Photographer explains how to create and shoot wet plate photography

May 12, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Photographer explains how to create and shoot wet plate photography

May 12, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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david_rambow_wetplate

In the modern digital world, what is it that fascinates us about photography techniques that died out maybe a hundred years or more ago?

Whatever it is, you can satisfy your desires a little bit with this video featuring wet plate photographer David Rambow, who walks us through his thoughts and process when working in this medium.

YouTube video

The wet plate process dates back to the mid 19th century, and started to die out in the 1880s by a dry glass plate process, to overcome the limitations of wet plate photography, but this introduced us to what we now call grain.  This is one of the reasons many still love the wet place process for a cleaner image.

With an approximate sensitivity of ISO2, and up to 20-30 second exposure times, you’re certainly not going to be shooting much action with something like this, but the results have a unique appearance that’s simply impossible to get with modern equipment.

david_rambow_exposure

Developing the plate after the shot takes a further ten minutes or so, which isn’t going to provide the instant gratification of a quick iPhone selfie that you can upload to Facebook in 3 seconds, but that’s kind of the point.  It’s a slow and very deliberate process.

david_rambow_developing

Having started to learn about wet plate photography in 2000, David has since had his work featured in such movies as True Grit, Cowboys & Aliens, and A Million Ways to Die in the West.

David speaks of his struggles in learning this process before the Internet really came of age, and believes that the easy access to information available today through online forums and blogs has gone a long way towards helping to keep the wet plate process alive.

One thing’s for sure, wet plate is definitely rising in popularity again, and there a decent number of great photographers using it to produce some amazing work. Ian Ruhter is one name that immediately springs to mind as a personal favourite.

It’s something that’s on the lists of many photographers I know as something they’d like to have a go at one day.  It’s definitely on mine.  How about you?

Is this on your list of things to try?  Or do you just not get at all why some people are so interested by it?  Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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2 responses to “Photographer explains how to create and shoot wet plate photography”

  1. damn.eu Avatar
    damn.eu

    Presumably the “hermit” that taught Mr. Rambow was none other than John Coffer,who has a marvellous website… He not only practises wet plate photography, he lives the lifestyle of the Victorian era from choice and uses modernity only when in his opinion, that modernity is better than what has preceded.

    http://www.johncoffer.com

  2. Alex McMillan Avatar
    Alex McMillan

    Daniel Barter may be of interest?