** photography and publishing : portrait types specific types

Portrait Types: Specific Types

Figure 1.--Almost all of the photographic portraits taken in the United States during the 1840s were Daguerreotypes. There were also many Dags taken in the 50s and some in the 60s. Most were done in cases. (For some reason we hve found very few cased Dags from Europe. Unfortunately very few Dags are dated.

Most photographs taken in the 19th century were portraits. While there were a few amateur photographers and some wealthy people had cameras by the 1890s, the vast majority of photographs were taken in studios by professional photographers. It was not until 1900 with the appearnce of the Lodak Brownie that snap shots began to appear. Quite a number of different types of photographs were taken by these professional photographers. Printed images in today's digital era are sometimes confused with photogrpahs. Photographs are printed on photosensitive paper, which means the paper reacts to light, not ink. Ink prints, while they may depict a photograph, are not real photographs. This distinction is made by the presence of photosensitive paper and a saturation of the black areas within real photographs. Ink prints use tiny dots of ink, whereas photographs do not. Here are some of the different types of photographs. As mentioned above this meant in the 19th century that they were in effect the different types of photographs. HBC plans to go into more detail, but this will briefly sketch out some of the principal portrait types.


Daguerre continued Ni�pce's experiment. He accidentally discovered that exposed photographic plates were developed by Mercury vapors. This greatly reduced the exposure time from 8 hours down to 1/2 an hour. Daguerre announced his discovery in 1839 and named it the Daguerreotype. It was a sensation and an instant popular success. The announcement that the Daguerreotype "requires no knowledge of drawing...." and that "anyone may succeed.... and perform as well as the author of the invention" was greeted with enormous interest, and "Daguerreomania" became a craze overnight. The process could produce strikingly beautiful images. They provide us the first true photogaphs of the 19th century.The Daguerreotype process, though good, was expensive. In addition, it produced a positive image which could not be duplicated.


The ambrotype was a less expensive alternative to the daguerreotype. By the 1850s it had become the dominant form of photographic portraiture. Frederick Scott Archer improved the calotype and invented the "wet collodin" negative. A glass plate was cleaned and iodized collodin was poured onto it, then it was immersed in a silver-nitrate bath. This was put into the camera while still wet, and the development had to be performed before it dried. A variation of the "wet collodin" was the ambrotype. The ambrotype is an underexposed wet-collodin negative on glass. Ambrotypes were mounted against black backing appearing like a positive, but did not have the tonal range of a Daguerreotype and could not be duplicated. The tintype was a variant of the ambrotype (Ferrotype or Melaninotype). It produced positive images usually on a thin sheet of iron. This process was easier, cheaper, and unbreakable compared to the ambrotype, but lacked the tonal range. Ambrotypes, tintypes made the Daguerreotype a dead art. These forms eventually became dead arts also with the development of the dry plate process and negatives.

Salt Prints

A salt print photograph was printed using sodium chloride (salt) that is subsequently coated with silver nitrate. They are also referred to as a salted paper print. They appear to have been most popular in the period before the development of the albumen process. Salt prints were a negative-based process at a time when most photographs were daguerreotypes or ambrotypes--processes in which only one image could be produced (1840s-50s). It was the first type of photograph printed on paper. Salt prints were produced with both paper and glass negatives. The best, sharpest images of course were produced with glass negatives. The prints produced from paper negatives were characterically grainy and somewhat mottled. Salt prints had white highlights. Thin paper stock was used for the prints. They were then mounted on thicker paper. The salt prints differed fro albumen prints in that the image was not suspended in an emulsion layer on top of the paper, but created within the paper itself. As a result the image is not as crisp as albumen images. While albumen prints became the major photographic process in the late-19h century, we still see some salt prints after the 1860s.

Albumen Prints

The most common type of portraits during the 19th century (1860-1900) were albumen prints. Albumen photographic paper captured the image on the surface instead of embedding it the paper fibers. This was a major advance maling it possible to print very sharp images on paper with a smooth, glossy surface. Albumen prints were usually a brownish tone. Nearly all albumen prints are on very thin paper and mounted to period cardboard as CDV or cabinebt cards. The term albumen is used because because egg whites were used to help achieve the gloss. The paper is sensitized with a silver nitrate solution. The sentitized paper is then exposed to a negative through a "printed-out"process. The image is produced by the light exposure without any chemical bath to develop and desinthesize the nitrate salts. This made it highly suspectible to fadeing. Old photograph collectors are very familiar with badly faded albumen CDVs and cabinent cards. Even so, most photographic prints used this process (1860s-1890s). Emulsion speeds improved, but were still relatively slow. We see stands which had to be used to steady the subject, especially during the 1860s and 70s.

Composite Print

A single photograph depicting more than one image.


Early English photographer, Sir John Herschel, invented the cynotype photographic process (1842). It uses Prussian blue in a process best known today as architect's blueprints. A Cyanotype print is easily identified for its blue color. It is a very primitive process using iron salts for printing. The basic cyanotype recipe is basically unchanged from the process developed by Herschel, although photo processing experimenters have made minor improvements. Some technicians refer to the Cynotype II process. The Cynotype process involves two basic solutions. Potassium ferricyanide and Ferric ammonium citrate (green) are mixed with water separately and then blended together. The solution is then used to soak an absorbent material (paper, card, textiles or other canvas) meant for an image and allowed to try in the dark. The canvas is then exposed through the negative. While the process was developed in the 1840s, we do not notice 19th century American ctnotype prints. Perhaps they were more common in Btitain. We do note American Cynotype snapshots in the early 20th century before World war I. We do not know why they suddenly appeared at this time. We do not notice studio Cynotype portraits.

Silver Gelatin Prints

Gelatin silver printing medium is the photographic process envolves a suspension of silver salts in gelatin which is then coated onto acetate film or fiber-based or resin coated paper. It is then allowed to dry. It is referred to as a dry plate in contrasdt to the tricky wet plates tat early photographers like Mathew Brady had to use. Silver gelitan materials can remain stable for months or even years. Various individuals worked to perfect the priocess. The first workable process was the work of R. L. Maddox (1871). Charles Harper Bennet made substantial improements, especially in light sensiutivity (1878). The basic process was to expose small crystals (grains) of silver salts (commonly silver bromide or silver chloride) to light. This liberates a few atoms of free metallic silver which are the latent image. This latent image is relatively stable and will thus persist for an extended period, even months as long as the film is kept dark and cool. The exposed plate/film is then developed in a three step process. First the film/plate is developed using solutions to reduce the free silver atoms. The image is amplified as the silver salts near the free silver atoms are also reduced to metallic silver. The strength of the developing sollution , temperature, and developing time all affect the contrast of the final image. Thus the developoment was an important part of photograpy. The second step is the stop bath. This neutralizes the developer. The third step is called fixing. Once development is complete, the undeveloped silver salts must be removed by a fixing sollution (sodium thiosulphate or ammonium thiosulphate) The fourth and final step is to was the film in clean water. The resulting image is metallic silver embedded in the gelatin coating. It is a negative. Essentially the same process is used to print the negative. The process was not perfected on a commercial basis until the turn-of-the 20th century. Only then do we see large numbers of silver-gelatin prints which rapidly replaced the albumen prints. It was a major advance in photography. It became the principal printing process in the 20th century. It was a visually appealing way to print images. The process can be easily identified. With age, the silver in dark areas of the print is often visible at certain light angles. Currently available black-and-white films and printing papers use the silver-gelatin process. Black and white photography sharpoly declined in popularity when color printing using dyes rather than silver nitrates became common in the 1970s. The process is till in use today as black and white is considered artistic by some photographers.


See "Tintypes".


Opalotype (also spelled opaltype) was another early photographic process. The names derives from a type of white, translucent glass, commonly clled moilk glass. The opalotype was some\times called milk glass positives. There were two types of opalotypes. The first was transferring a carbon print onto glass. A similar process was for on inexpensice decorated pottery. The second process used a negative to expose a glass sheet which has been sensatized by a photographic emulsion. Opalotypists used wet collodion and silver gelatin. It was essentially a glass plante used like a sheet of photographic paper. Often they were colorized through hand tinting, giving a more pleasing effect than a black-and-white image. The opalotype gave something like the impression of ivory minatures which were popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries before the development of photography. Glover and Bold of Liverpool developed and patented the process (1857). The process does not appear to have been very popular. We do not note vety many examples in the photographic record, in comparison to the huge number of CDVs and cabinent cards. The process was, however, persued into the20th century. We note very few examples after the 1920s.

Sepia Prints

Sepia is not really a separate type of photograph. "Sepia" refers to the brownish color of a photograph caused by the toning agent used in the early 20th century to prevent fading. This was very common in the early 20th century after albumen prints were replaced with gelatin silver prints. They were in fact a type of silver gelatin print.


Photographs printed on thin iron sheets are known as ferrotypes. These appeared in Europe in the late 1830s. They are better known in America as tintypes. The poor sister of modern portature is the tintype, the American term for ferrotype or printing on thin iron sheets. These prints became popular in America during the Civil War (1861-65) as they were easy to send back to the folks at home by mail. They were the least expensive form of photography and itinerate photographers brought photography to the back roads of rural America in the years after the Civil War.


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Created: 2:48 AM 11/30/2007
Last updated: 1:34 AM 7/28/2009