Practical Holography, 3rd Edition, Graham Saxby, IOP, 482 pages, ISBN 0-7503-0912-1

harrison-photoMichael Harrison

About the author
Michael was born on an insignificant little blue-green planet orbiting an unregarded yellow sun out in the unfashionable backwaters of the western spiral arm of the galaxy and is a computer programmer currently working in the games industry. He has been interested in holography and has been making holograms since 1984, with a few long breaks for Real Life. He hopes to soon take over the world by combining his experience in 3D graphics with holography.

The release of Graham Saxby’s third edition of Practical Holography shows how well the author understands what people need from a complete book on holography. He takes the reader through what a hologram is, the history of holography, what sort of light sources can be used to make a hologram, what kinds have been made to date and so on through to making and displaying your own images.

The book is written in a clear and concise manner and is augmented by additional tips, definitions, and observations in the margins as well as extensive source references at the end of each chapter.

If you’re new to the field or hobby of holography you should make this one of the first books you buy. Even if you’re an old hand this book will probably show you a few new tricks.

Overview of the book

The first four chapters (What is a hologram, How holography began, Light sources for holography, The basic types of hologram) should be read through by anyone starting out in holography. You don’t necessarily need to understand everything in those chapters right off, but by reading those basics you’ll be better prepared to digest the rest of the book.

The first chapter explains what a hologram is, interference, diffraction, amplitude and phase gratings in a way that most interested readers will have no trouble understanding.

The book continues through the history of holography, the light sources used to make holograms, the basic types of holograms and describes the materials and processing used in making holograms.

It’s in chapter six that Saxby begins explaining how the reader can make their first single-beam hologram using a gas or diode laser. This chapter has complete details on all the equipment needed, how to set it up, shoot it, process the exposed film and view your finished hologram. If you are unfortunate enough to end up with a dim or non-existent image (which is likely to happen the first time) the author takes you through the steps needed to find out what happened and how to fix the problem.

Chapter seven then takes the reader through more advanced single-beam configurations and introduces a few new tools and methods such as using a spatial filter, index matching film and multi-exposure techniques.

The rest of the book shows a similar progression, taking the reader through more complicated steps such as making transfer holograms, building a holography lab, creating master and copy holograms, homemade optical elements and so on.

For those with a mathematical bent, the first three appendices contain information you’ll want to read and digest after going through the first few chapters of the book. These appendices are clearly written and approachable even to those who aren’t particularly adept at mathematics. Saxby also includes an appendix with worksheets for computing the geometries needed for several forms of multicolor holograms.

If you’ve been around the block a time or two (or at least ridden with someone else) you might think that this book would offer little new material. In fact, there is plenty of material for the more experienced holographer. The material ranges from information on fiber optics use, color holography, edge lit holograms and beyond. See the included table of contents from chapter 16 on.

Differences between this and the previous edition

Extensive side notes have been added which expand on and clarify the information given in the main text. These comments could have been left out and the book would not have suffered but by adding them the author gives information that enriches the main text.

The chapter on light sources used for holography has been expanded to include information on diode lasers as well as new information on DPSS (diode-pumped solid-state) and white light laser sources.

The pages devoted to copying holograms have been greatly expanded from one chapter with six pages to two chapters of nearly thirty pages. These cover several techniques for copying both transmission and reflection holograms and close by covering the relatively new technique of edge lighting holograms.

Natural color holography now has a full chapter devoted to it which starts by covering how we perceive color as well as details on how the eye responds to light of differing wavelengths. Details are then given on how individual primary colors are commonly combined to form colors that you won’t find in the natural spectrum. From there the author describes how lasers of differing color may be combined on the table to create a simulated full-color image. While this chapter won’t give you all the details you need for natural color holography it will get you started and there are several references at the end of the chapter that can carry you further.

A chapter has been added covering non-silver processes for making holograms and even includes limited information on coating your own glass plates. This chapter starts out by mentioning the high sensitivity of silver-halide emulsions and discussing the major reasons for its use. Saxby moves on to the details of dichromated gelatin (DCG) use and outlines methods for mixing DCG, coating glass plates, exposure and processing. If you’re interested in extremely bright holograms, this section will definitely whet your appetite for rolling your own plates. From there he moves on to brief discussions of SHSG, photopolymers, photothermoplastics and other processes. He doesn’t go into the same detail in the later sections as he does for DCG but there are plenty of references at the end of the chapter.

Holographic stereograms now have an entire chapter devoted to them. This chapter includes instructions for making several different kinds of stereogram and details for creating good source material, usually photographs. The author even outlines some methods for computer control of a simple holoprinter as well as color control to obtain achromatic and full-color transfers.

A new chapter on the use of holography in biology and medicine includes information on hologram use for dental training, ophthalmology and stereogram use with PET and CAT scan data.

The appendix on processing formulas has been updated and expanded and now includes instruction on creating your own emulsion.

So, the book is perfect is it?

While there are a few typographical errors that the publisher is working to correct in future printings, there really isn’t much that I could find fault with. A few relatively minor complaints are detailed below.

Interferometer testing isn’t introduced until chapter 11 but making your first hologram begins in chapter 6. The reasoning behind this is likely twofold.

  1. All the table setups prior to chapter 11 involve using a single beam for the reference and object light and there are less stringent stability requirements for single-beam setups.
  2. Setting up an interferometer requires two mirrors, one beam splitter and one lens as well as mounts for all of those elements and Saxby makes an effort to minimize the equipment needed to get going.

Forcing the reader to buy additional optics needed only for the interferometer could be seen as an impediment to bringing people into the field. My only complaint with that reasoning (if that really is what determined where table testing was placed in the book) is that knowing your environment can be critical in understanding your failures when starting out in holography. You will have a few failures in the beginning, especially if you’re not working in a dedicated laser lab. While single-beam setups are less sensitive to vibration problems, they aren’t immune and testing your area with an interferometer can give you invaluable information about what limitations you start out with.

Not all film listed is still available (Kodak no longer makes plates) or available to the general public (most photopolymer material). This is not surprising as this is an area of the field that is in constant change. New materials are appearing as old materials are being refined or disappear completely. You’d be better served by doing an Internet search or checking in the Holography Forum ( for the current state of the art.

My soft cover copy is only three months old and is already coming apart at the binding. This may be a problem with that particular run.

All three editions of Practical Holography have included a hologram of some kind. The first edition actually included two, an embossed hologram on the cover and a silver-halide hologram on the first page. Unfortunately the second and third editions have only included embossed holograms on the cover and while I’m sure that type was selected for the relatively low production cost, they are not the best examples of the art. The depth of field available with embossed holograms is severely limited and while they are visible in almost any light, embossed holograms lack the impressive sense of 3D available from simple reflection holograms on silver-halide or photopolymer.


I have no trouble at all in recommending the third edition of Practical Holography to everyone interested in holography. There’s something for every holographer in this book.

Table of contents

Foreword to first edition xv
Preface to third edition xvii
Preface to second edition xviii
From the preface to first edition xx
  Chapter 1: What is a hologram? 3
    Stereoscopy 3
    Defining the problem 6
    The problem solved 7
    Interference 8
    An experiment with interference fringes 8
    Diffraction 11
    Amplitude and phase gratings 13
  Chapter 2: How holography began 16
    References 22
  Chapter 3: Light sources for holography 24
    Light as an electromagnetic phenomenon 24
    Propagation of electromagnetic waves 24
    Oscillators 26
    Properties of light beams 27
    Atoms and energy 28
    Stimulated emission 29
    The three-level solid-state laser 30
    Q-switching 33
    Four-level gas lasers 34
    Mirrors and windows in CW lasers 35
    Ion lasers 37
    Tunable lasers 39
    Semiconductor (diode) lasers 40
    Diode-pumped solid-state (DPSS) lasers 41
    Pseudowhite lasers 42
    Warning notices 43
    Avoiding accidents 43
    Protective eyewear 44
    Pulse laser 44
    The laser itself 44
    Further reading 45
  Chapter 4: The basic types of hologram 46
    Laser transmission holograms 46
    Replaying the image 46
    The real image 47
    Reflection holograms 48
    Phase holograms 50
    Image-plane holograms 51
    White-light transmission holograms 52
    Other types of hologram 55
    Color holography 56
    Embossed holograms 56
  Chapter 5: Materials, exposure and processing 57
    The silver halide process 57
    Technical requirements for holographic materials 59
    Constituents of a developer 59
    Bleaches 63
    Other processes 65
  Chapter 6: Making your first hologram 69
    Basic requirements 69
    The laser 71
    A beam expander 72
    Support for the laser 73
    Support for the plate 74
    Setting up for the exposure 75
    Setup with a small diode laser 76
    An alternative setup for a larger laser 76
    Processing solutions 77
    Exposing 77
    Processing 77
    Viewing the image 78
    A one-step real image 79
    Displaying your hologram 79
    What went wrong? 80
    Suppliers of holographic materials 81
    Further reading 81
  Chapter 7: Single-beam techniques 1 83
    Single-beam holograms of unstable subject matter 83
    Building a single-beam frame 87
    A rear-surface mirror system without double reflections 89
    The laser 89
    Triangular benches 91
    Spatial filtering 92
    Setting up with a spatial filter 94
    Making an electrically operated shutter 95
    Safelights 96
    Index-matching fluid 97
    Exposing and processing 99
    Getting the exposure right 100
    Multi-exposure techniques 100
  Chapter 8: Single-beam techniques 2 103
    The transfer principle 103
    Making a reflection master hologram 103
    Transmission transfer holograms 105
    360 holograms 106
    Further applications of single-beam holograms 114
    Mounting and finishing holograms 114
    Troubleshooting 115
  Chapter 9: Bypass holograms 120
    Transmission master holograms 121
    Reflection master holograms 123
    Reflection transfer holograms 124
    Full-aperture transmission transfer holograms 124
    Rainbow holograms 125
    Reflection holograms from transmission masters 125
    Transflection holograms 126
    Other configurations 127
    References 127
  Chapter 10: Building a holographic laboratory 128
    Laboratory space 128
    The optical table 129
    Building a sand table 129
    Supporting the optical components 132
    Building a concrete table 133
    Metal tables 134
    Table supports 135
    Bases for optical components 136
    Excluding drafts 137
    Mounting the laser 138
    A gantry for overhead equipment 139
    Cantilevers 140
    Draft excluder 142
    Processing area 142
    Storeroom 143
    Display area 143
    References 143
  Chapter 11: Master holograms on a table 144
    Beamsplitters 144
    Other types of beamsplitter 145
    Illuminating the subject 146
    Collimating mountings 150
    Plate holder 151
    Collimating mirror r152
    How stable is your table 153
    Basic configuration for transmission master holograms 156
    What went wrong? 160
    Backlighting and background illumination 161
    Silhouettes and black holes 161
    Supine subjects 162
    Frontal illumination 163
    Multiple-exposure techniques 163
    Masters for rainbow holograms 165
    Reflection master holograms 165
    Working with plates 166
    Cutting glass 167
    Processing plates 168
    Optical fiber systems for holography 168
    Multimode fibers 168
    Single-mode fibers 169
    Launching the beam 169
    Making holograms with fiber optics 170
    Connecting fiber ends 171
    Further reading 172
  Chapter 12: Transfer reflection holograms 173
    Parallax in transfer holograms 174
    Reflection transfer holograms from transmission masters 176
    How to deal with weak master images 178
    Side and underneath beam master transfers 178
    The role of the Bragg condition 181
    Two-channel transfer holograms 182
    Holograms of stereoscopic pairs of photographs 183
    Multi-channel images 184
    Converging reference beams 185
    Pellicular collimating mirrors 187
    Copying holograms 188
    Copies by scanning 189
    What went wrong? 191
  Chapter 13: Transfer transmission holograms 192
    Full-aperture transfer holograms 192
    Rainbow holograms 193
    Geometry of a rainbow hologram 194
    Slit width 196
    A one-dimensional beam expander 197
    A convergent reference beam 198
    Multi-channel rainbow holograms 199
    What went wrong? 200
    Edge-lit holograms 201
  Chapter 14: Holograms including focusing optics 205
    Demagnifying and magnifying 205
    Image enlargement and reduction 207
    Focused-image holograms 210
    Focused-image reflection holograms 212
    One-step rainbow holograms 213
    Synthetic-slit holograms 217
    Fourier-transform holograms 218
    References 223
  Chapter 15: Homemade optical elements 224
    Liquid-filled lenses 224
    One-dimensional collimators 224
    What to do in case of leaks 227
    Other sizes and focal lengths 227
    Calculations for designing a liquid-filled lens 227
    Two-dimensional collimating lenses 229
    Measurements for a collimating lens 230
    Focusing lenses 231
    Holographic optical elements (HOES) 232
    Calculation of focal length 233
    Holographic diffraction gratings 234
    Holographic lenses 235
    Making holographic mirrors and beamsplitters 236
    Holographic collimating mirrors 237
    Aberrations of HOEs 238
    Multi-beam HOEs 239
    A more uniform laser beam 240
    References 240
  Chapter 16: Portraiture and pulse laser holography 241
    Construction of a ruby laser 242
    Safety considerations 242
    Maintenance of pulse lasers 243
    Other types of pulse laser 243
    Setting up a pulse laser studio 243
    Special problems with holographic portraiture 245
    Lighting for portraiture 245
    Exposure 248
    Processing 248
    Other subject matter 248
    Double and multiple pulses 249
    References 240
  Chapter 17: Holography in natural colors 251
    The eye and color perception 252
    The CIE chromaticity diagram 254
    Color transmission holograms 256
    Denisyuk holograms in color 257
    Transfer holograms in color 258
    Portraiture in color 258
    The problem of color accuracy 258
    The future of color holography 259
    References 259
  Chapter 18: Achromatic and pseudocolor holograms 260
    Achromatic white-light transmission holograms 260
    Dispersion compensation 261
    The achromatic angle for transmission masters 262
    Achromatic reflection holograms 264
    Pseudocolor holograms 266
    Pseudocolor single-beam reflection holograms 266
    Pseudocolor transfer reflection holograms 268
    Accurate color registration by geometry 269
    How to obtain precise registration 270
    Pseudocolor white-light transmission holograms 271
    Obtaining better registration 273
    One-step pseudocolor WLT holograms 275
    References 277
  Chapter 19: Holographic stereograms 279
    The multiplexing principle 279
    Making a multiplexed hologram 280
    Cylindrical stereograms 282
    Making a Cross hologram 284
    Flat image-plane stereograms 285
    The scope of modern stereographic imagery 286
    Geometrier for photographic originations 286
    Perspective and distortion 287
    Wide-angle distortion 289
    Alignment and spacing of the photographs 290
    Long base stereograms 291
    Registration 291
    Computer control of imagery 292
    Basic considerations for a stereographic holoprinter 292
    Exposing 295
    Stereogram masters from photographic prints 296
    Preventing dropouts 297
    Computer image processing 298
    Achromatic and color stereograms 300
    Transferring achromatic stereograms 301
    Full-color stereograms 303
    Full-color WLT transfer stereograms 304
    Full-color reflection transfer stereograms 305
    Color balance 307
    Color accuracy: WLT or reflection? 307
    Calculating distances 308
    Stereograms with full parallax 308
    Perspective correction by pre-distortion 309
    Conical stereograms 311
    Volume multiplexed holograms 312
    References 314
  Chapter 20: Non-silver processes for holography 316
    Dichromated gelatin (DCG) 317
    Rendering DCG sensitive to red light 319
    Coating plates 319
    Exposing 320
    Processing 321
    Sealing the hologram 321
    Color control 322
    Silver halide sensitized gelatin (SHSG) 322
    Photopolymers 322
    Photothermoplastics 323
    Photoresists 324
    Photochromic materials 324
    Bacteriorhodopsin 325
    Photorefractive crystals 325
    References 326
  Chapter 21: Embossed holograms 328
    The initial artwork 328
    Holographic recording 329
    Making the photoresist master 329
    Depositing the conductive layer 330
    The first-generation master 331
    Electroforming of final shims 331
    The embossing process 332
    Further reading 333
    References 333
  Chapter 22: Display techniques 334
    Basic types of hologram and their display 335
    Displaying holograms at home 336
    Window displays 339
    Displays to accompany lectures and presentations 339
    Submitting holograms for exhibitions 340
    Packing a hologram for forwarding to an exhibition 340
    Organizing an exhibition of holograms 341
    Lighting arrangements 341
    Light sources 341
    Installing the exhibits 342
    Floor plan 342
    Relevant information 343
    Environment 344
    Photographing holograms 344
    Equipment 345
    Reflection holograms 346
    Transmission holograms 349
    Viewpoint and parallax 350
    Unusual holograms 351
    Photographing holograms at exhibitions 351
    Using flash 351
    Presenting slides of holograms 352
    Copyright 352
    References 352
  Chapter 23: Holography and measurement 355
    Direct measurements using holography 355
    The principle of holographic interferometry 356
    Real-time interferometry 356
    Double-exposure interferometry 357
    Time-average interferometry 359
    Strobed interferometry 360
    Visualization of fluid flows 360
    Doubled illuminating beams 362
    A camera for holographic interferometry 362
    Sandwich holography 363
    Reference mirror rotation 365
    Fringe measurement 365
    Speckle interferometry 365
    Holographic contouring 366
    Summary of applications 367
    Further reading 368
    References 369
  Chapter 24: Data storage and diffractive elements 371
    Why holographic data storage? 371
    Data processing 372
    Spatial filtering with Fourier-transform holograms 372
    Fourier-transform holograms: the principles 375
    Image de-blurring 376
    Correlation filtering 376
    Computer-generated holograms (CGHs) 378
    Applications of Fourier-transform CGHs 378
    Strategies for making CGHs 380
    CGHs with a personal computer 381
    Diffractive optical elements 381
    Basic types of DOE 382
    Fabrication of DOES 385
    Applications of DOES 386
    Further reading 386
    References 387
  Chapter 25: Holography in biology and medicine 389
    Dental holography 389
    Histology and pathology 389
    Ophthalmic holography 391
    Multiplexed holograms 392
    Holograms and diagnostics 393
    References 393
  Chapter 26: Holographic motion pictures and video 395
    Making the image move 395
    Real-time holography 395
    Holographic movies 397
    Holographic video and television 398
    References 400
  Chapter 27: Other applications of holography 402
    Far-field holography 402
    Holomicrography 403
    Microwave holography 404
    Infrared holography 405
    Ultraviolet holography 405
    X-ray holography 406
    Electron holography 406
    Acoustic holography 406
    Light-in-flight holography 408
    Polarization holography 410
    Conoscopic holography 411
    Pseudodeep holograms 412
    Digital holography 413
    Conclusion 414
    References 414
  Appendix 1: The mathematical background to holography 417
    Formation of a hologram 417
    Reconstruction of the image 420
    Traveling and standing waves 420
    Bragg diffraction 421
    Effects of shrinkage during processing 424
    Modulation and contrast 425
  Appendix 2: The Fourier approach to image formation 429
    Fourier series 431
    Fourier transform 435
    Reciprocal relationship of x-space and frequency space 438
    The Fourier convolution theorem 441
    Two-dimensional objects 443
    Further reading 446
  Appendix 3: Geometrier for creative holography 447
    Designing a setup for a white-light transmission hologram 447
    Worksheet for multicolor WLT holograms 451
    Multicolor layouts designed by geometry 453
    Locating the hinge point and illumination axis 455
    Multicolor WLT hologram geometry 456
    Multicolor reflection hologram geometry 457
    References 458
  Appendix 4: Fringe stabilization 459
    Error detector 460
    Expanding the fringes 460
    Comparator and amplifier 463
    Transducer 463
  Appendix 5: Processing formulas 466
    Developers for silver halide emulsions 466
    Developers for transmission holograms 466
    Developer for true-color holograms 468
    The pyrochrome process 468
    Image color control 469
    Solution-physical developers 470
    Rehalogenating bleaches 470
    Haze removal 471
    Oxidized developing agents as bleaches 471
    Pre- and post-swelling 472
    Silver halide sensitized gelatin processing 472
    Preparation of red-sensitive DCG emulsion 474
    Making your own holographic emulsion 475
    Electroplating formulas 477
    References 478

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