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How to Make Cool Tintype Photography

Tintype photography is one of the earliest forms of alternative photography processes.
We didn’t always use digital or film cameras. If you start looking into the history of photography, you’ll find many cool processes and inspiration sources. We suggest the 19th century.
Tintype photography is just one of many. In this article, we’ll show you how to make this interesting type of photography.

What Is Tintype Photography?

A tintype image is a photograph made by making a positive on a thin sheet of metal. The metal itself is coated with a dark lacquer or enamel. This in turn holds the photographic emulsion.
The photographic emulsion is the important part. This is what used to hold the light sensitive materials. Some photographers used glass and others have been know to use mirrors.
These tintypes are also known as melainotypes or ferrotypes. Currently, these types of alternative process photography are enjoying a revival. This is partly due to its interesting development and signature look.
Tintype photography is relatively simple to create.

Tintype Photography

It is popular among itinerant photographers and street photographers.
The process survived well into the early 20th century, and even the 21st as more and more photographers are using it today.
The best part about tintype photography is its portability. Like daguerreotypes, they were usually photographed in a studio setting.
This allowed the photographer to use the adjoining darkroom to process the images. Due to the dark lacquer, these plates could be used outside in the open air.
Unlike other chemicals in different alternative processes, this lacquer didn’t need to dry for it to work. It was resilient enough to allow a treatment, an image and development in a few minutes.
Due to the process, photographers could work from booths at fairs and carnivals.
During the mid-sixties, the invention of the Albumen print took the attention away from the tintype. Here, chemicals were used to treat paper to form a negative, from which to print positive images.
Tintype photography did survive for another four decades, mainly as a carnival novelty.

What Do You Need for Tintype Photography?

If you are interested in trying out this tintype photography, you need to know there are two different processes. There is wet and dry.
Typically, these images were used with a 4×5 or 8×10 large format camera. You can use it with any camera format, but bigger iron plates are easier to handle.
Both these processes created an underexposed negative image. The areas with the least amount of silver appear to be transparent and black against a dark background.

Dry Process

The dry process was the most convenient, allowing it to become the most commonly used. Instead of wet collodion emulsion, this tintype process used gelatin emulsion.
This was applied to the iron plates long before the plate was to be used. It would have time to dry, which allowed photographers to pack them for later use.

Wet Process

The wet process involves applying a plate with collodion emulsion, which is why it’s also known as the wet-plate collodion process. This is what supports the silver halides, the light sensitive material that creates the image.
This occurs while the plate is still wet, sitting in the camera. After this application, a chemical treatment was applied to reduce the crystals into microscopic particles of metallic silver.
The size of these particles depends on the duration of light, as well as its intensity, which results in an image.