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Thread: Mid 19th Century Wetplate Look

  1. #1
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Richard

    Mid 19th Century Wetplate Look

    I would like to reproduce the "look" of a U.S. Civil War era wetplate image. It would be nice to use a Photoshp action to do this. Despite that many photographers seem to think that sepia tone is appropriate for this type of image, sepia toning did not become the vogue until sometime in the 1880's or so.

    Here is an actual image from the U.S. Civil War...
    Mid 19th Century Wetplate Look

    Here are my tries to reproduce the look..
    Mid 19th Century Wetplate Look

    Including some pseudo print damage...
    Mid 19th Century Wetplate Look

    The wetplate process was sensitive only to blue light. I am wondering if using a blue Photoshop filter on the colored image first and then converting that image to monochrome would work?

  2. #2

    Join Date
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    Re: Mid 19th Century Wetplate Look

    Very nicely done, Richard!

    I think your second photo better replicates that period of photography, mostly because it has less contrast and perhaps a higher black point.

    It's also less sharp. The period of photography that you're replicating didn't have the advancements in the manufacturing of optics that we have today, so photos weren't as sharp back then. Despite that the biggest single advantage of the wet-plate process was that the exposure times were dramatically shortened, it was still difficult for people to stand still enough or to stop the action of things blowing in the wind.

    The wetplate process was sensitive only to blue light. I am wondering if using a blue Photoshop filter on the colored image first and then converting that image to monochrome would work?
    I wonder if applying a "cool" filter, rather than a "blue" filter, would work. The two are almost the same but not quite.

    Despite that many photographers seem to think that sepia tone is appropriate for this type of image, sepia toning did not become the vogue until sometime in the 1880's or so.
    I think that's because most people see an old print that is not black-and-white and think it was made using sepia toning. Many of the prints made from photos captured using the wet-plate process in the 19th century have a tone ranging from gold-brown to red-brown. A lot of that has to do with the acid in the paper destroying the print over time and some of it has to do with imperfections in the wet-plate process. I think people too often confuse that with sepia toning.

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