What is wet plate collodion photography?

Once created the tintype is essentially an original physical work of art – a version of the truth that can’t be changed or reproduced, and if taken care of can last hundreds of years. The surreal raw quality can’t be matched by any digital process today.

Wet plate collodion which is used to create Tintypes is one of the earliest photographic processes discovered in 1850 by Frederick Scott Archer in the UK and practiced for about 35 years before being replaced by dry plates. The earliest photographs of the USA were captured by William Henry Jackson. Matthew Brady and his photographers used this process to capture images of the American Civil War and many still remain today.

Each tintype is always unique and is a product of many variables such as temperature, humidity, light, chemical formulas and techniques to list a but a few which makes it challenging to master.


How long does the process take?

A wet plate collodion tintype portrait session typically takes about 30 – 60 mins , depending on the number of plates being made and the complexity of the setup. The process involves several steps, including preparing the plate, exposing it to light, and developing the image.

How long do I have to stay still for?

I have the option of using either modern strobes which will take less than one second exposure or using North facing studio light which is the traditional way of using this process. Using this outdoor light can vary depending upon the time of day.

Can I choose my own poses and background for the portrait?

Yes, you can choose your own poses and background for the tintype portrait. It is a best to discuss your ideas before the session to ensure that I am able to accommodate your requests.

Is it possible to get a color portrait using the wet plate collodion tintype process?

No, the wet plate collodion process tintype only produces black and white images.

Can I bring my own props or clothing to the session?

Yes! please feel free to bring your own props or clothing to the session if you would like.

How long does it take to receive the finished portraits?

You typically can take your tintyoe home with you on the day. This time can vary depending on the number of plates being made.

Can children or pets be included in the portrait?

Yes, children and pets can be included in the portrait if you would like. 

Is it possible to purchase digital copies of the portraits?

For an additonal charge I am able to scan your plates and provide you with high quality scans on a USB stick that can be used for printing. I can also arrange for general printing services as you require.

How about analog printing using alternative processes?

I am able to create glass negatives and create salt and carbon prints from them. These are some of the traditional printing processes and are all handmade.

How should I prepare for the portrait session?

You should consider what you will wear and any props or accessories you may want to bring. The clothing and jewelry you decide to wear will have different asthetic qualities. This process is sensitive to the UV scale of light.

Whites, purples and blues will come out on the lighter side, yellows, reds, greens and oranges on the darker. Patterns and textures display in interesting ways. 

Can the wet plate collodion process be used to photograph subjects other than people?

Yes, the wet plate collodion process can be used to photograph subjects other than people, such as landscapes, still lifes, and architecture.

Can I watch the process?

You may join me in the darkroom if you wish to learn more about the process and see your image develop.

What can I expect in the session?

I enjoy sharing the process and this amazing experience with all my clients. I guarantee you will never forget having your portrait taken! Once you arrived and we have met and settled I will pour collodion on the plate and begin sensitization in silver which takes about three minutes. At this time I will compose the picture and ensure lighting is configured.

Once we are set on the composition I will retrieve the plate from the silver bath and bring it to the camera. I will then take the shot and using strobe takes under a second. After a big flash I will then take the exposed plate to the darkroom and develop, wash and reveal the image with fixer.

You are invited to video the fixing which is an exciting part of the process. Once the image is fixed and washed it is dried and then varnished to seal it from the environment forever. You are able to take it home on the day.

What sizes and materials do you offer?

I offer several options for portraits. Firstly you can select what material you would like your portrait to be taken on.

Options are:

  • Aluminum (Tintype) – this is the cheapest material and also light weight
  • Glass (Ambrotype) – this is more expensive as it is labor intensive, and also the cost/availability of certain glass. I offer clear and also colored glass such as black or ruby. Glass plates are a premium product.

Once you have decided on the material then you can decide of the size image you would like. Please check my pricing for more details.

For those who want something truly unique stretch to the 16×20 inch plate which is a rare format and allow me to capture a person 1:1 ratio life size!

What cameras do you use?

I use large format cameras with large lens to capture detailed portraits. The ages range from 1900 to 2017.

Where are you based?

I am located in Hamilton Square, New Jersey, by appointment only.  I am flexible with session times.

Can you come to me?

Yes I can come to you for an additional fee based on distance.

Do you do special events?

Yes I do special events e.g. weddings, parties, openings, corporate, historical and charity events.  Contact me and we can discuss your requirements. I am able to give a discount for large numbers of plates.

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