X-Ray Photography

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X-ray photography is very alluring because it reveals a hidden reality that the human eye can't see. Unlike infrared and ultraviolet photography, it can’t be done with a camera – you need to have a permission to use someone’s x-ray machine.

We’re going to cover a couple of most important facts about x-ray photography so that you can explore it safely!

Finding X-Ray Machines

Where to find x-ray machines? Bear in mind that various doctors always have this kind of equipment – you have to find a way to get a permission to use it and the machine should have the proper voltage setting. For instance, if you want to photograph flowers, the x-ray machine required to image the plant material should have a voltage setting between 10 and 40 kilovolts (KV).

Many x-ray machines have a minimum voltage setting of 60 KV, so it might take some time to find the ideal one. The machines that are designed to take images of soft tissue are usually the best choice, such as mammography units.

Photo by Owen Beard

Safety First

Working with x-ray machines poses serious health risks. If you’re not protected, this type of radiation can cause damage to the thyroid, skin, reproductive tissues, and so on. That’s why the patients are always covered with lead-lined aprons – these heavy pads prevent damage to sensitive parts of the body.

Since you’re not a patient and the machine beeps a few seconds before the picture is taken, you don’t have to wear an apron – you can simply leave the room. A wall between you and the x-ray machine will protect you.

Photo by Matthew Schwartz

Using The Proper Technique

The only way to find the ideal settings is through trial and error. Since x-ray photography isn’t that popular, it’s hard to find any precise guidelines.

The flower photograph below was taken with an exposure of between 24 and 29 KV. In addition to voltage, you will also have to choose the proper value of electric charge (in miliamps). The value of 4 milliamps was used for the image below, but you might need to change it if you’re shooting a different kind of flower or maybe an entirely different object, such as a seashell.

Make sure the x-rays are able to penetrate the petals and leaves of flower and make it look translucent. The delicate look of flowers photographed by x-ray machines is truly ravishing!

Photo by Cadop

Ideal Subjects For X-Ray Photography

You can experiment with different types of flowers, such as roses, orchids and lilies. In addition to flowers, you can also try various fruits, such as papaya or pineapple. Mushrooms make a wonderful choice too.

You don’t have to limit yourself to plants – you can try to obtain interesting x-ray imagery of seashells, seahorses and even taxidermy mounts of larger animals. Bear in mind that bones can look truly dramatic in high contrast b&w imagery.

Photo by Matthew Schwartz

Post-Processing X-Ray Photographs

The images that come out of an x-ray machine are called DICOM files. DICOM is used worldwide to store, exchange, and transmit medical images but you can convert such files into TIF or PSD in Photoshop and treat them just like regular photographs. Once you convert your DICOM images into files you can edit in Photoshop, you can leave them as grayscale photos but you can also get creative and colorize them.

In case you decide to colorize them, make sure to experiment with different blend modes found in the layers palette. If you want to stick to classic B&W look, you can try to use the invert command in Photoshop and reverse the light and dark tones. Sometimes the inverse version of your image will look more powerful than the original one.

One thing is certain – you’ll be able to produce stunning x-ray images after practicing for a while!

Photo by Matthew Schwartz

To learn more about x-ray, infrared and ultraviolet photography, check out the links below.

Further Reading:

  1. How To Shoot Infrared Photography
  2. 16 Remarkable Infrared Photos
  3. 4 Crazy Photography Techniques That You Probably Didn’t Know About
  4. Getting Started With UV Photography
  5. X-Ray Photos Of Flowers
  6. Nick Veasey: X-Ray Photography

About Author

Jasenka is a photographer with a background in web design. You can find out more about her on her website, see some of her newest images at 500px or get to know her better here.

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