Why We Do It

Ajeya 8x10 alumitype - wet plate collodion shot with Goerz lens
San Francisco Vintage Photography is a project developed to explore wet plates, a vintage hand-crafted photographic process that doesn't need any mass produced materials. We are able to mix available chemicals to produce incredibly sharp permanent silver images on glossy black metal plates.

Digital photography has taken over film photography, and companies like Kodak and Polaroid are no longer providing photographers with their favorite B&W or color emulsions. Rather than depend on some new company to produce factory made emulsions and photo materials, we are mixing and making our own.

Digital is great for our computer and internet age where everything is saved in the cloud, but what about having something you can touch and feel, a photo you can hold in your hands, look at, and move around to see how the light affects it.

Lily, 8x10 alumitype - wet plate collodion shot with Goerz lens

We are like the pioneers of photography back in the 1850s - like old time alchemists, mixing our own chemicals and developing our plates by hand. We are echoing the days before Eastman Kodak produced factory made emulsions for the masses. This is photography at its most purest form - no manipulation after the fact, no effects, no darkroom adjustments. Exposure and lighting have to be optimum, because there is no fixing it in post.

Yes, wet plate photography is harder to master and takes a lot more preparation and time. The cameras are large and there is more equipment needed. A darkroom is essential the moment after your photo is taken, but the amazing quality and permanence of the images is worth all the trouble. 

Get a Wet Plate Collodion Alumitype of Your Own

Miriam, 8x10 Alumitype - Wet Plate Collodion on Aluminum
After experimenting with various formulas and techniques we are ready to create "Wet Plate" alumitype photographs.

Nothing compares to a genuine hand made Collodion photograph taken with a vintage large format camera. No digital medium can render the fine detail and wonderful silver image that we create for you.

These alumitypes are one of a kind positive silver images permanently created on a 5x7" or 8x10" glossy black aluminum plate.

Available soon: 4x5" and 11x14" size alumitypes as well as location shooting with multiple size cameras. A full performance, where the images on the wet plate can be seen as they transform from negative to positive, right before your eyes.

Akeylah, 8x10 alumitype - wet plate collodion shot with Goerz lens 

Check back often, or subscribe on the right, to find out when we will be able to come to you for a complete vintage photographic experience.

If you are interested in getting a wet plate done of yourself, or of a loved one, use the "Appointment Form" on the right column to send us a message. We are located in San Francisco with quick access to the 101 and 280 freeways.


Daniel, 8x10 - Goerz 304mm f/5

Daniel, 8x10 - Goerz 304mm f/5


Maria, 8x10 Wet Plate Alumitype shot with Goerz lens 

Polaroid Style Instant Photos

Rose on her first birthday, 4x5 - Fuji FP-3000B
We are still testing various wet plate chemicals and techniques. This process is all manual with no fabricated film or machine developing. All chemicals have to be mixed and poured onto the plate and the plate has to be developed before it dries up. For more on tintypes and collodion photography see my other blog:


Here's a recent instant B&W photos we shot. We were testing new lights and a Nikkor 450mm lens to be used in wet plate photography.

Unfortunately, Fujifilm will no longer make this instant film - this is one reason why we are pursuing the wet plate collodion method.

We won't have to depend on a manufacturer to produce film for us. We are now able to use raw chemicals and materials to make permanent photos on our own.

Harman Positive Paper - Another Great Photographic Product Goes Away

Bellow you will find one of the photos we took to further test our equipment before proceeding with wet plate photos.

This photo was shot directly onto positive paper - no film or negative, no enlarger, no contact printing. The Harman Direct Positive paper is inserted into a film holder then into a vintage large format camera back, and exposed through a hundred and fifty year old lens. Much like "Wet Plate" photography, but without the need to develop immediately after shooting the photo.

The exposed paper is then taken into a darkroom and developed with conventional B&W paper chemicals. Lighting is critical. The exposure has to be correct, there is no way to adjust the exposure in the darkroom.

This is not enlarged - we used 11x14" size paper in the corresponding size camera.

Unfortunately, you cannot obtain this paper any longer - Here's a direct quote from the Ilford website:


Greg and Daughter Nicole 11x14
Product Supply Suspension - HARMAN DIRECT POSITIVE FB paper

The emulsion for this product was developed in Switzerland by ILFORD Imaging Switzerland Gmbh for the Imago project, and became part of our product range when we decided to coat HARMAN DIRECT POSITIVE FB paper using the same emulsion.

Financial difficulties last year subsequently led to insolvency at ILFORD Imaging Switzerland and the business is now closed.

We have been, and still are, trying to secure the formula for the emulsion through the Receiver appointed for ILFORD Imaging Switzerland. If successful we intend to restart production, but being realistic it will take many months before any new coatings will be ready for sale, and we may not succeed.

As a result, we are advising that when our very limited stocks of HARMAN DIRECT POSITIVE FB are exhausted we will be unable to supply product for the medium term.

You can click on any photo for a better look.