Photographer 3D Prints Wet Plate Photos to Create ‘Touchable Bokeh’


Photographer Markus Hofstätter had been designing parts for his cameras and 3D printing them at home when the idea to try something new struck him: 3D printing photographs. After a lot of trial and error, he successfully found a way to translate wet plate photos into 3D printed pieces.

Hofstätter says that when he thought about using his 3D printer for making photos, the idea came to him because the process shared similarities with the wet plate collodion process.

“The wet plate collodion process is kind of, maybe, 3D printing. You know, the light and the developer manifests the silver on the plate in layers, and afterward, the silver that is not exposed to light is washed away with a fixer. So if you have ever seen a resin printer working, it’s similar,” he says.

Every part of the image that would be dark is printed thicker, and likewise, any lighter are of the image is printed thinner. When showed without a backlight, the print doesn’t look like much. However, when held up to the light, a photograph appears.

Hofstätter said this again reminded him of the wet plate collodion process because the same general principles apply to an ambrotype.

Beyond just being able to feel the subject and the edges of the 3D printed image, Hofstätter says that when he holds the photos, he can even feel the bokeh.

“Have you ever experienced bokeh with your fingers?” he asks.

Creating these prints is a long process. Each one takes about 17 hours to print because he has to print it very slowly in order to get the level of detail he has achieved.

“These beautiful prints (lithophane) took a pretty long time to finish. My printer was working on them for 17 hours per print to make them as beautiful as possible,” he writes on his blog. “And that does not include all the fails, the search for the right filament and to find the right settings. But I am so happy that it worked out.”

You can see several different angles of some of his prints on his blog, where Hofstätter also shows what the prints look like both with and without backlighting.

Hofstätter doesn’t reveal the exact process he uses to create the prints as he is selling them on his Ebay store. Still, what he has done here is extremely unusual and unique, and it’s hard not to be impressed with how he has taken photography into another dimension.

For more from Hofstätter, visit his blog or subscribe to his YouTube Channel.


Image credits: Photos by Markus Hofstätter and used with permission.



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