Wet Plate Collodion

Wet Plate Collodion was the primary photographic method from the early 1850s until the late 1880s.

The entire process, from coating to developing, had to be done before the plate dried. This gave the photographer usually no more than 15 minutes to complete everything. This made it inconvenient for field use, as it required a portable darkroom.

Depending on the support used, the wet-plate process can produce an ambrotype (an image on glass), a tintype (an image on metal plate) or a collodion negative.

Despite its disadvantages, wet plate collodion became enormously popular. It was used for portraiture, landscape work, architectural photography and art photography.

The production of a wet-plate image is very much a “handicraft” and each wet-plate image will inevitably include process artifacts created by variations in the coating of the plate, the length of exposure time, and many other factors. It is, in fact, still used by a number of artists and experimenters, who prefer its aesthetic qualities to those of the later silver gelatine and digital processes.