Wet-Plate Collodion Process

This is a reproduction of a mid-19th century Anthony Half-Plate Bellows Camera. It was made a few years ago by New Jersey camera maker Ray Morgenweck. His company is called “Star Camera Company,” so technically it’s a Star Bellows Camera.

The lens is a no-brand Petzval lens from about the 1860s. Petzval was a lens design that allowed for faster exposure times for portraits… one of the first technical improvements made in the first decade of photography (1840s). My no brand Petzval was probably a knockoff of a popular lens made by a company like Darlot, Dallmayer or Voightlander.

Here is a shot of my plate holder. It holds a half-plate size aluminum or glass plate. Half-plate is just a bit larger than 4×5″.

And, here is my silver-incrusted developing tray, with a bit of ferrous sulfate developer.

Each plate I expose must be coated with collodion, dipped in silver nitrate, exposed and developed within 15 minutes.

It’s kind of like making your own Polaroids.

Ambrotype on purple glass

Photographer: AJ Barnes; Model: Silly Rabbit

Half-plate tintype

Photographer: AJ Barnes; Model: Rebecca Case

Ambrotype on oval glass

Photographer: AJ Barnes; Model: Alexzandria Jade

8 x 10 ambrotype on ruby glass

8 x 10 ambrotype on ruby glass

Photographer: AJ Barnes; Models: Wenchi & Peggy Duncan

Allan Barnes

Allan Barnes is an editorial and fine art photographer from Detroit, Michigan. where he was a contributing photographer to the New York Times, Detroit Free Press, Spin, and Metropolis Magazine. Barnes teaches photography classes at the New York Film Academy and the Julia Dean Photography Workshops. He has previously taught at Washtenaw Community College, The Art Institute of California, Santa Monica High School. To see more of his work and to find out more about workshops, please visit his website:

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