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High School Science Fair Project With Photography

Abe Slamowitz - Long Island New York , Sep 21, 2008; 10:59 a.m.

I am in 10th grade and would like to do a science fair project on photography. Last year I developed B and W film in coffee and another substance vs. the actual developer. This year I would like to either expand on this or start off with a new topic but still in the photography category. This project would be going to the science congress and would have to be detailed and at a high level. Any ideas? Thanks.


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William Clark , Sep 21, 2008; 11:57 a.m.

Hi Abe!

That is terrific thinking how to use different chemicals to develop film.

Here is another idea for film developing:


What about printing? Do you have the opportunity to use a darkroom? Lots of different things can be done. Take a peek at the different toners to change the color of black & white papers.

Check here:

(link) 8&q=paper+toners&qx=paper+toners&section=all&sa.x=0&sa.y=0&sa=Search

Hope this helps you.

Nice to see your interest in photography!

William Clark , Sep 21, 2008; 12:02 p.m.

Let me try the link again:


If this link doesn't work I just typed "print toners" in the search and a group of threads came up with photone.

Best Abe!

Robert Hall , Sep 21, 2008; 12:25 p.m.

Other topics could be sensors, types and properties. Look at the tutorials here: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/ If that interests you, you might find a lot more detailed information. A high level project would involve an experiment, not just a display of information already known. BW is chemical oriented, rather archaic technology. Senosors are electronics and involves the physics of light. All pixels are not the same. Both require some equipment. Hope this helps.

Abe Slamowitz - Long Island New York , Sep 21, 2008; 03:53 p.m.

I have all the professional photography equpment I could ever need. I have access to a darkroom.

Any other ideas? Something has to be measured, as in the criteria for the project.

William Clark , Sep 21, 2008; 04:36 p.m.

You could file a report your findings with the various exposures/f stop/times of exposure on the enlarger/various heights and noted/contrast/development times you achieve whilst working with your negs in the darkroom and your results relative to contrast, exposure/zone system used.

Albert Richardson , Sep 22, 2008; 03:57 a.m.

Why not build a pinhole camera?

Measurements come into play in several ways for pinhole work.

Here are a few questions for you to ask while planning and executing the project that might help guide your efforts. The pinhole camera is simplicity itself which makes it easier for you, the scientist, and your appreciative audience to better understand the photographic principles and theories you illustrate in its construction.

How does an f-stop value connect the focal length of your camera to the size of the aperture opening?

Make a chart to calculate photographically useful f-stop apertures for tiny openings. (Perhaps this is an opportunity for you to learn more about Microsoft Excel.) How does this help you figure out proper exposure times?

What is reciprocity failure? Did you make exposure adjustments because of this? What were they?

Study various theories on optimum pinhole size. Why are they so complicated? Which theory works the best?

Study various ways pinhole camera builders use to make apertures. Do you need to know more about putting a tiny hole in something than which end of a drill bit is which? Is it practical to make a real pinhole the same size as the optimum a theory yields? What difference does it make? How did you compensate for this?

Why is the resulting image upside-down and backwards?

Build your camera and present the photographs you took with it. Document the steps you needed to get it right. Describe the ideas and tools you applied. What did you learn about photography?

Good luck.

John O'Keefe-Odom , Sep 22, 2008; 11:47 a.m.

To meet the "testable" requirement, one of the things you could do is use math to illustrate what you wanted to do, and then carry that project out to see if the results fell within your mathematical predictions. If not, why not, etc. ? If you need to beef up your project with some math, there's plenty of math related to optics and photography out there. Whether you have simple, arithmetic-based math skills, or advanced multi-variable calculus skills, you should be able to find math problems within the scope of your educational progress that can be used to show/test a hypothesis.

For some good diagrams, sometimes people who make introductory explanations of large format photography serve as good hosts. http://www.largeformatphotography.info/ is a website that has some good links.

If you get into using math with photography as part of your project, it might help to have a mentor or more experienced person help to guide you. That way, you can get the project done without straying too far off of track.

Good luck. J.

John O'Keefe-Odom , Sep 22, 2008; 12:09 p.m.

Being able to measure could help to make your project successful, for a science fair. For example, let's say you decide to make a pinhole camera, as suggested above. But, you're a beginner. The first time you try, you might fail. You tried to make a pinhole, but instead, you accidentally jabbed a huge, gaping hole in the thing. Your pinhole camera doesn't work on the first try. The hole is way too big. How much too big? Record that. That's an example of building something that's outside of the required tolerances. If nothing else, measuring and documenting the failures can show some of the limits to the ideas.

Then keep on with the project, and try to build a pinhole again. You can do it.

So, what I'm getting at is, if you mess up a few times, don't give up. When you're exploring new stuff, it's normal to have some setbacks. Hopefully, you're going to be a better student than I often was, and will steadily get the work done and keep the project on schedule. That way, if you do have problems, you can document them and continue striving to meet your goal. Keep on, keepin' on. J.

John O'Keefe-Odom , Sep 22, 2008; 12:32 p.m.

One last thing, Young Apprentice:

If you're in a situation like I was, the Science Fair projects will probably go like this:

At first, everyone's gonna be excited about getting the thing done. This stage will occur while the teacher is talking about it. Then, everyone in the class is going to have a bunch of good intentions. Some of them will get books from the library. Then, something else will come up. People around you will begin to lose focus. They're gonna start blowing off the homework.

Some weeks will go by, and then it's almost Science Fair time. A huge panic will secretly descend on every member of the class. At the last minute, or sometimes the weekend before, the whole class will scramble around and try to slap something together to meet the requirements.

The teacher will be able to tell who was scrambling around. Trust me on this.

This is where you come in. Hopefully, all along you've been doing you're homework. You've been busy, too, but every day you plugged and chugged at it a little more. Two weeks into the project you almost lost hope because the project looked so big. But, you kept on. You did the research. You read the books. You built the test materials for the project some time before it was due. During those last few days before the due date, you didn't have to build everything from scratch and totally write the report from a blank page. You just needed to put on a little final cosmetic polish.

Trust me on this. I have failed a great many school subjects. I have also earned some good grades, too. Usually, I'm a B student, but sometimes I got A's. Pretty much every time I failed, it was because I didn't do the daily work. Every time I succeeded, it wasn't because of some monumental last-minute push. It was because I had done the homework.

Even though it's boring or lonely or hard, do that homework. Don't cheat. Don't procrastinate. Plug and chug. It will pay off. Trust me on this. All good things I have achieved in my little, plain jane life have been because I was investing daily in trying to point in the general direction of the goal. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my own kind of homework now. Good luck. J.

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