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.
PREPARATION FOR PROCESS:
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)
Glass pull rod
Negative film or glass plate
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).
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
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)