View Full Version : X-ray / ambrotype

2-May-2015, 12:17
I have been wondering for some time if it would be possible to kind of mimic the ambrotype with modern film. Since I often shoot 8X10 X-ray film I tried just laying a neg on a black background (black paper) but wasn't satisfied with the look. Since I had some discard-able duplicate negs from recent shootings, I took one and painted one side with flat black enamel spray paint. After drying, turned it over and was pleasantly surprised at the look. In the right, bright light, the image is easily view-able as a positive. And the blue tint (as all my X-ray negs have) has been replaced with a very nice sepia tone.

My film is the double sided film. I don't know how it would look with just one sided emulsion. I may try a discard-able 4X5 neg that is single sided. I also don't know if it matters if the paint is flat or glossy, as all I have is flat. I also don't know yet if it would help to paint the front side with a glossy clear enamel (to give it a shine like an actual ambrotype) which may, or may not make it easier to view.

Anyway, I had fun.

This was an extra pinhole image from last weekend - scan in reflective mode, un-manipulated other than a slight levels adjustment.


Randy Moe
2-May-2015, 12:39

It's hard to make something new and different in this well explored film epoch.

That's a real good original idea!

I will be trying that very soon.

Like in 2 minutes!

Thanks for sharing.

2-May-2015, 13:18
Share your results Randy. I am hoping someone more imaginative than me can perfect it.
I am wondering if shooting on a very clear base film, like lithe film, might work better, as that may more closely resemble a glass base.
At this point, I can afford to experiment on X-ray film...but not much else :)

2-May-2015, 14:11
I've had something similar happen with Kodak Electron Image film. Below is a digital snapshot of a negative (yes, it is a negative!) floating in a black plastic wash tray. I never thought of spray painting the back of the negative. I'll have to give that a try and see how it looks.



2-May-2015, 19:09
Cool. Ambros and tins are weak negatives on a black background, so you could try cutting your development in half.

Andrew O'Neill
2-May-2015, 19:53
Well done, Randy.

2-May-2015, 20:43
Randy, I 've done a similar experiment, using the latest version of Freestyle's graphic arts film, by simply placing it in front of a black background, and too noticed the reversal effect. Now I'm going to have to try the spray paint trick.

I was/am a fan of Harman's now discontinued Direct Positive paper, and have thought for a while that Ilford should simply coat a conventional graded paper emulsion onto a black paper substrate, rather than white; and perhaps issue some modified developer and/or fixer that enhances the reflective properties of the developed silver (like the way collodion users employ sodium isocyanate based fixer, that does something to lighten the reflectivity of the silver image). If I had the capacity to make and coat such emulsions I'd do the test myself. I know there's a large fan base of enthusiasts who would latch onto a unique product like a black faux-reversal paper.


Randy Moe
2-May-2015, 20:55
Here are 2 near identical Ektascan negs. One is coated on back glossy side with 2" matt black ink marker. Sloppy.

So emulsion is up and laying on gloss white foam core.

The fake Ambro is best seen and photographed in dim light with no glare, requires a viewing angle or high diffusion which I didn't set up. Kind of a ghostly image for a dark room with candles...

My P&S Nikon worked best in full auto and even gave the last image realistic color? in camera.

On a lightbox all you see is black ink.


2-May-2015, 21:06
Interesting. I'm not sure I'm invested in alternate processes enough to try this, but it looks cool.

3-May-2015, 00:31
I have been contemplating the very same thing this week! Now I'll certainly have to give it a try.

3-May-2015, 06:21
I tried the same procedure, painting the base side of a 4x5 neg, regular panchromatic film. It was not near as viewable as the xray neg. More experimenting. Have to go buy more paint.

3-May-2015, 08:02
I tried the same procedure, painting the base side of a 4x5 neg, regular panchromatic film. It was not near as viewable as the xray neg.

Remember - more silver in X-ray ;)

3-May-2015, 09:04
Someplace out there is a good formula for a "physical developer", intended to add silver to the original grain clusters for more density and contrast. This would probably come closer to ambrotype structure.

I recall from years ago that chromium intensified negatives were very easy to see as positives in reflected light; possibly a similar mechanism.

3-May-2015, 09:48
Harold, I was wondering if there was something that would possibly give the silver image a more reflective property.

Randy Moe
3-May-2015, 09:56
Read Jim Noel's comment in my N2 Burst thread.