Tintype Photography: The Vintage Photo Technique That’ is likely to Return

Today we get the moment satisfaction of seeing a photo we’ve recently taken, however the beginning of photography frequently required long introduction times and complex developing techniques before results could be seen. This all changed with the introduction of tintype photography, a procedure that let photographers break out of the studio and begin catching people in the city.


Tintype photography achieved peaked popularity during the 1870s, yet kept on being rehearsed throughout history and is seeing a resurgence in popularity. Contemporary photographers are taking up the technique, with workshops and photography contest dedicated to tintype appreciating success. In 2014, photographer Victoria Will caught private tintype portraits of famous people that caused an online sensation. With an increased taste for everything vintage, more and more people are figuring out how to value the shallow depth of field, uneven presentation, and low tonal range accomplished by these images.

The style is trendy to the point that Hipstamatic has recently released another TinType application for iPhone that gives your digital images the old time impact. There are even organizations like TinType Photo Lab that will change digital photographs into tintypes. But, in the case that you need to get your hands dirty, there are a lot of assets around to get you well on your approach to turning into a professional in tintype photography. How about we take a look at the historical backdrop of the process and how it works before plunging into ways you can begin your adventure into tintype photography.

Historical backdrop of Tintype Photography

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As the first cameras were made, an essential issue was the manner by which to make photography available, portable, and affordable. c and other early forms of photography had downsides because of long exposure times (which expected sitters to remain completely still) and complex creating techniques. The development of tintype in 1853 by a Frenchman named Adolphe-Alexandre Martin changed all that.

All of a sudden, exposure times were abbreviated and materials dropped significantly in price. For the first time, photographers could snap a picture and hand the picture to a client in only 10 to 15 minutes. This opened the door for new sorts of photography. Patented separately in the United States and the UK, the procedure was first called melainotype, at that point ferrotype, lastly tintype. The name originates from the way that the pictures were processed on thin sheets of metal rather than glass. Interestingly, there typically wasn’t any tin included—the plates were normally iron.

Though the resulting images were less crisp than a daguerreotype, tintype became popular with itinerant photographers. The quick processing made them a new “instant photo” and photographers would sell tintype portraits at fairs and carnivals. The invention of tintype allowed Civil War photographers like Mathew Brady to take photos out in the field. The lightweight and unbreakable nature of the photographs meant that soldiers were also able to mail portraits back to their loved ones.

Tintype eventually fell out of favor as quickly processing and developing methods were invented, but lately there’s been a renewed appreciation for the time-honored technique.

How are tintype photos created?

The actual process for making tintype photographs is a wet collodion process. Collodion is a syrupy arrangement of cellulose nitrate in ether and liquor. In the case of tintype, the wet collodion is applied to a thin iron plate and afterward covered in silver nitrate. The plate should then be loaded into a unique camera in a darkroom, after which it’s prepared for exposure.

After the plate is exposed, while still wet, it must be processed quickly. The subsequent image is an underexposed negative covered with dark lacquer or enamel. When prepared, photographers would either mount them for a situation or put them in simple paper mats that were ideal for conveying

There is also a dry method, which uses gelatin emulsion in place of collodion. The plates must be prepared well ahead of time, as they need to be dry prior to usage. Whether using the wet or dry technique, the end result remains the same.


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