Historic, Handmade Wet Plate Photography
Tintypes are made through an early photographic process known as wet plate collodion that began in the 1850s. One of the earliest forms of photography, it quickly became the main commercial process into the late 19th century since tintypes captured an incredible level of detail and realism while using inexpensive and durable materials. Many people had the opportunity to be photographed for the first time. Wet plate photography was practiced widely for more than 30 years. However, by the mid-20th century, new and more convenient techniques like dry plates and commercially manufactured films led to the near loss of this historic process.
Tintypes use collodion with organic salts and silver nitrate. Molecular silver bonds with the organic salts to suspend exposed silver halides within the collodion, all on top of a thin sheet of blackened aluminum. The image captured is a direct positive, as though one were looking in a mirror. It is the only one of its kind.
Wet plate collodion is unique from modern photographs in many ways. It is sensitive to UV light, causing blues and violets to appear bright. Skin tones and eye color often appear different from contemporary digital and film photos. Once varnished, the tintype has been known to last more than 100 years. It is one of the most archival methods of photography that exists today, and because of that, tintypes are held onto and often become a precious reminder of family.
The experience of making a tintype is a dance of chemistry and light that captures a magical, authentic moment I hope you will treasure forever.