Home Film Photography dav.d on Wet Plate Photography by Blackburn Studio

dav.d on Wet Plate Photography by Blackburn Studio

by dav.d

Most of these photographs were shot with my iPhone. I wanted to document the process of me getting photographed by Chris Blackburn of Blackburn Studio in Salt Lake City. Chris specializes in film photography including large format cameras and he uses the wet plate collodion process. You have the option to pick metal or glass for the final image and I went with metal.

The first photograph is a 4×5″ large format view camera. I paid for the 8×10″ camera and Chris first wanted to do a test print on the 4×5″ camera which felt like an added bonus. Maybe he’ll use it in his portfolio even. And since the prints are one of a kind… if you want an extra print you need to create an extra photo.

4x5 Large format view camera for the test shot

4×5 Large format view camera for the test shot

Here is the lighting setup and the couch and brick wall. I am a fan of brick walls so that was my choice for the photo shoot. Chris has a studio in downtown SLC and there are a number of options in studio and for a nominal fee he will shoot on location aka outdoors.

Studio lights and the background for the wet plate photo shoot

Studio lights and the background for the wet plate photo shoot

Wet plate collodion is an involved process. The process was invented in the 1850s and it involves coating a metal plate or glass plate with light sensitive chemicals and then exposing it with light.
Chris mixed the chemicals and prepared the plates and it was fun to watch. He does this type of photography at the Salt Lake Farmers Market so you have a chance to get your photograph each Saturday.

Chemicals ready for wet plate photography

Chemicals ready for wet plate photography

The process is pretty painstaking. When Chris was first learning how to create these types of images he spent several months learning how to get it right. There were a number of mistakes and errors but he has the process down and it is fun to watch.

Chris prepares the metal plates

Chris prepares the metal plates

Chris prepares the metal plates

Chris prepares the metal plates

Here is a video of the exposed plate turning from a negative to a positive. I forget which chemicals are involved. And there are steps that require the plastic gloves for good measure. You get chills watching the image appear for the video.

Afterwards the prints are rinsed for a number of minutes and then dried and shellacked so they stay preserved for years and years. They should become true family heirlooms. They’ll last longer than I will.

Rinsing the prints

Rinsing the prints

The 4x5 test print is almost ready after rinsing

The 4×5 test print is almost ready after rinsing

Here is the final test print. Chris scanned it and sent me a digital copy.

dav.d on 4x5 wet plate photography

dav.d on 4×5 wet plate photography

Draining the excess liquid after shellacking

Draining the excess liquid after shellacking

After the 4×5″ test print we moved into the big leagues with the 8×10″ large format view camera. Chris will create 2 plates during the photo shoot. You get to keep one and you do have the option to buy the second plate as well. I bought the second plate. I did a wardrobe change as well.

8x10 View Camera

8×10 View Camera

This is a view from behind the camera. The image is upside down and Chris, the photographer, would focus the bellows and lens to get everything perfect. You have to hold still once the focus is set.

Upside down in the viewfinder

Upside down in the viewfinder

Here is one more video of the 8×10 print being washed. It is fun to see the image change.

I did my own scanning of the 8×10 in prints so the color is a little different that Chris’ scan. To really get an idea of how cool you have to see the prints in real life. They are on actual metal and there is a depth and gloss that is just cool. Much like cars look better in real life so do these prints. And since silver is used in the creation of these photos there is a certain magic to the image.

dav.d on 8x10 wet plate by Blackburn Studio

dav.d on 8×10 wet plate by Blackburn Studio

To help the image during the shellacking it is heated on a hot skillet to dry.

The print is preserved with shellacking

The print is preserved with shellacking

And here is one of the final prints. If you get your photograph created be sure to mention my name! I might get a discount on future shoots 😉

dav.d on 8x10 wet plate

dav.d on 8×10 wet plate

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