The wet plate process was introduced in 1851 and by 1860 was the
photographer’s chosen process all around the world. The craze continued until
about 1880 when the dry plate process came to be. The process is named Wet
Plate because it must be coated, exposed and developed all within 15 minutes so
the plate will not dry. As the plate dries it loses sensitivity and will not
produce an image. Therefore it is necessary to have a portable darkroom or a
darkroom close by to where you are shooting.
The Ambrotype (1852-1865) is produced on glass and was commonly
backed with a black paint or black piece of material to create a positive
image. The Ambrotype can also be used to create negatives.
Ingredients List Equipment:
bath: -Ferrous sulfate 4g -Ferrous
Sulfate 3g -Distilled water 100ml -Distilled
water 100ml -Pure alcohol 6ml -Pure
Alcohol 6ml Under RED light: Step 4: Place collodion
coated plate into silver bath. The plate must be placed into the bath in a
moderately fast, yet smooth motion. If you stop or hesitate at any point you
will create a ling in your emulsion. Step 5: Remove plate
from the silver bath. Wipe the backside of the plate to remove wet silver
nitrate. Be careful not to touch the surface of the plate. Step 6: Place in dark
slide. The plate is now
ready to use in camera!! Developing: Developing: Hint: If the plate is left longer then 12mins after being in the
silver bath, it will most likely begin to dry and therefore not develop
properly. Keep exposure within a 12min time limit. Wash: 20mins, tray of water, change a few times within this time.
step 1: heat plate on a hot plate or over a flame until
the plate is just hot enough that you can no longer hold
step 1: heat plate on a hot plate or over a flame until
the plate is just hot enough that you can no longer hold
-Plain UPS Collidion -Sliver
-Potassium Bromide -4x5
Camera & cable release
-Potassium Iodide -Lights
& studio set up
-Silver Nitrate -Hair
-White vinegar -Hot
-Ferrous sulfate -Trays
-Distilled water -Red
-Pure lavender oil Equipment for mixing chemicals
-Denaturalised alcohol 100% -Clear
glass and amber bottles,
-Distilled water -Gloves,
paper towels, cotton buds, glass beakers and
-Baby oil & Windex rods
for mixing, scales, hydrometre
(This recipe is from John Coffers book and is just a rough guide
to the recipe if you are interested in what is in the collodion. If you plan to
mix the solution yourself I would advice buying Johns book or getting a more
detailed recipe. Ellie Young mixed this solution for us.)
Collodion is very flammable! Keep away from any open flame or
Never put Collodion down the sink- it will block it.
Always store in glass bottles- or it will eat away at the
Always make sure the lid is tight on the bottle or the collodion
will harden (trust me, I know from experience!)
-Cadmium Bromide 1.5gm
-3ml distilled water
-Potassium Iodide 2gm
-190 Grain Proof Alcohol 100ml
-Collodion UPS 120ml
Mix cadmium bromide and distilled water in a glass beaker.
Dissolve Potassium Iodide into solution. Add alcohol and stir. This is
Bromo-Iodized Alcohol solution
Add ether to collodion in a glass jar. Add above solution. Leave
to rest for a few days before use.
Silver Nitrite will blind you if you
get it in your eye. Wear safety glasses when working with it! If you do get it
in your eye wash it out with water and seek medical attention. (If you get it
on your skin it will stain brown and wont wash off for a week or so-a little
bit wont hurt)
4x5 plate silver dipping bath
-distilled water 400ml
-silver nitrate 36g
Mix the silver nitrate in the distilled water until dissolved. Iodize
the bath by either: mix in a pinch of potassium iodide (the bath can be used
right away) or place a plate coated with collodion in the bath overnight.
Remove in the morning and the bath is Iodized and ready to be used.
Maintenance for the Silver Bath:
Caring for the silver bath is important!
-Before you use the silver bath you must measure the amount of
silver in the water with a hydrometer, record the reading (0.06 is about right)
because when the silver gets low your images will became faint.
To fix this top up your bath with 28% silver solution
Silver ‘top up’ solution (28%)
-distilled water 50ml
-silver nitrate 14g
Mix the silver nitrate in the distilled water until dissolved.
The silver is now ready to use.
-If there is anything floating in the silver bath you can filter
it using coffee filters from the supermarket or folding paper towel into a cone
shape and passing it though the centre.
-If the silver bath is old and your image is fogging you can
‘sun’ the silver bath by put the silver solution in a brown or amber bottle
then place it in the sun for a day. This will remove any ether or alcohol from
the silver solution, filter the solution then the solution is ready to use
For positives the developer is more concentrated with Ferrous
Sulfate (with less acid in it); for negatives the developer has less Ferrous
Sulfate and more acid in it.
-White vinegar 6ml -White
Mix the ferrous sulfate in the distilled water until dissolved,
Add vinegar, Add alcohol and then stir for a min. The developer is now ready to
use. The developer only last for month and turn yellow over time.
Fixer: (20% sodium thiosulfate
-Sodium thiosulfate 100g
-Distilled or tap water 500ml
Mix the Sodium thiosulfate in the distilled or tap water
Now it is ready to use.
Fix only last for about 15-20 plates
-Gum sandarac 38g
-Pure lavender oil 22ml
-Denaturalised alcohol 100% 220ml
-Distilled water 2ml
Add gum to alcohol in a secure jar. Shake the jar over on and
off for a period of a few days, until the gum has completely dissolved. Add
lavender oil and distilled water and mix. Filter and it is ready to use.
Preparing the plate:
Your camera should be set up and
ready to capture an image before the plate is prepared.
Cut the glass 9.5cm x 12.5cm (to fit
in a modified 4x5 film holder)
Step 1: Wash glass in hot soapy water then
wash in hot water until there is no soap left on glass. Dry the plate.
Step 2: Polish the plate to remove any
water marks (using a small amount of alcohol on a paper towel).
Step 3: Coat plate with collodion:
Holding the plate in one hand (there are a variety of different
techniques to do this, you just have to find the most comfortable for yourself),
use the other hand to pour collodion onto the plate.
TIP: Pour onto the 1/3 of the plate closest to you, aiming to
fill up this whole area with solution. Carefully tilt the plate from left to
right to cover the bottom ½ of the plate. Them tilt to the top right corner and
finally to the top left where the excess collodion is poured back into the
bottle. All this must be done within approx 30sec otherwise the solution will
start to dry.
NOTE: this is a very difficult part of the process to get a handle
on. Practice with baby oil. Its better to pour on more than less collodion, as
if the plate dose not get covered you cannot pour on more! If a hole forms in
the coating you cannot flow the collodion back over its self to cover it. You
just have to live with it.
NOTE: At any time throughout this process (when the plate is wet) you
can simply wipe off what you have done and start again.
Plate stays in bath for 3mins (when creating negatives, it is
said that if the plate is left in for longer a denser negative is created).
Exposure time can range from 1sec to 5mins depending on the
Always remember that this process is sensitive to UV and blue
light- so some of the best days to shoot outside can be the most cloudy and
overcast. This also makes the exposure extremely hard to judge. Some people
start by doing a test strip plate, starting the exposure time from 30sec up to
3 mins, to find out where the UV is on that particular day. Yet, also remember
that the UV changes rapidly throughout the day! Generally at 10/11am the UV is
hight, lunch it reaches its highest point and then towards 3/4pm the UV has drops
and it is best to give up for the day.
In the studio/ inside you can use a fluro, or floodlight (with a
halogen globe). Each light has a different amount of UV that you will have to
discover yourself by doing a few test exposures, but once you know the optimum
exposure time, it shouldn’t change (some lights may give off more UV as they
Under RED light
Develop: 15- 20sec
There are two ways to develop the plate.
Place a small amount of developer in tray (enough to just coat
plate), place plate into tray making sure plate is quickly and evenly covered
in developer. Continue agitating bath for 15-20secs. Pull plate out and place
Once developer is used once, pour out HALF of the solution in
tray and replace this half with new developer. So the tray is ready for the
next plate (having half old and half new developer). This is said to produce
more contrast in plates.
In this method, hold the plate in your hand and pour on
developer in a similar way to pouring the collodion. It is important to keep as
much solution on the plate as possible in the 15seconds of development- and the
solution must always be moving around the surface of the plate. After 15sec,
quickly drain off the developer and put into the wash tray.
Note: if the plate is developed for over 20sec the plate will fog.
1st wash: 90secs in a tray of tap water, change water 2-3 times within
2nd wash: 90sec in a tray of tap water, change 2-3 times
Fix: 3-5mins, agitate throughout this time.
Leave plate on an angle to drip dry, or dry using a hair dryer-
hold it 30cm away from back of plate, making sure heat is evenly distributed.
Clearing plate (optional):
Clearing the image removes the loose silver on the surface of
the tintype and clears the black creating higher contrast in the image.
step 2:then pour the varnish of the plate like you would the
collidoin. To get a good coating, hold varnish on plate and count to 10, then
pour excess off into a separate bottle. (keep this excess varnish, filter and
it is ready to be used again.)
step 3:heat again to cure the varnish, keeping the edge where
the varnish was poured off on an angle, to prevent excess varnish from flowing
back over the plate.
Varnish is cured when you can touch the surface and it is not
Note: If the varnish come out dull and flat then the varnish has been
coated too thin or the varnish itself has too much alcohol in it. This was referred to as a ‘dead plate’ in the
19th Century. Fix this by adding more water to the varnish or if it
is a coating problem, coat the plate a second time, pouring from the opposite
end to which the first pour was done.
Note: Varnish will not be completely dry for at least a day, even
though it appears to be after step 3. Make sure not to stack the pates on top
of each other during this time, but place some paper between layers, or better
yet, don’t put anything on top until the varnish is completely dry.
is a lovely and extremely knowledgeable woman. I attended her Tintype workshop
last year and had such a blast. Her studio is amazing. Her husband also makes
pretty much all the accessories you need for the Wet plate process (this is
where the silver bath has come from) and they are not too expensive either!
Ellie can also supply the majority of the chemicals for the process.)
is the king of wet plate. He runs workshops on his farm in NY (where he lives
like he is from the 18th Century) and has (hand)written an amazing
book about the process and everything you could ever need to know (and a little
bit more!). Ellie Young’s workshops are based off John Coffers book. )
TINTYPE: Plate prep
Cut the tin 9.5cm x 12.5cm (to fit in
a 4x5 film holder)
Step 1: Peal protective plastic
coating from tin.
Step 2: If there is any visible dust,
blow it off surface of tin.