Some early plates were available but
not widely used before 1870.
1857, Dr Richard Hill Norris formed the Birmingham Dry Collodion Plate
Company to sell dry plates. [VP:HL]
long exposure times were required for the dry collodion plates, so wet
plates continued to be used for a further twenty years.
Leach Maddox made a significant discovery, suggesting, in 1871, that
silver bromide held in a layer of gelatin should be used in preference
to collodion for coating dry plates.
Joseph Wilson Swan who
patented the carbon process for photographic printing in 1864 is also
credited with having invented the dry plate in 1871.
[The Cambridge Biographical Encyclopaedia]
years later, dry gelatin plates began to be produced in large numbers,
following experiments by J Burgess and Richard Kennett, and discovery by
Charles Harper Bennett of a way of treating the plates to make the
emulsion more stable and far more sensitive to light [PCH]
use of dry plates considerably simplified the process of taking
photographs, particularly landscapes.
became no longer necessary to travel, carrying a dark tent or with a
cart or coach converted to enable the plates to be prepared immediately
before taking photographs and to be processed immediately after.
Exposing the Plate
that was necessary was to:
Put the dry plate, in its plate holder, into a camera.
Slide the cover from the from the plate holder, to uncover the dry
Uncover then re-cover the lens. [By 1880, the plates had become so
sensitive that an exposure of a fraction of a second was often
Slide the cover on the plate holder back over the dark slide.
Remove the plate holder from the camera and take home for
Photographic Society debated the dry collodion process, and the relative
advantages of the wet
and dry processes at many of its Meetings from the 1860s
Preparing Dry Plates in Daylight
- Dry Plates versus Wet Plates
Processing in Photography
- Dry Plates and Wet Plates
- Chlorido Bromide Dry Plates
Few More Words on Dryplates
click here to
see the dates of these lectures and other titles.
By 1897, attention at EPS Meetings had turned to the
relative merits of slow and rapid plates.
claimed that slow plates should be used whenever practicable. They
allowed more latitude of exposure and kept better than fast plates.
FP Moffat claimed
that rapid plates allowed more latitude of exposure than many people
imagined. He said that the developer had a great deal to do with it.
He advocated the
most rapid plates for professional portrait work because 'the quicker a
sitter is taken, the better' . He also advocated them for
photographic dealer, A H Baird, in his journal, Photographic Chat spoke in
1903 of the convenience of the gelatin plate for the amateur photographer
'who finds quite enough to look
after in compassing the ends he has in view without making of himself an
amateur plate manufacturer as well'
reported that collodion plates were still largely used in commercial work.
The reason for this, he argued was due mainly to the greater sharpness
available from collodion plates, and the fact that they suffered less from
halation than gelatin plates with their thicker coatings.
Chat: April 1903, pp.5-6]
Looking back on the 1860s
In his EPS T
Mackintosh gave an insight into the early days of the dry plate. He
that dry plates were
introduced in the late 1860s, but at first was so slow that many
photographers preferred to continue using wet plates. He added:
only advantage of the slow plate, so far as I am aware, was that if our
friend the photographer was taking what the poets call a sylvan glen, he
might expose the plate, pose himself in the centre of the subject, and
after an interval of fifteen minutes or half an hour, return to his camera
and replace the cap."