View Full Version : Going into the photography business!

Calamity Jane
2-Apr-2005, 13:22
I started asking around last week, among my re-enactor friends, if offering to do Tintypes at gatherings would be popular. It seems it would be. But then I started getting enquiries if I could make Tintypes from a digital file.

I spent the past week experimenting and found out that yes, I COULD make Tintypes from a digital file, Tintypes that look as if the people where actually photographed live.

So that got me thinking . . . (dangerous thing at my age!) . . . that I can reach A LOT more people via the Internet and do a LOT more Tintypes than I could by hauling my camera around to various events so . . . .

I'm going to hang out my shingle and go into the Tintype business. I already have a waiting list!

Just putting together a Web page (http://www,geocities.com/winnonad), ordering materials, and then I'll become a for-really honest-ta-gawd PAID photographer. WHOOOIE somebody wants to pay me for doing my hobby!

I knew hanging around with you guys was going to lead to trouble! :-)

chris jordan
2-Apr-2005, 14:42
Calam, that's killer. Congratulations!! My question: Are these actual tintypes, or some other kind of digital prints that have been Photoshopped to look like tintypes? If they are real live tintypes, you can add me to the waiting list.

Calamity Jane
2-Apr-2005, 14:59
They're as real as is practical today.

Only difference, starting with a digital file, is that I manipulate the digital picture on the computer and print it to suit the Tintype process.

The plates are black painted steel, coated with silver halide emulsion, developed, fixed, and varnish coated. They are indistinguishable from real "live" Tintypes.

It took a fair amount of experimentation first to get the Tintype process working, and then a whole lot more experimentation to get the transfer-from-digital process right. Anybody want to buy 50 or so used tintype plates? ;-)

If you're interested, read the web page and send an e-mail to the address given.

Ellen Stoune Duralia
2-Apr-2005, 16:39
That's great, Jane! I wish you the greatest success :-)

Steve Hamley
2-Apr-2005, 17:54
Congrats Calamity! Best wishes and hope you make lots of money to spend on LF gear, film, ...


Robert A. Zeichner
2-Apr-2005, 18:54
This sounds like a winner. I would offer one suggestion that is based on personal experience and that is to make certain you price this stuff modestly enough for the average re-enactor to afford. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to photograph scenes being staged for the making of a historical documentary about the battle of Antietam. http://www.razeichner.com/civilwar/index.htm After three weeks of shooting and many, many months in the darkroom, I came up with a portfolio of 10 warm-toned prints which I offered in a custom made, gold debossed clamshell case for what I though was a reasonable price of $1200. I also offered the prints singly. What I found out was that while the re-encators went wild over the prints, the vast majority would never consider spending that much money on photography. Where they do spend money is on acoutrements, weapons, travel expenses to re-enactments and the like. Maybe a limited edition lithograph of a Mort Kustler painting, but not photography. There was a fellow I met from Rochester NY who did wet plates in the field out of a horse drawn what's-it-wagon and he seemed to do okay with it, but he wasn't charging much and I beleive his success was at least in part do to his being part of the re-enactment. Your idea seems like a pretty clever one and you just might have some success. I hope you sell a ton of them.

Mike Davis
2-Apr-2005, 20:28

Depending on when the doc took place, it is very possible that the photographer with the wagon was Bob Gibson. Bob runs a real live wet-plate studio in Gettysburg. His wetplates are very good and he does charge reasonable prices. He also worked on period style photography for "Gods and Generals" and other movies as well.

The technical superiority of his work to most "artistic" wet plate photographers is striking. He uses 1860's cameras, lenses, plates and methods (no shutter, huge skylight for the studio, etc). But, the plates are good. There's no excuses over difficulty in his work.


Congratulations Calamity, it sounds like a fun opportunity. I had though to develop a photographer character for SASS, but you may already have the market on period photography for that group. I would be interested in your technique for tintypes from digital. I'm assuming (and we all know what that means) a contact printing process but...

Calamity Jane
3-Apr-2005, 04:49
Robert: I am trying to keep my price reasonable. I don't want to be too cheap - I want to keep enough profit margin that I wont think twice about doing enough prints to get a good one without loosing money - but if I am too pricy and don't get enough business, I'll have to have a special "sale" and offer a reduced price.

Mike: I hope you'll understand if I don't disclose my process for awhile, until I am firmly established in the marketplace. It cost me a weeks time and a few dozen plates to figure out what works and one never knows who might be cruising the various boards and decide to setup in competition. If somebody wants to compete with me, let THEM make the investment to! Once I have recovered my costs and harvested the first crop, I'll share the techniques. ;-)

Robert A. Zeichner
3-Apr-2005, 05:52
Mike, Yes the man was Bob Gibson. I made a photograph of him and his assistant portaying Alexander Gardner and James Gibson photographing the dead in the sunken road. The striking thing about it is that it was made in the actual sunken road! The director of the film got special permission to stage this part of the battle in the place where it actually happened. http://razeichner.com/newstuff/gardner2.jpg

Donald Qualls
3-Apr-2005, 09:09
Jane, in the interest of recycling, if you don't have any use (like future reference on what certain mistakes will do) for those used plates, Clorox or similar chlorine laundry bleach, full strength, will take the gelatin cleanly off the plate (assuming it hasn't been varnished). If the plates are already varnished, they might require a treatment with a suitable thinner for the varnish, which runs a risk of lifting the black paint on the plate -- but I'd be inclined to try lightly scuffing the surface with sandpaper or steel wool, to cut through the varnish, and then soaking the plate in bleach for a while to see if it gets under the varnish well enough to lift the emulsion.

If it doesn't work, all you've lost is a little time and a cup or so of bleach for the test...

Ralph Barker
3-Apr-2005, 09:43
Ah, I can see it now - a handmade rosewood and cocobolo 8x10 with ivory inlay, materials financed from the profits of your new tintype business. ;-)

Congratulations, Calamity.

Diane Maher
3-Apr-2005, 14:23
Congratulations and good luck!