Review of Harman Direct Positive Paper

Iíve been using this Direct Positive Paper for a year now in my pinhole cameras. I consider it the best paper I've ever used, and I want to tell you a bit about it as I think most of you with an interest in non-digital photography would enjoy using it.

I don't use film in my pinhole cameras, I just cut squares or rectangles of photographic paper to fit my cameras and expose onto the paper direct. Before using this Direct Positive paper I always used Illford Multigrade IV glossy paper. I was very happy with the results I got from Multigrade, but sometimes thought that they were a little too contrasty and not subtle enough for some of the images I was trying to create, when trying to portray the feeling of the scene, rather than just the obvious image. The big problem was in the skies or any large area of the image that was in danger of being bleached out; there were rarely any clouds visible, even if I tried my best to expose for them. But the Direct Postitive Paper has fixed this issue more or less. Here's a few snaps that I took recently (with the converted Box Brownie, about 12 seconds exposure, didn't exposure for clouds, just the landscape) that shows how it deals with the sky and subtle contrast within the darker tones without me trying to compensate in any way.


As you can see, the effect that the paper gives isn't bad at all. In fact, it's giving me fantastic skies, just what I saw with my eyes. So, the first plus point of this paper is, you get the softness and sense of mystery that the pinhole creates with any paper, but also the depth of contrast that other papers canít give you.

Another difference from the Multigrade paper is that images made with the Harman Direct Positive paper come out as a positive image, as the paperís name implies. If it were to come out as a negative image, which it would if you were using Multigrade or any other photographic paper, it'd look like it does below left, instead of below right.




Now, this coming out as a postive image is a really good thing if you are taking images that you intend to exhibit and sell. If you're using Harman Direct Positive paper you can genuinely say, 'This image I have here for sale is a one off, there is no copy, no negative, only this', and hopefully you'll command a much higher price for it as a result. It's not going to be a true representation of the scene though, as light still travels in straight lines whatever the photographic paper you use, so the image will still be 'back to front' unless you reverse it in photoshop or by making a contact print, but as long as there is no writing on it (so watch out for those street signs!), it won't look odd at all and nobody will question that it is indeed a very saleable print.

The other thing I like about the subtle nature of this Harman paper is the softness, perhaps you might say the look of extreme age, of the image it sometimes creates. See below. It especially suits images if you're looking for an abstract effect. Like something Cartier Bresson might have taken in Spain in the 1930's, perhaps. I think the best effect you get is when you make the image when the light is fading, which is at about 4 or 5pm in the summer here in the UK.




I've used the lustre and the gloss version of the Direct Positive Paper, and I like the gloss best, mainly because it's easier to tell what side is what when you are changing the paper in the dark bag. Glossy is smooth to the touch, whilst with lustre there is very little difference to the touch and if I'm using that I sometimes put the wrong side facing out to the pinhole, so get no image at all as a result.

If you are thinking of exhibiting the images, the fibre based paper is what you need. There is also a very heavy weight version of the paper available, it's about 300 grams I think, which is really nice to use but unless you dry it whilst it's lying completely flat it will end up very curly around the edges, which is not at all desireable for an image destined for public showing.

A word or warning; each photographic paper reacts differently when you use it in your pinhole cameras. The Harman Direct Positive paper is no different. I think it needs a little more exposure time than the Multigrade to get good images, and when you come to developing it, you need to make sure the chemicals are fresh. With Multigrade paper you can get away with tired developing fluid, but with this direct positive paper, if you use chemicals that arenít at their best, the image will still come out but itíll be very wishy washy.

I recommend you try this Harman Direct Postive Paper, in the Glossy version of the paper. It's changed the way I use my pinhole cameras, for the better (I can plan for much needed subtle tones in my images now, and for producing saleable prints direct from the camera), and it's improved the look of my images a lot. Iím happier that Iím getting what I see and feel when I first spy a scene, which when youíre using a pinhole camera is what itís all about Ė look mixed with feeling, rather than the straight lines and over obvious colours of the digital age.

You can find Harman Direct Positive Photographic Paper online at