A behind the scenes look at a recent portrait with Clare.
There is a considerable amount of preparation that goes into making just one wet plate collodion portrait.
My preparation starts weeks before the proposed shoot with the acquisition and manufacturing of the chemicals involved in making an image.
Once the chemistry is sorted or in progress, I turn my attention to the sitter. Based on their most current image they send to me or on their public social media images, I start to create concept or mood board for the type of image I feel will suit their face for a portrait. I will often do this via Pinterest, although I usually keep upcoming portraits locked as private, only sharing them with the sitter or my creative collaborators.
After creating a shortlist of images, either based on my preference, the sitters preference or my creative collaborators preference, I start deconstructing the lighting, then re purposing it for my own vision.
Check out the BTS images below and the commentary to read how the final image came about. Feel free to leave comments.
Building a lighting plan
This started 6 days before the portrait session. The light is planned then tested on a phantom head called 'Barbara'
The one and only head model. She sits still.
Although I make plans, very rarely to I stick exactly to them, the lighting pattern, the look or the sitters look may change at the last minute.
Pouring a plate
The collodion is poured onto the plate with a steady hand.
Collecting the excess
The excess collodion on the plate is flowed back into the bottle for collection and refiltering.
Making wardrobe adjustments
I love working with Ani, she has the ability to move in the sitters personal space without confrontation.
Adjusting the headpiece
With the opportunity to make only 1 shot, we have to sweat the little details.
Whilst the plate is 'brewing' in the silver bath, I come back to the Clare and 'rough her in'. I was concious that the red hood would come out dark and I wanted to add some of the white shirt in the frame.
Getting the frame right
The roughing in process ensures that Clare fits well in the frame, extra time is taken with the image formed upside down and back to front.
Making further minor adjustments
Ani is moving Clares ear-ring into frame.
A quiet moment
Between phases, Clare has a moment to relax and zone out. This process adds to a more natural portrait.
The plate holder
The wet plate dripping in liquid silver and collodion is removed from the silver bath and loaded into the light tight holder
With the clock ticking, and the wet plate drying, it is time to make a portrait.
Once we have began the process of the final framing, Clare has to hold her position rock steady.
Last light check
I make a final meter of my light to ensure we have enough light where we need it. My light meter is an essential part of my work flow and reduces wasted time and silver
I've asked Clare to stay perfectly still. Any slight movement forwards or backwards will make her image out of focus.
Here I am using my loupe to make the final focus on Clares eyelashes on the ground glass screen.
Loading the plate
Once the plate is loaded, we are blind as to what is happening in front of the lens. Hopefully all is still.
With an eye of experience, I develop the plate by pouring an iron sulphate mix and gently agitating.
The plate is washed in water to arrest the development.
The image is a negative. The plate is still loaded with exposed and unexposed silver
The unexposed silver is removed to reveal the shadows. and the final image.
I used to love to watch the images come to life in the fix, now I love to watch the sitters watching their portrait magically appear in the solution.
Clare 4 x 5 tintype
Once the image is washed and dried, I scan it then varnish it.