Wet Plate Collodion

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A growing, and ever evolving page, dedicated to my wet plate collodion work.

 


Brief overview of the process:

Pouring the Plate: Collodion is poured, usually from a beaker with one hand, onto either a piece of Japanned Aluminum (commonly referred to as a tintype,) or cleaned glass plate. The plate is continuously and steadily tilted with the other hand to quickly distribute an even coating. 

Silver Nitrate Bath: Once the collodion has been poured onto the plate, it goes into the silver nitrate bath where the plate sits for 3-4 minutes. This step makes the plate light sensitive. Wet plate collodion has a film speed of approximately 1 ISO, although this is not exact, and is only sensitive to the UV portion of the light spectrum. So when the plate is removed from the silver bath, it is safe to use a traditional red darkroom safe light.

Exposure and Development: Now that the plate is sensitive to light, it is placed in a holder inserted in the camera and ready to make an exposure while still wet—this is why the process is known as “wet” plate collodion. After exposure, the plate is immediately developed. Usually the window of time from pouring of the plate to exposure is between 15-30 min but this is very dependent on the climate (how warm and humid it is).

Due to the "Wet” nature of the process, and that some of the above steps require darkness, a darkroom needs to be nearby in order to be successful. This means that one shoots close to their darkroom or takes a darkroom with them. This can be achieved several different ways, two examples I have used is a converted ice fishing tent or a custom made dark box.


Making: