Tintype Photography

In a change of pace, I want to visit a different type of photography itself, not just what is in the picture. I want to talk about one of the oldest forms of photography we have, tintype. Tintype photography hit it’s peak in popularity during the 1860’s and 1870’s. The process of tintype included two methods, a wet and a dry. The wet was very complicated and required near perfect timing to get the exposures right. It required an emulsion that was still wet when it was exposed in the camera. The dry method was similar, but instead used a gelatin emulsion and it could be applied to the plate ahead of time instead of at that time. Both methods had the developers use potassium cyanide which is a very dangerous poisonous chemical. Examples of tintypes are as follows.

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Most tintypes required the person in the photo to stay still for a very long time (usually at least 30 minutes) so the subject would usually lean against something, or be photographed sitting down. It would also depending on if the camera had a mirror in it, produced a flipped image of whatever was in the photo.


This is one of the most famous tintype photos ever. It is the only known and confirmed photo of western outlaw Billy the Kid. This was actually used to determine more about his life since he was so mysterious. The image makes him look left-handed because his gun is on his left hip. The image was actually a mirror image meaning that he was actually right-handed.

For more information on tintype, visit: http://www.alternativephotography.com/wp/processes/wetplate/the-classic-tintype-process



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