Ken Miner | Wet Collodion Photography

Wet Collodion Photography

The Wet Collodion Process

Invented in 1851 by Englishman, Fredrick Scott Archer, the wet collodion photographic process was one of the earliest forms of photography available to the masses.

Getting a wet plate, or "tintype" portrait made is a unique experience.  The process demands patience, not only from the tintypist, but from the sitter as well.  With exposures counted in seconds, not fractions of seconds, this is not a rapid fire, "shoot now, select later" type of photography.

Each portrait begins with preliminary composition and focusing of the sitter.  Then an aluminum plate is carefully prepared by hand, in the same manner that was done over 150 years ago.  The plate is coated with collodion, then dipped in a silver nitrate solution for approximately four to five minutes.

The now light sensitive plate is brought back out to the camera in a special, light-tight, plate holder, where after final composition and focus is done, it is placed into the camera for exposure.

After the exposure, the plate is returned to the darkroom where it is developed and rinsed.  At this point the plate is no longer light sensitive and is brought out of the darkroom to finish the development stage right before your eyes.  This is when the magic happens.

The image, a faint, blueish, negative at this stage, is placed in a fixing bath where after a few seconds it magically clears and becomes a visible portrait.  The plate is then washed, dried and varnished.

Session Options



Are you planning an event, such as a wedding, family reunion, customer appreciation day, corporate event or any other gathering of people?  I can come to your outdoor event location and set up a tintype portrait booth to create some very memorable take-home art pieces for your guests.  Plates can be done in 4x5 or 8x10 sizes. 

The event rate minimum charge is $1200.00 and includes to 8 ~ 12 8x10 plates, plus digital scans for sharing.

Environmental Portraiture:

Are you an artist, mechanic, welder, baker, motorcycle or car enthusiast...  The wet collodion process can capture you in your work or personal environment like no other photographic medium.  Not only that, but the image will last for generations to come.  Think about what it will mean to your great great grandchildren to see how their ancestors lived way back in 2014!

Environmental portrait sessions start at $500 and include up to 5 - 8x10 plates, plus digital scans for sharing.  Additional 8x10 plates are $85 each.

Day in the Life:

In this session, we will spend the entire day together, photographing the moments and people that are most important to you, at your favorite location.

"Day in the Life" sessions are $2400 for 6 to 8 hours of shooting and includes 12 to 15 plates in both 4x5 and 8x10 sizes.  This session also includes digital scans and a custom made, hand-bound book of prints from your session.

Engagement and Wedding Portraits:

Engagement and wedding portraits in the wet collodion method will fast become cherished heirlooms and works of art in their own right.  I would suggest that wedding portraits be done one or two weeks prior to the actual wedding date if possible.  The process is slow and requires the sitters undivided attention throughout the session; you will have a lot of other things to do on the day of, so you may be a little distracted.  Also, this will give enough time to get the finished plates back to you to display at the wedding reception.

This session is the same rate as the "environmental session - $500 and include up to 5 8x10 plates, plus digital scans for sharing.  Additional 8x10 plates are $85

Notes on the Process:

- To get the most authentic images with the wet collodion method, I prefer to work outdoors in natural light. A slightly overcast day seems to work best.  I like natural light because after all, studio flash was a long way from being invented in 1851.

- The image created is a one-of-a-kind original piece of art.  It is created as a direct positive on black aluminum.  Your image will appear reversed, as you would see yourself in a mirror.  Text will appear backwards in the image.

- Exposure times can range from 5 seconds to over a minute, so a still, calm frame of mind is important!

- Some blurring during longer exposures is normal and is part of the charm of the process.  A retake will be made only if the image is very blurred.  I have stands and headrests available to help hold you still.  (if that isn't enough, I have duct tape!)

- The wet plate chemistry can be fickle, and at times it does not want to work.  In these rare cases a session may have to be re-scheduled.