The Science of Tintype Photography

Will and Norm get their portraits taken at Photobooth, a unique photo studio in San Francisco that shoots tintype photographs. Learn about the technical and chemical details behind this 1800s photography technique, and how it produces truly one-of-a-kind photographs.

Comments (38)

38 thoughts on “The Science of Tintype Photography

  1. I am so glad that Will and Norm are experiencing something like this. Long live film and analog processes, next thing we know Norm will be trying to do this. Also Norm, you said a 4×5 was medium format, it is large format, 120 film is medium format. Large is anything 4×5 and up (5×7, 8×10, 11×14,etc)

  2. Amazing, the wife and I will surely stop by on our next trip to SF. And no price gouging either, this guy’s business sure deserves some support.

  3. you guys should really try and get a show going on A&E or a similar channel. You guys have good tv personalities and I am sure a show with you guys doing all these types of things would do really well!

    Talk to Adam Savage! Tell him to hook it up!

  4. i would totally take one of these home if i could, also, i was suprised by the prices, in a good way.

  5. How can there not be a place that does this in the Chicago area? Curse you for making me want something I am physically incapable of procuring without crossing half the country!

  6. Those pics are awesome. If I am ever lucky enough to visit SF I’ll be swinging by the tintype photo booth. I’ll make sure to don a Stetson before he takes the picture though!

  7. That was interesting. Of all the millions of photos taken each day, so few are really worth a glance. This is the extreme opposite. Beautiful.

  8. Neato! And cheaper than I expected too. I might swing by this guy’s shop next time I’m in SF. 🙂

  9. Just wanted to add my voice in support of this piece. Fascinating process and great to see the site covering some ‘old’ tech, too. I barely understand the chemistry that was discussed, but it was still fascinating to hear about it.

    I hope that this guy can become a regular resource/expert for you guys, as well. He’s dry as hell, but seems incredibly competent. If he has any other hobbies that he has time for, I bet they’d be fascinating.

  10. I still prefer wet plate collodion on glass plates over metal plates, but it’s cool that this dude has found a niche for himself in the absolutely brutal marketplace that is “professional” photography. And I like that this is a process that is impossible to replicate digitally.

  11. In case anyone wanted to know, the actual chemical reaction of the “salts” with light (photons) on the plate are part of the “Latent Image Formation” process. (which is really quite interesting)

    I haven’t worked with Ambrotypes or Daguerreotypes enough to know how the process differs, but I’m fairly certain it works in a very similar way to that of conventional gelatin film.

    The photons striking the crystals (salts) free an electron from the Bromide ion, which is absorbed by the gelatin base as bromine. This allows the free silver atom to move through the halide crystalline structure and settle in the sensitivity speck. The sensitivity speck then becomes negatively charged, which allows positively charged silver ions to be attracted to it, the charges are neutralized and cause the silver ions to become silver atoms, and if enough atoms are attracted to the speck, a latent image is formed 🙂

    Also, my lecturer would berate us if we used the term “resolution” to mean the same thing for film as it does for a screen or a digital camera 😉

  12. Do you take the metal plate to yourself? I figured you would, but Norm’s and Will’s pictures went into a glass box as display.

  13. Minor slip of Norm’s tongue at 3:43, but I see first comment already caught it. Good show chap. 😉 Got my current field camera in 2008, brand new, brass and cherry wood, barely changed from when Ansel Adams used the same brand. It’s not the box that matters though, it’s the lenses. 🙂

    Glad niche shops like this are still around and doing ok. Just waiting for the B&W renaissance to come around any year now. 😉 It’s getting scarce out there, but probably will never disappear like Kodachrome simply because the chemistry and processing is so basic. I’ve coated my own glass plates and sensitized regular rag paper, but haven’t worked with metal sheets. Gotta be careful what metals you mix with what chemistry. Can’t just toss anything into anything without damn good ventilation.

  14. Love these photos. So detailed, no softening or anything.

    Also, longer videos=better. Nice to see a pretty lengthy one 🙂

  15. Man, those photos are incredible.

    I wish I knew about this place the last time I was in San Francisco.

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