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What is a Tintype or Ambrotype?

We as Wiener Alchemisten produce handmade portraits with the Wet-Plate-Collodion process of 1851 by Fredrick Scott Archer. With a large format camera, your unique portrait is created on an aluminum plate or a 3 mm thick black glass plate coated with light-sensitive silver halides .

For each portrait, a black-coated aluminum or black glass plate is coated with a collodium layer containing iodines and bromides shortly before the picture is taken and then immersed in a silver bath to make it lightsensitive. The plate is only light sensitive as long as it is wet. When wet, the plate is then exposed in the large format camera and then developed and immediately fixed. The result is an ambrotype. The black background gives the negative its positive image effect (pseudo positive); the negative appears as a mirror-inverted positive against a dark background due to the dark-field principle.

Each session lasts approximately 90 minutes. After the session we need another two hours to rinse, dry and varnish the Tintype / Ambrotype.

A Tintype or an Ambrotype is characterized by a particularly beautiful tone scale. Since the portrait is etched into a silver layer, so to speak, it gives the feeling of looking at something three-dimensional.

Every silver portrait has something mystical, something immaterial. Each silver portrait is a unique piece of art and craftsmanship.

The wet plate collodion technique (wet plate photography) was invented in 1851 by the sculptor and photographer Frederick Scott Archer. It was the second photographic process of its kind after the daguerreotype and was considered the predominant technique for about 40 years before it was replaced by the silver gelatine dry plate technique.

How does a portrait session go?

We pay great deal of attention to composition and light and discuss all details of the shot with you. You will accompany the whole process from the beginning and be present in the darkroom when the plate is coated, dipped into the silver bath until the development of your own Tintype / Ambrotype and the magic moment when the final image appears in the fixing bath. After about 90 minutes you will have your own unique portrait as Tintype or Ambrotype in your hands. A very special and unique experience!

At the beginning we can show you examples of previous portrait sessions so that you can get an idea of which look is best for you.

In front of the camera we will then jointly determine the final composition and set the lighting for you properly.

When all preparations are done, we invite you into the darkroom. Here we sensitize the black-coated aluminum plate or the black glass plate in our silver bath. We do this by coating the plate with a collodium mixture containing iodine and silver bromide. The plate will be immersed into a silver bath. When we take the plate out of the silver bath, it is light sensitive. We put the plate into a film holder and then into the large format camera.

After that we can start taking your portrait. In front of the camera, do a final check of focus, light and composition and then expose the plate.

Then it goes back into the darkroom. You will then witness the fascinating development process. Within minutes you will see your own unique portrait slowly appear on the plate. We critically evaluate the plate from a technical and professional point of view. If we think we can improve something or if you are not yet completely satisfied, we can make a second or third plate.

Afterwards your portrait has to be rinsed, dried and varnished with Gum Sandarak. This process takes two to three hours. When the varnish has dried, you have an archive-proof unique image which will not lose any of its look even in several hundred years.

Finally, we will discuss with you when you can pick up the portrait.

How long does a session last?

A portrait session takes about 90 minutes. For the final rinsing and varnishing of your tintype or ambrotype we need at least 2-3 hours. We will be happy to discuss with you when you can pick up your portrait. If necessary, this can be done the same day, but we recommend that you pick up your portrait a few days later.

In which formats do you offer the portraits?

Tintype/aluminum version:

4×5 Inches (max. 2 People)

5×7 Inches (max. 2 People)

8×10 Inches (max. 3 People)


Black Glass

4×5 Inches (max. 2 People)

5×7 Inches (max. 2 People)

8×10 Inches (max. 3 People)

How many plates are produced?

After the development process in the darkroom we can judge the portrait immediately. We assess the recording technically and in terms of composition. If we think we can improve something or if you are not yet completely satisfied, we can expose a second or third plate

Why is a headrest used?

The depth of field of a large format portrait is minimal. The light sensitivity of a wet plate is also very low compared to modern film. The head rest serves as a tool to stay in focus during the shot and to minimize motion blur.

Can I have a wet plate portrait made of my toddler or pet?

Everyone is welcome at the Wiener Alchemisten!

Children should be able to sit quietly and follow the instructions.

You must be able to sit still in the same place for a moment.

If you want to discuss something with us, please call us.

You can reach us at +43 660 255 355 1

What should I wear?

When choosing your clothes it is important to know that Wet Plate Collodion photography is orthochromatic and UV sensitive, which means that all cool tones (blue) will be lighter later and all warm tones (red) will be darker.

Since a Tintype or Ambrotype is a negative that receives its pictorial effect as a mirror-inverted positive through the black background due to the darkfield principle, we advise against text on clothing.

How many people can be photographed on one plate?


4×5 Inches (max. 2 People)

5×7 Inches (max. 2 People)

8×10 Inches (max. 3 People)


Black Glass:

4×5 Inches (max. 2 People)

5×7 Inches (max. 2 People)

8×10 Inches (max. 3 People)

Can the portrait be reproduced as tintype/ambrotype?

A Tintype or Ambrotype is always unique and cannot be duplicated.

However, we can make a scan for you and print it on Fine Art Baryta paper in any desired format for you, or create a print using an alternative printing process (cyanotype, albumen print, Kallitype) for you.

On request we can have the Tintype / Ambrotype framed for you (e.g. frame with passepartout)

Is it possible to book a session including make-up and styling?

We can also call in a make-up artist for your portrait session. Call or email us to discuss these options.

Hair and Make-Up:

Can I have my portrait framed?

We can have your portrait framed in our handmade wooden frames with museum glass. Call or email us to discuss these options.

The framing will be done for us by:

Can I also book the Vienna Alchemists for portrait sessions at another location?

Yes, You can.

For information please call +43 660 255 355 1 or send an e-mail to: info@wiener-alchemisten.at

I want to surprise someone with a portrait shot. Do you have gift vouchers?

We have gift vouchers that we wrap nicely for you. If you do not have the opportunity to visit us, we can also send them to you.

I want to book a portrait session, how do I proceed?

The best way is to write to us and enter your time & date preferentials. We will contact you the next day at the latest and offer an appointment or confirm yours.

But you can also call us and we will go through everything together.

ph.: +43 660 255 355 1

M.: info@wiener-alchemisten.at