Photographic Processes

The first popular photographic process, the daguerreotype, had largely gone out of use before photographers arrived in Nevada. Early photographs of Nevada's Native Americans were made with glass plates coated with an emulsion of light-sensitive silver salts. Glass plates were replaced gradually by flexible plastic negatives beginning in the 1890s. Because of the slowness of early photographic printing papers, these large glass-plate negatives were printed directly on the paper without enlargement. This process is called contact printing. The kind of paper used changed through time as a matter of convenience and taste.

Before 1900, photographic papers were printed in a contact printing frame with sunlight or a studio arc lamp. These printing out papers were not developed; the image was fully formed by light passing through the negative onto the paper.

The first experimental printing papers were not popular because the fibers of the paper obscured the photographic image. The first widely used printing paper was albumen paper. This paper was made with an emulsion of egg white which suspended the silver image above the paper base, creating a clearer,  more realistic, image. The original brown tone of the albumen prints ages to a reddish and then yellowish tone before fading away completely.

Collodion printing out paper replaced albumen paper in the 1880s. It did not have the fading problems of albumen paper. It typically was chemically toned to a reddish brown shade and burnished to a high gloss.

Matt collodion paper was introduced in the 1890s and became an immediate sensation, remaining the dominant printing paper until 1910. Matt collodion paper has a dull finish and a silvery tone. Matt paper has remained the choice of commercial portrait photographers up to the present.

High-speed developing out papers with either a matt or glossy finish and tone replaced all other papers after 1910. These papers were and are made with in all tones from warm brown to cold blue-black. Developing out paper prints were usually made with smaller negatives blown-up with an enlarger. The paper was briefly exposed to a projected negative image and the still-invisible latent, positive image was chemically developed out. Most developing out paper (DOP) has an emulsion made of gelatin and silver salts, hence the more common term "gelatin silver (or silver gelatin) print."

Developing out paper made possible the rapid mass-production of photographic images that could be sent through the mail as "post cards." The first color postcards were black and white ink reproductions of photographs that were hand tinted. The colors were not true to life.

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