The following print types are ones that we do at Battle Born Historical Photography, each subsection explains the process and history behind the type of prints, it’s important to note that with the exception of the digital pigment print, our prints are hand done one at a time.
- Salted print
- Albumen Print
- Silver Gelatin Print
- Digital Pigment Print.
The salt print was the dominant paper-based photographic process for producing positive prints during the period from 1839 through approximately 1860.
The salted paper technique was created in 1833 by English scientist and inventor Henry Fox Talbot. He made what he called “sensitive paper” for “photogenic drawing” by wetting a sheet of writing paper with a weak solution of ordinary table salt (sodium chloride), blotting and drying it, then brushing one side with a strong solution of silver nitrate. This produced a tenacious coating of silver chloride in an especially light-sensitive chemical condition. The paper darkened where it was exposed to light. When the darkening was judged to be sufficient, the exposure was ended and the result was stabilized by applying a strong solution of salt, which altered the chemical balance and made the paper only slightly sensitive to additional exposure. In 1839, washing with a solution of sodium thiosulfate (“hypo”) was found to be the most effective way to make the results truly light-fast, thus permanently fixing the image
The salt print process is often confused with Talbot’s slightly later calotype or “talbotype” process, in part because it was normally used when making prints from calotype paper negatives. Calotype paper employed silver iodide instead of silver chloride, but the most important difference is that it was a developing-out process(DOP), not a printing out process(POP) like the salt print, meaning that a much shorter exposure was used to produce an invisible latent image which was then chemically developed to visibility. This made calotype paper far more practical for use in a camera. Salted paper typically required at least an hour of exposure in the camera to yield a negative showing much more than objects silhouetted against the sky.
The albumen print, also called albumen silver print, was published in January 1847 by Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard, and was the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photographic print on a paper base from a negative. It used the albumen found in egg whites to bind the photographic chemicals to the paper and became the dominant form of photographic positives from 1855 to the turn of the 20th century, with a peak in the 1860-90 period. During the mid-19th century, the carte de visite became one of the most popular uses of the albumen method. In the 19th century, E. & H. T. Anthony & Company were the largest makers and distributors of the Albumen photographic prints and paper in the United States.
The process of making an albumen print
- A piece of paper, usually 100% cotton, is coated with an emulsion of egg white (albumen) and salt (sodium chloride or ammonium chloride), then dried. The albumen seals the paper and creates a slightly glossy surface for the sensitizer to rest on.
- The paper is then floated on a solution of silver nitrate and water which renders the surface sensitive to UV light.
- The paper is then dried in the absence of UV light.
- The dried, prepared paper is placed in a frame in direct contact under a negative. The negative is traditionally a glass negative with collodion emulsion, but this step can be performed with a modern silver halide negative, too. The paper with negative is then exposed to light until the image achieves the desired level of darkness, which is typically a little lighter than the end product. Though direct sunlight was used long ago, a UV exposure unit is often used contemporarily because it is more predictable, as the paper is most sensitive to ultraviolet light.
- A bath of sodium thiosulfate fixes the print’s exposure, preventing further darkening.
- Optional gold or selenium toning improves the photograph’s tone and stabilizes against fading. Depending on the toner, toning may be performed before or after fixing the print.
Because the image emerges as a direct result of exposure to light, without the aid of a developing solution, an albumen print may be said to be a printed rather than a developed photograph.
The table salt (sodium chloride) in the albumen emulsion forms silver chloride when in contact with silver nitrate. Silver chloride is unstable when exposed to light, which makes it decompose into silver and chlorine. The silver ion (Ag+) is reduced to silver (Ag) by the addition of an electron during the development/printing process, and the remaining silver chloride is washed out during fixing. The black parts of the image are formed by metallic silver
Silver Gelatin Print:
Gelatin silver print paper was made as early as 1874 on a commercial basis, but it was poor quality because the dry-plate emulsion was coated onto the paper only as an afterthought. Coating machines for the production of continuous rolls of sensitized paper were in use by the mid-1880s, though widespread adoption of gelatin silver print materials did not occur until the 1890s. The earliest papers had no baryta layer, and it was not until the 1890s that baryta coating became a commercial operation, first in Germany, in 1894, and then taken up by Kodak by 1900.
Although the baryta layer plays an important part in the manufacture of smooth and glossy prints, the baryta paper of the 1890s did not produce the lustrous or glossy print surface that became the standard for fine art photography in the twentieth century. Matting agents textured papers and thin baryta layers that were not heavily calendered produced a low-gloss and textured appearance. The higher gloss papers first became popular in the 1920s and 30s as photography transitioned from pictorialism into modernism, photojournalism, and “straight” photography
We use commercially available POP silver gelatin papers, printing from wet plate negatives to various sizes of conventional film, in our own darkroom.
Digital Pigment Print:
Digital Pigment print refers to methods of printing from a digital based image directly to a variety of media. It usually refers to professional printing where small-run jobs from desktop publishing and other digital sources are printed using large-format and/or high-volume laser or inkjet printers. Digital printing has a higher cost per page than more traditional offset printing methods, but this price is usually offset by avoiding the cost of all the technical steps required to make printing plates. It also allows for on-demand printing, short turnaround time, and even a modification of the image (variable data) used for each impression. The savings in labor and the ever-increasing capability of digital presses means that digital printing is reaching the point where it can match or supersede offset printing technology’s ability to produce larger print runs of several thousand sheets at a low price. Occasionally or upon special request, we’ll scan a tintype then have it professionally printed to replicate the original tintype as close as possible.