Upcoming Date(s) and Time(s)
- Photo Fair
April 7, 2018 - April 8, 2018
8:30 am - 5:30 pm
- Photo fair Ticket
Facts about Daguerreotypes
What is the difference between a daguerreotype, an ambrotype and a tintype? How old are they?
Daguerreotypes (1840-1855) are on polished silver so they are very reflective, like a mirror. Since they are on silver and subject to tarnish, daguerreotypes were put behind glass and sealed with paper tape so air cannot tarnish the plate (there often is some tarnish around the edges of the picture). This was then put into a small hinged case, similar to a woman's compact. But, the easiest way to tell if you have a daguerreotype is to see if it has that reflection, just like a mirror. You have to tilt it back and forth to see the image.
The second type of photograph, ambrotypes, (1855-1865) also came in hinged cases but in these there is a photographic emulsion that has been coated onto glass so they do not have that "shiny mirror" reflection (but, being on glass they are somewhat reflective). If you take an ambrotype out of a case and hold it up to the light you can usually see through the picture (since it's on glass). Ambrotypes don't tarnish but the black paint painted on the backside of the glass often dries out, cracks, and then peels off. The second biggest problem is the emulsion turns dark making the image look dark. This problem is similar in appearance to when a daguerreotype's silver plate is tarnishing but that (the tarnish) has a bluish tint to it.
Tintypes (1855 through the turn of the century) are made using the same photographic emulsion as the ambrotypes but, rather than coated onto glass, the emulsion has been coated onto black-painted tin and then exposed. Since they are not on silver they do not have the reflection and, since they were not fragile, are not usually found in cases. Early tintypes are sometimes found in cases as that was still the convention at the time but most often they're loose or have been placed in photo albums along with later paper photographs. These are usually about the size of a business card and, in fact, the paper photos that size are called CDVs for the French term Carte de Visite, or "calling card" as people would give them to their friends when the visited. Sometimes they dropped them in a basket in the parlor and the friend would then collect them in an album.
For examples of daguerreotypes please view the Gallery Section of this web site.