Learn About the Process of Tintype Photography

Tintypes continue to fascinate us. Despite the process being over 150 years old, its methodical, almost meditative procedure and striking results have kept it alive. It's also a fairly scientific process that involves a good bit of chemistry. Check out this video to learn more about the technical and practical aspects of the practice of shooting tintypes.

I've always thought the science of tintypes was pretty cool, especially considering how clever it was for its time. Michael Shindler, a San Francisco photographer, takes us through the entire process, from the creation of the plates to the final development. He notes that the plates have an equivalent ISO of about 0.75, or about 133 times slower than the base ISO of 100 of many of today's modern digital cameras. The plates are so slow that he can even walk in and out of the darkroom while they're sensitizing with no real consequences.

The process is intricate, the science is fascinating, and the results are beautiful. Without starting yet another analog vs digital debate, I certainly think there's something about the images that can't be replicated with a digital apparatus, and I can certainly say the process itself is vastly different (and seemingly more satisfying than digital work). I'm itching to try it out myself.

Log in or register to post comments

14 Comments

Robert Raymer's picture

Ive been looking into the process myself. You might enjoy this story...http://petapixel.com/2013/07/10/these-are-the-first-combat-zone-tintype-...

This process is still fascinating. I'd love to do it at least once from sensitizing the plate, photography, and developing.

Joshua Harrison's picture

Sadly they closed their doors not long ago. But I believe Michael is still doing this kind of work.

Alex Cooke's picture

That's such a shame; I hadn't heard that. I'm glad he's still doing this, though!

Vitor Kelm's picture

Very nice! But i sill think Giles Clement a better style of this TinType Photography! :D

Chris Himstedt's picture

I spent 12 years in the darkroom professionally and man I miss it. This is awesome stuff. Might have to start clearing a space in my basement.

Chris Himstedt's picture

Growing family + Business Owner = Time Deficit

Chris Himstedt's picture

@Pete - Great advice. My extreme OCD makes me a very efficient time manager....and quality time is always what we as a family strive for.

romain VERNEDE's picture

you can shoot you computer's screen too... but if you want it easy, flawless, cheap, odorless...shoot digital and don't bother with old stuffs :)

romain VERNEDE's picture

But using this "tricks" is charmless for me, as you loose the large format abilities...

romain VERNEDE's picture

Did you ever shot with LF camera or did you use some 8x10 enlarger or practice wetplate?

romain VERNEDE's picture

Because you loose the most important things with this kind of process: sensations and feelings

Technically everything is possible in 2016...but technicals things are just a small part of the creative process.
You would have been the first wetplater I met which enjoy this kind of way to do it...

(being able to replicate the same image is the contrary of the uniqueness of a tintype BTW)

romain VERNEDE's picture

-You're wrong, just ask collodionnists ;)

-You missed the point.

It's the difference between using it and pure guess behind your computer...

romain VERNEDE's picture

-not an ellitist name just like landscape photographer...

-wet plate collodion on tin/alu plate is a tintype, no problem

-it's just thoughts from a guy behind his computer with no experience of a media, guestimating things and talking of things he never tryed...

-the process doesn't need you to open up my friend ,others did long before...

if the optical properties are the same between a 35mm and Lf...go take some 101 classes