Monday, 22 August 2011

Dry Glass Plate

A short history
At the turn of the 20th century the dry glass plate replaced the commercially used wet plate collidion process. Dry plate was much easier to coat and process but it's main advantage was that the plate could be pre coated days, weeks even months before exposing and developing. This advantage left the wet plate process obsolete because of its need to be coated, exposed and developed-all within 15 minutes and its need for a portable darkroom. Later advances in dry plate technology meant that photographer no longer had to coat their own plates but they could buy readymade plates from manufactures such as Ilford and Kodak. Commercial photographer’s love affair with the dry glass was short lived and was quickly replaced by black and white film. Film managed to correct two main problems with dry glass plates: film had a large tonal range, therefore landscape photographers were now able to capture clouds in their images, which was unable to be achieved in both wet and dry processes; the other advantage to film was it didn’t smash when it was dropped but was very light and flexible compared to what photographers were used to.          


-Silver gelatin emulsion (liquid light VC)
-Normal silver gelatin paper Developer
-Normal silver gelatin paper stop bath
-Normal silver gelatin paper fixer
-Polyurethane varnish
-Paper towel
-Dishwashing liquid
- Wash trays x4
- Beaker
- Glass (we are using 3mm frames glass, cut to size)
- 4x5 film holders (modified to hold glass plates) Or original glass plate holders (if you come across any)
- Camera- 4x5 (you can also use any box brownie/drop plate camera, simply cut the glass plates to suit the camera size)
-Tripod & cable release

NOTE: The process achieves its best results when the temperature is under 20c as when it is damp or hot the emulsion may have trouble sticking to the plate and warp or buckle.

The layer needed to bond the emulsion to the glass

Traditional Subbing
Can still be used today

-Chrome alum
-Distilled water
-Photo flo
Step 1: Warm 50ml of distilled water to around 50c, then add 1g chrome alum (hardening agent) and mix until dissolved.
Step 2: Sprinkle 3.5g of gelatin into 236ml of distilled water, and then let it sit for 15mins while the gelatin swells. Now warm the mixture to 50c and stir until the gelatin has dissolved.
Step 3: Now add step 1 to step 2 and mix through.
Step 4: Add 15ml of photo flo to the mixture. Keep the mixture warm and coat the (Chemical Clean) glass with the subbing. Allow to the plate to dry for 8 or more hours
Contemporary Subbing –What we are using today

In this workshop we are using Polyurethane varnish
Step 1: (Chemical Clean) the pre-cut glass plate. First wash in hot soapy water using a brush, then wash in just hot water until there is no soap left on the glass. Rinse with distilled water this stops water mark. Then dry the plate.
Step 2: Polish the plate to remove any water marks
Step 3: Warm the polyurethane varnish in its container in a warm water bath (do this in ventilated room or outside)
Step 4: Pour the vanish onto the glass and then lay flat to dry.

Under RED light only

Step 5: Warm the silver gelatin emulsion in its container in a warm water bath ( do not warm in hot water it may damage the gelatin and the silver in the emulsion)
Step 6: Then apply the silver gelatin emulsion to the glass over the varnish
Step 7: Lay flat to dry in a completely dark place, the plate may take a couple of hours to completely dry (plate does not need to dry to be ready to use-it can be used straight away whilst it is still wet-but when shooting in the field make sure plates are completely dry before stacking them together for traveling).

The plate is now ready to use in camera

Expose plate

The exposure will depend on the emulsion used; I use Liquid Light VC which has an ASA/ISO of 2 and Ag Plus which has an ASA/ISO of 8. Double coat of the emulsion will half the exposure time and if you add extra silver nitrate to the emulsion will also speed up the exposure.
ASA/ISO= is the measure of the film's sensitivity to light. Low ISO/ASA is considered slow film as it is less sensitive to light-therefore takes longer to expose a picture onto the film.
Notes:If the plate is overexposed it will be too dark/if under exposed it will be too light.
-It is best to produce a plate that is slightly overexposed (rather than under) as to produce deep blacks-but it really comes down to the photographers personal tastes.
Under RED light only
(Best done at below 20c as the temperature could cause the image to lift or buckle)

Note: Develop like you would normal silver gelatin paper.
Bath 1: Developer (2mins)
Bath 2: Stop Bath (30sec)
Bath 3: Fixer (3-5mins)
Bath 4: Wash (10-30 mins)
Leave plate in a cool area to dry plate-never force dry the plate.
- You will now have a negative image that can be scanned, used in an enlarger or contact printed to produce a positive image.

ACE Chemicals(SA)
Total Photographics (SA)
Gold streets studios (Vic)
Bostick and Sullivens (USA)

The alternative photography website
The book of alternative photographic processes
C, James, 2009, The book of alternative photographic process, Delmar, USA

Kallitype Process

-kallitype solution
-sized paper (egg or gelatin) 
-citric acid
-sodium thiosulfate
-sodium sulfite
-glass rod or hake brush
-sticky tape
-negative film
Black (Hall's)
150g sodium acetate,1.5g tartaric acid,1000ml distilled water 
200g soduim citrate,1000ml distilled water


step1: Tape the pre sized paper to a work table

Step2: Mark out film position on the paper.

Step3: Coat paper with Kallitype solution using a glass rod or hake brush.

Step4: Dry the Kallitype solution and tape down the negative over the dry Kallitype.
Step5: Expose Kallitype in a UV unit 

Step6: Then develop.

Note:The kallitype process Develop out Process (D.O.P) so you need to do a teststrip in a UV Box 

Process baths

Bath 1: develop, use a developer listed above ( 8mins)
Bath 2: clearing,1%citric acid and distilled water ( 4 mins)

Bath 3: fixer, 5%sodium thiosulfate and distilled water  (2 mins) 

Bath 4:  clearing, 1%sodium sulfite and tap water (2 mins) OPTIONAL

Bath 5: wash,running water (30mins)



Note : to reduce fading in the fixer ,add 2g sodium carbonate or bi carb to every 1000ml of fix.The Sodium sulfite bath will remove sodium thiosulfate fix faster then just water but a long wash is just as good. The Sodium Thiosulfate if left in the paper can fade the print over time.

This test was exposed until the image appear a as normal (POP) then it was developed in a bath of 5% rock salt and distilled water

This test was exposed until the image appear a as normal (POP) then it was developed in a bath of 1% citric acid and distilled water

This test is a normal sepia kallitype but the paper was damp with water when the kallitype was exposed 

A normal black (hall's) kallitype but it wasn't put in the citric acid clearing bath

A normal black (hall's) kallitype 
A normal sepia Kallitype

A Kallitype developed in a 4% citric acid bath

A normal black (hall's) Kallitype but the developer had chromate in it to increase the contrasts

normal sepia Kallitype but it was fist placed in the clearing bath of 1% citric acid for the same amount of time as the developer bath

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


The albumen was the first commercial reproducible photographic paper printing process. Although the first reproducible paper photographic print process that was its cousin salt print. The main difference between salt print and Albumen is, Albumen has a sharper and glossy appearance. This is due to one key difference in their chemistry Salt print uses gelatin and salt as a substrate to bond the light sensitive silver nitrate to the paper. Albumen on the other hand uses Albumen (fancy name for egg whites) instead of gelatin, this makes a huge difference because gelatin soaks it to the paper becoming flat and dull but Albumen sit on the paper making a micro thin layer that appear sharper and glossy. Albumen printing was so popular in it time because of the high quality finish that the Dresden Albumizing company in Germany used more than 70,000 egg whites per day to meet the public’s demand. Sadly the Albumen popularity drop when the commercial uses silver gelatin paper came available. Silver gelatin had a faster exposing time and didn’t need harsh UV light to expose it, also the image could be enlarged without losing too much detail and it was less acceptable to cracking when bent. But with all that said Albumen prints at are 150 years on still look better then silver gelatin print 100 years.                             


Solution A (albumen)

-Egg whites 10
-Distilled water 10ml
-Ammonium chloride or sodium chloride (Rock salt) 4gm
- Glacial acetic acid or (White Vinegar) 0.5ml
  Note: Ammonium chloride will gives a black tonal range and Sodium chloride gives a sepia tonal range

Step1: (Salted water) Mix the ammonium chloride or salt into the distilled water until the salt has completely dissolved then add the glacial acetic acid.
Step2:  Separate all the egg whites from the yolks
(note: Make sure NO yolk or shell makes it into the solution- including the white milky material that is found in some egg whites)
Step3:  Add the salted water to the egg whites
Step4:  Beat the egg whites until it turn completely to foam
Step5: Place in the fridge for 24 hour to settle.
Step6:  Take out of the fridge and let it sit a room temperature for an hour or so. Filter off the foam through a cheese cloth (or muslin) and then cover and put clean egg white in the fridge for 1 week+, after a week the albumen is ready but the longer the albumen sit in the fridge the better it well be. 

Solution B (Silver Nitrate)
12% silver nitrate solution
-12gm silver nitrate
-100ml distilled water
- (Optional) 8g citric acid

Mix both ingredients together. Ready to use.

Note: The citric acid increases the shelf life of the coated paper before exposing print, this will allow you to store the print for up to week before exposing it. Without the critic acid the print needs to be coat, exposed and developed in the same day. 


Solution A (Albumen)
Solution B (12% silver nitrate solution)
Paper (100%cotton)  
Sticky tape
Glass pull rod
Negative film or glass plate
Hair dryer
Contact frame
Distilled water
Sodium thiosulfate
Sodium Carbonate or Bi-carb soda


Step1: Stick the paper to a work table and mark where the film sits on the paper using a pencil
Step2: Apply solution A (Albumen) to the paper using the glass rod then dry the coated paper using a hairdryer
Step3: (optional) To harden the albumen soaking in a bath of 70%-100% alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) for 15mins then allow to dry.
Step4: (optional) Recoat albumen (1 coat semi gloss, 2 coats gloss)
Step5: Apply solution B with glass rod then dry the paper
Step6: Place negative over the paper then expose the coated paper in a UV unit or in the contact frame in the sun
Step7: Once the image has appeared, exposed one stop over your desired final exposure (this allows for fading in the fix).
step8: Develop

Important: (masking) exposures need to be longer than 15 mins or prints shadows may not be black/dark enough. This is caused when the surface of the silver turns black too fast and blocks the silver underneath from getting exposed properly.
Extra contrast: a trick to add more contrast to an image is to place a yellow filter or cellophane over the image when exposing it but the exposures are much longer.

Bath 1: (Clearing wash) in distilled water for 5-10mins
Bath 2: (Clearing wash) in distilled water for 2mins
Bath 3: (Fixer) Sodium thiosulfate 15%, sodium carbonate 2% with distilled water 4mins
Bath 4: (Wash) Running tap water 20-30mins 
Dry print
Note: When flatting the paper don’t heat the print, as it will yellow the albumen.

Ace chemicals (SA)

Gold streets studios (Vic)

The Lightbulb room

Ellie Young, Salt print manual (purchase from goldstreetstudios)