Early Types of Photography

Popular forms of analog photography went through many early phases. Going back to the 19th century, several trends were explored and replaced as techniques improved and became more durable, reliable and portable. You may have found an example of one of these kinds of early photography in a museum or even in an old shoe box at an estate sale or up in a dusty attic. Below are the most popular forms of early photography and how you can identify them from each other.

Daguerreotype

popular 1842 - 1856

The first commercially successful photographic process and named after the inventor, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, each daguerreotype is a unique image on a silvered copper plate.

In contrast to photographic paper, a daguerreotype is not flexible and is rather heavy. Daguerreotype can be accurate, detailed and sharp. It's mirror-like surface is very fragile and the metal plate is extremely vulnerable therefore most daguerreotypes are presented in a special housing.


Ambrotypes

popular 1855 - 1861

The ambrotype is a direct positive monochrome photographic process. It is a wet collodion glass plate negative which when viewed against a dark background looks like a positive photograph. The choice of the term "ambrotype", from the Greek "ambrotos" meaning "imperishable" or "immortal", is probably linked to the durability of the glass base.

Although the first portraits made using this process were presented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851, then by Adolphe Martin in 1852 under the name of "amphitype", the process was only patented under this name in 1854 by James Anson [Ambrose] Cutting. The patent states that a collodion direct positive is made on a glass plate hermetically sealed using Canadian balsam resin, a resin from Canadian fir trees.

Less expensive to produce than daguerreotypes and requiring shorter exposure times, ambrotypes were regularly used from 1854 up to the 1870s. It especially found favour in the United States, particularly with portrait photographers.

 


Tintypes

popular 1860 - 1870

A tintype, sometimes called a melainotype or ferrotype, is an early form of photography made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal, aluminum or tin, that is coated with a dark lacquer or enamel and then used as the support for a photo sensitive emulsion.

Learn more about Tintypes and Digital Tintypes.

Carte de Visite

popular 1860 - 1880

Carte de Visites were usually made of an albumen print, which was a thin paper photograph mounted on a thicker paper card.

Each photograph was the size of a visiting card, and such photograph cards were traded among friends and visitors. Albums for the collection and display of cards became a common fixture in Victorian parlors. The immense popularity of these card photographs led to the publication and collection of photographs of prominent persons.

You can find carte de vistes portraits of Queen Victoria, John Booth and Napoleon III.

By the early 1870s, cartes de visite were supplanted by "cabinet cards", which were also usually albumen prints, but larger, mounted on cardboard backs measuring 110 mm (4.5 in) by 170 mm (6.5 in).

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What people say about us

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From Newspaper clipping to Tintype, success!

All I had of my Great Great Grandmother was a Newspaper sketch in an article. It turned out just fabulous! Great job and something we can now keep forever! Thank you!

Sandra F.

12/30/15


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Great anniversary gift!

I had a tintype made of one of our wedding photos to give my husband for our tenth anniversary. It made a wonderful, unique "tin" anniversary present. Great people to work with--they made sure they got my tintype to me in time for our anniversary.

Diana O.

05/21/16