Getting a Tintype Portrait:
A Client's Perspective
APRIL 12, 2023
This was originally posted on my blog in May 2013, a decade ago! I've made many plates since then and have continued to learn, be frustrated by, love, hate, and step away from the wet plate process a few times over the last 10 years. But I always come back to it. Reading a post from so long ago, I feel the sense of accomplishment and satisfction I got as a beginners, and I see that amazement in the new crop of people taking up the process now.
On to the post from 2013...
My friend Hailey shares her thoughts about what it's like to sit for a tintype portrait at my studio. Hailey has been a great subject for me, willing to sit for a portrait at a moments notice. She has seen the progress I've made with wet plate, from being unable to get an image to work at all, to now getting consistent results and really cool images . I still get a shiver down my spine when an image comes up on the plate! For me, creating these pieces is what photography is all about. The feel of the metal and smoothness of the glass like varnished surface and the smell of lavender in the varnish makes a wet plate photo a complete sensory experience.
This is what Hailey had to say:
"Sitting for a tintype portrait offers two special experiences. First, there is a fantastic sense of quiet, patience and process as you sit to have one exposure taken of you – as opposed to the flurry of shutter snaps a standard digital photo-shoot offers. One exposure at a time is how this one hundred and fifty year-old technique works. A lot of care has to be taken to prepare one exposure: focusing for the shot, mixing the chemistry, pouring the collodion, loading the wet plate, judging the amount of time for exposure. All of this means sitting for a portrait is a markedly different experience.
The second special part about tintype portraiture is seeing the finished image. The technique produces an image that resembles yourself, but at the same time brings out features that are sometimes out of view. The tintype is a one of a kind, in a way it’s an original photograph because there is no negative. To protect the delicate layer of silver, the plate must get a protective layer of varnish. The varnishing leaves the plate smelling of lavender.
This experience should be on everyone’s bucket list."