Wet Plate


Wet Plate Collodion

Wet Plate Portrait

Wet plate collodion was invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851. It gained popularity over its predecessors, the calotype and daguerreotype, due to its superior capture of details. It was commonly used to create negatives on glass which were printed onto albumen paper, creating the most detailed images possible at the time. It remained popular until the late 1800s when processes allowing negative enlargement and easier use outside of the darkroom were developed. Wet plate collodion grew in popularity in the early 2000s as portrait studios and artists used the medium to explore alternative ways of creating unique, photographic objects.*

Wet Plate Workshops



What is it?

Wet plate collodion has three primary components. The “plate” is a substrate that carries the light sensitive emulsion. The collodion is a mixture of iodides, bromides, ether, and alcohol which becomes light sensitive when silver nitrate is added. It is most sensitive to light when it is wet, necessitating a darkroom at the time of photography so all the steps of creating the final image can be accomplished before the plate dries.


Once the plate is sensitized with collodion and silver nitrate it is place in the back of a camera to capture an image. The resulting plate is the final result and is a one-of-a-kind object. Cameras for wet plate photography tend to be large in order to produce a sizeable plate.

Tintypes vs Ambrotypes

Tintypes use metal as the substrate in wet plate collodion photography. The black surface of the metal makes the final image appear as a positive instead of a negative. It is a unique, one-of-a-kind plate that cannot be reproduced in the way that multiple prints can be made from a single negative.

Ambrotypes use glass as the substrate. If the glass is clear then the image appears as a negative. The plate can be used as such for printing, or it can be backed by a black paint (called japanning) or other dark backing to appear as a positive. You can use colored glass as a substrate creating unique and interesting scenes in different hues.

Luminaria's Capabilities

David Hyams, master printer and our co-founder, has spent his career understanding the chemistry behind this process, controlling variations, and using different techniques to make wet plates from digital images. Some of our capabilities include:

Wet plate portrait sessions

If you are interested in a photographic experience then book a portrait session. We offer both tintypes and ambrotypes (colored glass upon request) and multiple sizes. This is a particularly wonderful way to mark a special occasion such as a wedding.

Digital tintypes

We can take your digital images and transform them into precious objects that have a timeless quality. The size of the final tintype is dependent on your file size. Digital ambrotypes are available upon request.


Our equipment currently allows for plates up to 14x14 inches. However, we can source larger cameras for special requests.


Our pricing is based on materials costs, your customization requirements, and the market price for silver. Because of this we can only provide a basic estimate of pricing on our website. Contact us to discuss your needs or schedule an appointment to visit our lab and samples.

  • 4x5 | $100 tintype | $125 ambrotype
  • 5x7 - 6x8 | $150 tintype | $175 ambrotype
  • 8x10 - 8x12 | $300 tintype | $350 ambrotype
  • inquire for larger sizes
Large Format Camera with Antique Lens

*For more information on the wet plate collodion process watch this video from The Getty.


Weekend Workshop: Intro to Wet Plate Collodion

This session has passed. Join our mailing list to receive news on current and future workshops.

Wet plate collodion was released to the public in 1851, and it played a huge role in making photography accessible to the masses.  An extremely versatile process, it can be used to create both negatives and one of a kind positives on various materials, and it has seen a strong revival in recent years.  This workshop will focus mainly on tintype photography, where a unique positive is created in-camera on a sheet of blackened metal.  You will learn to avoid common problems that plague first time wet plate photographers, building your confidence and abilities as you continue to explore the process outside of the workshop.  We will cover acquiring and preparing the chemistry and equipment before moving to the making of tintypes.  We believe in hands-on learning and will spend considerable time working with large format cameras and various lenses that date back to the the wet plate era.

Add To Cart
Summer Workshop: Advanced Wet Plate Collodion

This session has passed. Join our mailing list to receive news on current and future workshops.

Have you been practicing wet plate but have technical questions or need guidance on how to perfect or control the chemical process? Or, do you have a wet plate project in mind and need some instruction to realize it? Then this is the class for you. We will focus on expanding your collodion skill set, from creating stained glass ambrotypes, collodion glass negatives for printing in alternative processes, or taking your collodion work to a larger size.  We will focus on advanced trouble shooting and field techniques, and build a greater understanding of the chemistry that is working to create your images.  

Add To Cart
Summer Workshop: Introduction to Wet Plate Collodion with Holga

This session has passed. Join our mailing list to receive news on current and future workshops.

Wet plate is very technical and we suggest taking an intro class to learn the basics instead of trying it on your own. Using Holga cameras you will learn the basics for flowing, sensitizing, shooting, developing, and fixing plates. This is a wonderful introduction that aims to keep costs low, avoid frustration, and prepare you for independent work and/or an intermediate workshop.

*Price of Holga not included

Add To Cart