GILES CLEMENT: Making the Wet Plate Collodion: A Simple Art

(c) Giles Clement 2020


Orientation Sunday, September 20th, 4:30pm – 5:30pm

Monday, September 21st – Wednesday, September 23rd, 9:00am – 4:00pm.

Thursday, September 24th. 9:00am – 11:00am Wrap up (Optional)


Does working with alternative process techniques intrigue you? Even if you’ve never decided to take the plunge and make work with wet plate collodion before – there’s nothing stopping you now!  Master wet plate photographer Giles Clement will show you the process in detail; you’ll make work using 4×5 cameras which we will provide if you don’t have your own, and when you finish the workshop, you’ll know how it’s done and how to do it yourself.  Next step is deciding what you want to say using this incredible and magical old school technique.

This four-day workshop is for photographers looking to explore the wet plate collodion process and integrate it into their creative vision. The primary goal is for each student to learn and gain proficiency with the technical and chemical aspects of the process. Wet plate is a complex and seemingly difficult technique but if broken down into manageable steps it’s easily learned and added to a photographers tool kit. 

We will focus on the wet plate collodion process in the making of tintypes. Instruction will include safety, chemistry and materials, darkroom techniques, lighting and the use of large format cameras. By the end of the class you will be able to mix your own collodion formulas, be on your way to mastering the pouring of a tintype plate and have a good working knowledge of incorporating high powered strobe lighting and the unique exposure requirements of this process. 

DAY 1:

Each student is encouraged to bring a selection of 10 images of their work (portrait, landscape or other) in any photographic medium that they would like to explore further with the wet plate collodion technique. We’ll begin by sharing these with the class and discussing how the tintype process can be integrated into each photographers creative vision.  

Giles will create a tintype to introduce the process and show the start to finish creation of a tintype photograph. 

Safety is number one and since we will be working with several chemicals which can be hazardous, we will spend some time going over the chemistry and how to mitigate any dangers to yourself and your subjects. 

The focus of the morning is to get each student comfortable with the pouring of plates before moving on to the developing part of the process. We’ll spend as much time as is needed to master this part. It’s a bit like keeping a marble on a 4×5” sheet of metal held in your hand. Sounds and looks tricky but you’ll get the hang of it. 

Next we move into the darkroom where students learn the chemistry behind the development of a tintype photograph. 

DAY 2: 

In the morning we will discuss lighting both in the studio using high powered strobe and outdoors with natural light. Students will then choose their setting with the option to take the cameras and darkrooms out into the desert landscape. Each student works up a series of images. 

We’ll end the day by reviewing the work, showing some of the common problems with processing and recapping the material from the day.


Students continue to shoot throughout the morning. In the afternoon we will focus on processing the finished tintype photos including scanning techniques. We will cover mixing several tintype varnish solutions and learn how to coat and cure the finished plates.


Class will meet for a final showing and review of work created during the workshop. 

Photographers are encouraged to bring a 4×5 studio camera (field camera’s may also be used) And a lens(es) with an f/4 or faster aperture. If you have a light meter please bring that along. The festival will have 4×5 cameras on hand for those who do not have them to bring. Chemistry will be provided. 


PRICE: $2060

“Clement takes his cameras and other equipment wherever he goes in pursuit of “the perfect plate.” His portraits hark back to a time of intricate photographic processes. Clement’s intimate and intense approach to portraiture captures the essence of his subjects in each portrait.” – Lomography

“Giles Clement is one of the best I have encountered…These are pictures for posterity, Portraits with a capital P, as well as (by any reasonable definition) Fine Art.” Roger Hicks

“With his cocked hat and thousand-yard stare, Elvis Costello’s ambrotype pose defines the technique’s surreal quality.”  – Rolling Stone

“I will be hard pressed to countenance a better representation of my own skull-front topography in the coming years, so apologies in advance to other hopeful shutterbugs.” – Nick Offerman

Includes daily registration, class transportation and a boxed lunch for each full day of the workshop.


Photographers should bring their laptops and be conversant with their hardware and software in order to facilitate downloading and projecting their work for critiques in class. Digital projectors with standard DVI / VGA cables will be provided. If you require DVI connectors and / or adapters, please bring one to class.


Nashville based photographer Giles Clement is best known for his unique and beautiful large format portraits. He uses one of the earliest photographic techniques, known as wet plate-collodion, creating one of a kind silver halide images on 16×20 inch sheets of glass.

Over the last decade Clement has made portraits with hundreds including Nick Offerman, Regina Spektor, Roger Waters, Channing Tatum, Questlove, Elvis Costello, Fiona Apple, Kris Kristofferson and many more. His work has been seen around the world in publications including Rolling Stone, Road & Track and Vanity Fair.

His cameras and lenses, some more than 160 years old, were hand built by craftsmen in small shops. Made in an age before computerized manufacturing, each of his photographic instruments inherits the minor flaws of their designers. Flaws which are often revealed in the creation of perfectly imperfect images.