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Thread: Collodion - Wet Plate Images

  1. #2101
    Christopher Barrett's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2014

    Re: Collodion - Wet Plate Images

    Willie, I try to match my scans to the actual plates (using a print viewing booth). I’ve measured the density of blown out hilights on my plates at around 0.78. So, yeah wet plate collodion can easily be 2 stops darker than a print on paper. I imagine that many of the digital representations of plates posted here have been ‘normalized’.

  2. #2102

    Join Date
    May 2016
    Licking County, Ohio

    Re: Collodion - Wet Plate Images

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie View Post

    In looking at your portrait image and comparing to a half dozen above it, yours is much darker.

    Is this due to the emulsion mix or is it exposure?

    Saw a show of 30 or so wet plates by Shane Balkowitsch a few weeks ago. Native Americans on black glass plates. Most pretty clean with few flow marks or glitches. But the whole batch was very dark. A number difficult to see well in the lighting at the gallery. Did not look like "style" but like they all needed more exposure.

    Not doing Wet Plate but have seen a bunch and do wonder when all of a photographers work is so dark. Is it a deliberate choice? Lack of experience or training? The emulsion mix? Or underexposure?
    Can't speak for anyone else but I can answer based off my practice: There's two factors that lead to a lot of plates looking pretty dark. First, wet plates take a shocking amount of light to expose. Their sensitivity is usually somewhere between ISO 0.1 and 0.5 for "fast" collodion. So a lot of people simply don't have enough light or realize how long to leave the shutter open because it seems absurd. Second, they're absurdly contrasty. For portraits, to achieve a "normal" look, I find that I need about 2 tenths (0.2) of a stop of difference between the highlight side and the shadow side of the face or else I lose detail in one or the other. On film, I usually go about 1.5 stops difference for the same look. This leads to a lot of people lighting with a normal contrast range, exposing for the highlights, and resulting in really dark shadows. My plates got much better when I finally realized that a 0.1 to 0.2 stop change in strobe power was going to be the difference between a reasonable looking image and a failure.

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