Coyle Studios | What do I have?
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Daugerrotype (1838 – 1860) This style was usually used for portraits, but rarer landscape views are highly collectible. The process required exposures of ten minutes or more and made portraiture an impractical ordeal. Hand coloring was frequently applied to finish the image.


How can I tell? Does it look like you’re looking in a mirror? These images can be exceptionally sharp in detail.


Conservation Tips: Never touch the plate surface. It should be sealed in a package or under glass to protect from abrasion, air or pollutants. DO NOT HANDLE WITH YOUR HANDS! Fingerprints and smudges can become permanent and tarnish the image. If in a casket/Union Case, do not take out as the surface will oxidize.

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Ferreotype (Tintype) (1853 – 1930) Tintypes were made by creating a direct positive on a sheet of iron metal that is blackened by painting, lacquering or enamelling and is used as a support for a collodion photographic emulsion. It is very resilient and does not need drying. Photographs can be produced only a few minutes after the picture is taken.


How can I tell? A photograph that is ALWAYS on metal. The highlighted portion is either a pasty white, cream, gray or brown.


Conservation Tips: Keep in storage envelopes to protect from light and humidity. Add cardboard to the envelope to protect deformation. Images can become rusty and flake off if introduced to moisture. Avoid contact with fingertips.

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Ambrotypes (1852 – 1870) The ambrotype is a photograph that creates a positive image on a sheet of glass using the wet plate collodion process. The resulting negative appears to be a positive image – the clear areas look black, and the exposed areas appear light. This is achieved by coating one side of the glass negative with black varnish. By blackening the negative, it allows the thick glass to give the image added depth. This system was less expensive than the daugerreotype and lacked the daugerreotype’s shiny metallic surface. Ambrotypes were usually hand-tinted.


How can I tell? Image is on glass that you can see through to black paper or painted black. The bright part of the image has a pasty cream or grayish appearance.


Conservation Tips: Keep enclosed in a sealed package. The ambrotypes are sensitive to light, air and humidity. They are extremely sensitive to water. DO NOT HANDLE WITH YOUR HANDS! The images can cause the emulsion to flake and/or fall off. If in a casket/Union Case, do not take out. The image of the woman is a perfect example of flaking.

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Albumen Prints (1850 – 1900)  The albumen prints was the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photographic print of a paper base from a negative. It used the albumen found in egg white to bind the photographic chemicals to the paper and became the dominant form of photographic positives from 1855 to the turn of the 20th century.


How can I tell?  You’ll need an expert to examine the emulsion.  Most cabinet cards and  carte de vistes are albumen prints.


Conservation Tips: Keep protected from high humidity and light. Store in protective envelopes.  Handle with cotton gloves to protect from the oils in your skin, or hold by the edges of the cards.

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Carte de Viste (1859 – 1905) This was a very small photograph (about 2.125″ x 3.5″ in size). It was usually made of an albumen print, which was a thin paper photograph mounted on a thicker paper card (about 2.5″ x 4″ in size). The photograph was about the size of a visiting card and were traded among friends and visitors. The popularity of these card photographs led to the publication and collection of photographs of prominent persons. Albums for the collection and display of cards became a common fixture in Victorian parlors.


How can I tell?  About the size of the modern business card with a print on one side, and the photographer’s information on the reverse.


Conservation Tips: Keep protected from light by storing cards in a UV protected or paper envelope. Keep away from water, and do not touch the face of the image with fingers or moisture.  Carte de Viste of famous personalities are still highlyprized by collectors.

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Crayon Portraits (1860 – turn of 20th Century) Crayon portraits are a weak photographic image with extensive handwork in pastel or charcoal. In lieu of an original, a photographer would take a photo of another format (like a tintype or a cabinet card), increase the image size and hand color the photo to achieve the look of a portrait. Most of the crayon portraits were done posthumously for the family to display in their home.


How can I tell? Crayon Portraits look like a work of art. The image may have a charcoal/pastel, dusty surface.


Conservation Tips: Do not try to clean or touch a crayon portrait surface. Touching the surface of the image could lead to lifting the image and destroying the hand coloring. The photo should either be properly fitted for framing by a professional or stored in a museum box. If it’s a unframed convex print, it should be stored in a museum box with the appropriate support underneath of the print.

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Cabinet Cards (1866 – 1900) Cabinet Cards are similar to Carte de Viste. Cabinet Cards are larger, and were originally used for landscape photos before being used for portraiture. They were large enough to be seen across the room when displayed on a cabinet (hence “Cabinet” card). These photos has enough room on the back to allow for extensive logos to advertise the photographer’s services.


How can I tell? Similar to the Carte de Viste, but closer in size to the modern 5×7.  These cards were created as brown tones, sepia tones and black and white.


The originals will fade with prolonged exposure to the sun and UV light sources.

500 dpi Final Coyle Marketing White Glove DSC_4437 Coyle Studios

Glass Negatives  Similar in appearance to the modern negative, only in black and white and on a piece of glass.


How can I tell? The most common glass negative is 4×5 inches.  They are also found in 5×7 and 8×10 sizes.  It will clearly be a negative (reverse image) versus a positive or slide.  The emulsion may be silvering and reflect like a mirror in places.


Conservation Tips: Keep protected from light by storing cards in UV protected or paper envelope. Keep away from water, and do not touch the face of the image with fingers or moisture.  Oils from skin will cause silvering and accelerate deterioration.

Unusual Formats: Salt Prints, Carbon Prints, Platinum Prints, Cyanotype, Slides/Chromes, Contact Prints, Hand Tinted Fiber Prints, Transparencies, Stereoscope Cards and Slides, and Medium Format


Some of these formats are not as common but are still easy to work with. If you have questions or want to schedule an appointment for consultation, call us at 410-825-6858. 


Source: Lavédrine, Bertrand. Photographs of the Past: Process and Preservation. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2009. Print.