How to identify 3 types of old photo
Do you know your daguerreotype from your ambrotypes and what about tin types!?
Here’s a few top tips to identify them!
The daguerreotype was invented by Frenchman, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre. It was first commercially successful photographic process, and was very expensive. Wealthy families had their pictures taken in the same way that they would have commissioned portrait miniatures in earlier years. Daguerreotypes are developed on a silver plate over fumes of mercury, and have a distinctive property. When held at different angles in the light, the photographic image alternates from positive to negative. You can see in the short video below of the oldest photograph in the Harris collection – a daguerreotype showing the Addison family in 1846.
What’s an ambrotype we hear you ask?
Ambrotypes arrived later than daguerreotypes and were introduced in the 1850s. They are developed on a glass plate using the wet collodion process. When this glass negative is backed with a black material, it appears as a positive image. Ambrotypes were less expensive to produce than daguerreotypes, and the photographic image doesn’t alternate from positive to negative when moved around. The Harris has several ambrotypes in the collection, including this one of Preston Astronomer, Moses Holden, taken in about 1860.
Tintype photographs were most popular during the 1860s. Their most distinguishing feature is that the photographic image is developed on to a thin metal plate. These photographs were far cheaper to produce than the processes above and were the first widely available format that could be afforded by working class families. Photographers would often operate from a booth, enticing holiday-goers to have their photographs taken whilst they enjoyed a day at the seaside.
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