In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer came up with the brilliant idea of using collodion as a carrier for silver salts (silver bromide and silver iodide). Recently, there has been a huge resurgence in the process’ popularity. The final images have a beautiful depth, unlike the paper print.
The process is one of the easiest “alternative” processes (once all the preparation is done). It does require being near a darkroom or carrying a “portable darkroom” as the plates need to be coated, sensitized, exposed and developed while the collodion is wet.
Basically the process is:
- Prepare the plate (cut to size and clean)
- Coat the plate with salted collodion
- Sensitize the coated plate in a silver nitrate bath
- Expose the plate
- Develop the plate
- Fix the plate
If someone wanted to get started with the process as quickly and simply as they could, here are my recommendations:
Use black acrylic plates.This saves many steps involved in cutting and cleaning glass. Buy it cut to size, or make a plate holder that will fit a standard size. Peel away the protection and you are ready to pour!
Use “Poe Boy” formula. This avoids the hassles of storing and working with ether (though there is ether in the collodion).
Use potassium instead of cadmium. It is much safer and easier to obtain in most places.
Buy (or have made) a vertical silver bath. A tray is much easier to get, but the danger and hassle of pouring silver nitrate and keeping it contaminant free using a tray are not worth the convenience.