For something extra-neat, photocopy a photograph onto a transparency and use it to make a Sunprint. You can also use try high-contrast black-and-white negatives.

What Next?

Do something about your new-found obsession! A few places to start…

  • Break your finger for an excuse to visit your doctor. Hang your x-ray in a window.
  • Make a bluer, eerier Sunprint of your x-ray and hang it in your bedroom.
  • Go to school to become an x-ray technician.
  • Buy Nick Veasey’s book