Daguerreotype (Becquerel Process)


Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre (1787-1851)

The daguerreotype process was the first practicable method of obtaining permanent images with a camera. Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, a French artist and scenic painter was the creator of the method of producing direct positive images on a silver-coated copper plate. Daguerre had began experimenting with ways of fixing the images formed by the camera obscura around 1824. However, in 1829 he entered into partnership with Joseph Nicephore Niepce, a French scientist and inventor, who in 1826 succeeded in securing a picture of the view from his window by using a camera obscura and a pewter plate coated with bitumen. Niepce called his picture making ‘Heliography’ (Sun Drawing). Although he managed to produce a permanent image using a camera, the exposure time was around 8 hours. Niepce later abandoned pewter plates in favour of silver-plated sheets of copper and discovered that the vapour from the iodine reacted with the silver-coating to produce silver iodide, a light sensitive compound.

After the death of Niepce in 1833, Daguerre continued to experiment with copper plates coated with silver iodide to produce direct positive pictures. Daguerre discovered that the latent image on an exposed plate could be brought out or ‘developed’ with the fumes from warmed mercury. The use of mercury vapour meant that photographic images could be produced in 20-30 minutes rather than hours. Daguerre found a way of “fixing” the photographic images with a solution of common salt. Two years later, he followed the suggestion of Sir John Herschel and adopted hyposulphate of soda (now thiosulphate of soda) as the fixing agent. Daguerre began making successful pictures using his improved process from 1837. On 19th August 1839, at a meeting in Paris, the Daguerreotype Process was revealed to the world.

In England, Richard Beard a former coal merchant and patent speculator, bought the patent to Alexander Wolcott’s mirror camera and employed the services of John Frederick Goddard a chemist, to find a way of reducing exposure times to less than a few minutes. Thereby making it possible to take daguerreotype portraits. On 23rd March 1841, Richard Beard opened England’s first daguerreotype portrait studio in London’s Regent Street. In June 1841, Beard purchased from Daguerre the patent rights to the daguerreotype process in England. (Sussex Photo History, 2016)

The Becquerel process is a safer alternative to the original Daguerreotype process. This is because it only uses Iodine rather the additional Bromine and Mercury and is developed using rubylith or amberlith transparency film and continuation rays. This means it is a much more accessible process to the first time daguerreotypist due to its simplicity and safety. [1&3]

  1. The Art of Daguerreotype by Stefan Richter (Library Resources)

In 1835 Daguerre discovered an exposed plate in his chemical cupboard that he had earlier discarded as a failure. As the plate acquired an image he began searching through his chemical cupboard to find which chemical had created the exposure, as he figured that it must have been a leak of some form.  He was surprised to find a broken temperature thermometer that had been leaking mercury fumes. He experimented with fixing solutions for the plate, firstly with cooking salt, then in 1939 he used Hyposulphite (Thiosulphate) of soda to fix the image sufficiently. This process was first discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1819. The first successful daguerreotype image was produced of a still life, in 1837.

The daguerreotype process was to become available to everyone and be made commercialised through sales and licences. It was in 1839 that the daguerreotype was presented to scientists and artist’s with the hope to overcome public disbelief.

In May 1840, Alexander Wolcott (a manufacturer of dental supplies), patented a new form of camera with a concave mirror that reflected the image being taken onto the sensitised pate, reducing the daguerreotype exposure time considerably.

It was Francis Arago that recognised the importance of the invention for science, art and the industry later putting the idea across to the French government, who would announce it to the world in 1839. Arago’s first representation of the process made this the day that photography was invented. Daguerre patented the process and created introduction booklets that contained thirty editions, in eight languages. So this was internationally and available commercially, world wide for everyone.

The development process involved exposing the plate to Iodine vapours, then Chlorine and/or Bromine fumes in a box. The chlorine and bromine, the ‘Quick Stuff’ or ‘accelerator’s’ enhanced sensitivity of the plate, which from 1841 with the use of new lenses, made photo portrait’s possible with the daguerreotype. People who sat for portraits had to sit very still for long periods(exposure times 3-40seconds), as ‘still as death’ they used to call it. The highly toxic chemicals used for developing the plate had serious consequences if misused. Some photographer’s lost teeth, became shy, anxious, had difficulty moving, deafness and blindness.

It was difficult to see the image clearly unless the plate was tilted, otherwise the shadows would reflect and reverse. The highlights are said to consist of a whitish colour with the shadows appearing reflective silver. The plate needed to be kept under a piece of glass to prevent air entering and oxidising the plate resulting in visible damage.

Fizeau introduced the gilding method, which is gold toning the plate with a gold chlorite solution. With hand toning being popular in the 1840s-1850s as artist’s colour apply fresh tone colours to their nude paintings, appearing more rustic with metallic tones.

Daguerreotypes were first exhibited in 1839, creating the Daguerreotype Mania’ as it was now affordable for everyone to have expensive portraits taken. In the 19th century industrial exhibitions were held in Britain, America and France. 1844 was the first major display in the Paris exhibition of 1000 wirks and in 1851, an exhibition was held at the Crystal Palace named the ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry and of All Nations’ marked the point of mid century were daguerreotypes were viewed internationally. [4]

  2. New Dimensions In Photo Processes Book (Library Resources)

The Daguerreotype is a positive image on a silver plate, which when angled changes from a positive image to a negative image. When framed its appearance is like it’s floating in space behind glass in a holographic manner. The image is created by the reaction of the photons (fundamental electromagnetic particles) on the solid silver, with no visible grain evident. It is said to be a ‘mirror like image on a mirror like surface.’

In 1839, Louis- Jacques Mande Daguerre first invented the photographic process which was later publicised by the French Academy of Science.

It is said that he discovered the process accidentally after leaving a silver spoon on a iodised plate, thus creating an image. This contradicts slightly what was said in my research findings in book 1, The Art of The Daguerreotype. It was stated that a thermometer leaked in his chemical cupboard, with the mercury fumes exposing the earlier disregarded, failed plate thus creating an image.

It is also said that Daguerre rode on the shoulders of many scientists and experimenters. It was actually Nicephore Niepce, in 1817, that developed how to first partially fix the silver chloride negative on paper. Some say Niepce was even the inventor of photography, because he took the first photograph with a direct positive. However, Daguerre partnered with Niepce and experimented with the polished silver plate by using tree resin to coat the plate, distilled oil of lavender mixed with alcohol, sensitised iodine fumes and then inserted it into the camera Ludica to capture the image.

Unfortunately though, Niepce died before the big revelation, created by Daguerre’s other experiments;

  • Coating a copper plate with silver
  • Fuming with iodine to form silver iodide
  • Exposing
  • Developing in heated mercury
  • Fixing in salt and water- eventually changing to sodium thiosulfate (Created by Sir John Herschel for Cyanotypes originally)
  • Rinsing in water

It was in 1840 when Alexander-Edmond Becquerel (a scientist) introduced the less dangerous method of the Becquerel Daguerreotype. This process involved the use of a silver coated plate fumed with iodine vapours, under-exposed in camera, then developedor intensified by a secondary, after exposure under red glass. (Rubylith). This process eliminated the use for the extremely toxic, Mercury. The process way completed by a fix then a wash.

Mercury was replaced due to its acute or chronic poisoning, however it has been made safer with the use of iodine although this is also a very toxic chemical that comes with its own hazards via inhalation, ingestion, exposure to skin and eyes, also causing damage to the nervous system. Gold Chloride can also cause severe skin and respiratory allergies if use incorrectly and sodium thiosulphate is also highly toxic on inhalation. It is important to take care when using these chemicals, always wear gloves, masks and store in a secure cupboard, outside of the living space.


This book notes the exact colour gradient that should be achieved during the fuming process, which is as follows;

Stage 1

20 seconds= pale yellow                                                                                                                      15 seconds= yellow to pale orange                                                                                                       20 seconds= pale purple

Stage 2 (Optional)

Keep checking the colour every 15 seconds for more saturated colours;

30 more seconds= deep yellow                                                                                                           25 more seconds= deep magenta                                                                                                       20 more seconds= clearly blue-green

The book states that in a proper fuming box, stage 1 is only necessary as the times will be shorter.



In camera is 1 1/2 minutes on a sunny day, at f/5.6 with a longer exposure being needed on an overcast day.                                                                                                                                Note: After exposure, you should not be disappointed if an image is not visible at this stage, as is shouldn’t be!!



Approximately 1 hour is required in indirect summer sunlight, or direct over cast sky. Note: The plate should have turned a light grey colour, like tarnished silver- it should be a faint image at this point. Also, if the image is a magenta colour, it needs more development.


Fixing and Washing the Plate:

  1. 28g of hypo (sodium thiosulphate), with 900ml of water at 20 degrees, always using fresh water.
  2. Gently rock the plate in the hypo solution for 30 seconds. The image should start to be clear as the remaining iodine particles are removed. Leave the plate in the fixer for ‘twice the time it takes to clear.’
  3. Move the plate to the wash tray, but not in the stream of gently running water, for 1 minute- Don’t agitate!!
  4. Place the plate in a bath of distilled water for 1 minute.
  5. Immediately dry.                                                                                                                               [2]

This guide appears to contradict the guide found on Alternativephotography.com, as mentioned in detail for the process below. This guide states to add more water to the hypo solution with less salt, states not to run the plate under moving water during the wash and not to agitate. I am at the deadline of my project before I came across this information, which unfortunately I wish I had at the start of this project. However, I still have two days left to experiment further with obtaining a successful image on the plate. I will ensure I adapt these newly founded steps within my final attempt at the daguerreotype process. I also discovered that when fuming the plate, a light should be used that is no more that 50watts, requiring the use of a less powerful lamp to check the colours. I used a bedside table lamp for checking this stage, as the over head lights being used in the garage could have been too powerful, thus blowing out the image.






For the purpose of this study the following question(s) were addressed:

  1. Is the Becquerel alternative as good as the original daguerreotype in terms of image quality?



Would using the Becquerel process allow me to achieve an acceptable daguerreotype image? Fuming time, exposure time and development time will all have an impact on the final outcome and will need experimentation.




The Becquerel Process

Plate Making: Obtaining high quality plates is the first of many hurdles the contemporary Daguerreotypist will face. Preparing one’s own plates is not difficult, but like all things Daguerreian does take some effort. Daguerreotype plates are highly polished silver. Only pure silver will work for our purposes. Traditionally, copper plates were clad with silver and then polished. Contemporary plates are primarily electroplated copper.

Preparing Copper: Take a sheet of mirror finish engravers copper, and polish it using a slurry of extra fine grain pumice powder to a flat matt surface with no lines or marks. Taping the plate to an acrylic polishing platform will help secure it. Once polished, wrap the plates in a piece of heavy cloth or flannel and have them plated with pure silver to 1/2 mil (.0005″). Your plate may require that you drill two holes in your plate for their plating racks.

Plate Polishing: Find yourself a 6″ bench grinder with at least 1/2 horse-power. Remove the grinding wheels and fit tapered spindles purchased from a jewellery supply. Next, find a solid mount, and locate the grinder somewhere that you don’t mind getting really dirty. After polishing few plates, red rouge will be everywhere. Attach the plate to a piece of 3/4″ plywood slightly larger than the plate using small nails. Carefully nail the plate down, using at least six, if not eight nails.

Polishing Method: Before polishing you must first decide whether your image will be vertical portrait-orientation or horizontal landscape-orientation. We can never completely erase polishing marks; only lay down finer and finer ones. To prevent polishing from being a never-ending task it is best to situate the polishing marks in a way that they are difficult to see in ordinary light. To do so, make sure that the polishing lines always run up and down the plate, not side-to-side.

First, attach a 60-ply tight-weave fine muslin buffing wheel on one spindle and a 54-ply unstitched fine-finishing buffing wheel on the other. Using a propane torch heat up the plate until all moisture is gone, about 10 seconds. Before the plate cools down turn on the grinder, rub a bit of the rouge on the tight-weave buffing wheel, and beginning from the top rub the plate quickly back and forth horizontally on the wheel while moving the plate slowly upwards. Always begin polishing from the top of the plate; if you begin from the bottom the plate will be thrown from your hands. Once you reach the bottom, flip the plate 180 degrees. Repeat to a total of four times. Add a bit more rouge to the wheel, turn the plate 90 degrees and repeat with four passes. Once completed, move quickly to the finer wheel and repeat four passes in the same orientation as you ended.

After finishing with machine polishing carefully remove the plate from its mount, clean the edges and back of excess rouge, and place somewhere safe to cool off. At this point even the smallest amount of moisture or the lightest touch on the polished surface will send the plate back to the machines for re-polishing. Tarnish and other contaminants quickly build on the surface of the silver, contributing to fog, so sensitize your plates immediately after polishing.

Hand Polishing: While it is not necessary to hand polish, it does serve to lay down very fine polishing marks. The polishing planks are two wooden boards, for half plate or smaller use 7″ x 30″. Each board has two layers of very soft clean velvet stretched over several layers of heavy felt or flannel. One plank is dusted with dry powdered rouge, and the other is left without rouge. Both planks must be kept clean and dry. Move the plate up and down the buffs with a light amount of pressure. Hold the plate in the same orientation as your future image, to follow the fine polishing lines you left with the machine. Beginning with the rouged board, slide the plate up and down the board 100 or more times with light pressure. Repeat 100 or more times on the rouge-free board, starting with light pressure and slowly reducing to the weight of the plate itself. Carefully remove the plate, and sensitize immediately.

From this point on, the Becquerel process differs from the traditional Mercury process.

Sensitization: The polished plate is carefully carried into the darkroom; any marks or fingerprints will send you back to the machines. The darkroom can be safely lit by red or amber safelights, and should be very well ventilated. Standard darkroom ventilation is not sufficient. I recommend a laboratory-grade fume hood, although buying a small demonstration hood and a powerful extractor will work for small plates. If you build your own hood make sure that it extracts evenly all sides. In all cases, buy a vaneometer to test your hood, even if you purchased it new, insuring that the fume hood extracts air from ports or doors at least 100 feet per minute.

The plate is exposed to the fumes of elemental Iodine. At room temperature Iodine creates fumes that rise and react with the silver in your plate to form Silver Iodide (AgI), a light sensitive compound. The traditional Mercury developed method uses other halogens in addition to the Iodine, notably Bromine or Chlorine, to increase the spectral sensitivity and consequently the speed of the plate. Unfortunately these “quick-stuffs” do not work with Becquerel development.

Iodine fumes reacting with silver cause a beautiful color shift in the plate. Charlie Schreiner, the owner and editor of newdags.com, a wonderful reference site for all Daguerreotypists, describes these changes; “First, a pale yellow, then a darker yellow and a sequence follows that progresses through the natural color spectrum–orange, red, purple, blue, green then back to yellow” (http://www.newdags.com/becquerel.html), repeating the cycle.

The color is a good indication of how much Silver Iodide has been formed. The plates function and look best with a moderate amount of silver iodide; too little will create a faint and very contrasty image, while too much will produce a gray and flat image. Generally, I have found that the colors towards the end of the first cycle–magenta in particular–works best for me. While the second cycle colors will produce an image, I find them to be too muddy for my tastes.

Fuming Boxes: Unfortunately there are no commercially available fuming boxes. A few individuals do make them to order, but it is not difficult to make your own. I base all of my fuming boxes around glass food storage containers. These are readily available, cheap, and glass is highly resistant to the corrosive action of the halogens. A Pyrex 11 cup Food Storage Dish is perfect for full-plate. The material you choose to make your boxes must be resistant to corrosive fumes. Teflon, glass, and acrylic are excellent. Plywood is also surprising resistant. Do not make your box out of any sort of metal. If possible, do not even use nails or screws in your box. In general, I have built my fuming boxes from plywood or acrylic, holding the Iodine in a glass dish and stopping the dish with a glass or Teflon slide.

Fuming: Heat up the polished plate with a hair dryer, removing any condensation that may have formed on the plate. Slide the plate into the box, exposing it to the Iodine fumes. After about 20 seconds, pull the plate out and examine the colour by looking at the reflection of a white light off a white surface. If the colour is not where you would like it, slide the plate in again for another 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat if necessary. Once the plate reaches the desired colour, turn the white lights off, safelight on, and slide the plate over the Iodine for eight second, just enough to erase the effects of the light. It is then removed and placed in a plate holder, making sure not to touch the place or expose it to white light.

Warning: Iodine and its fumes are very powerful oxidizers. It will not only corrode metal, but also will cauterize your lungs and burn your skin. Iodine should always be handled in a fume hood and stored in proper containers. Never touch Iodine crystals, even with a gloved hand. Finally, never heat the Iodine crystals. This is incredibly dangerous and could result in billowing clouds of corrosive and toxic Iodine gas. You should always wear safety glasses and gloves when handling Iodine or fuming.

Exposure: Daguerreotypes are considered “color blind”–sensitive only to blue and UV light–so metering in any regular manner is futile. Unfortunately for the beginner there is no easy way to determine exposure: Prior experience reigns supreme. It is very helpful to keep a detailed record of your fuming times and colors, exposures, as well as development times. Here are a few recent examples of Becquerel exposures:

  • Landscape, overcast day, 18% Gray (zone V) reading of 12ev:
    6 min @ f/5.6
  • Landscape, sunny day, 18% Gray (zone V) reading of 14ev:
    2 min @ f/5.6
  • Head and Shoulders Portrait, overcast day, skin (zone VI) reading of 12.66ev:
    1:45 min @ f/2.8.

Developing: no one has been able to explain exactly how Becquerel development works. The exposed plate is covered with an Amberlith printing screen, and is placed under bright light. The red light, to which the plate is insensitive, reacts with the Silver Iodide and enlarges Silver crystals, which make up the image. Becquerel developed plates are about 10 times (2.5 stops) slower than traditional plates, and usually have a colour cast, most often blue.

After exposure, place your plate under the Amberlith printer’s screen. To make a mask, use lightly coloured cardboard or matt board a few inches larger than the size of your plate. Cut a window slightly smaller than the plate and tape a piece of Amberlith over it. Then, tape strips of board on the opposite side of the mask, surrounding the plate, insuring that it can’t move during development or touch the screen. Tape the plate to the mask from the back. Certainly there are more elegant ways of making a mask, but none easer or more convenient.

As a light source the sun works best; on a sunny day development should take one and a half to two hours depending upon the light. Work-lights with 500-watt halogen bulbs also work well, and take about two hours. Becquerel plates are quite sensitive to heat, too much will fog them. It is best to make your mask from light colored board, although my poor example shows otherwise. Keep the mask and plate off the ground so that air can move and cool the plate. Having a powerful fan blowing on the plate is a good idea.

Fixing: Remove the developed plate from the mask in subdued light and submerge the developed plate into a fresh solution of 15g of Sodium Thiosulfate and 15g of Sodium Sulfite in 500ml distilled water. Be sure that the solution hits the plate at the same time; otherwise waves of discoloration will form on the plate. Fill an 8×10 tray with 500 ml of solution; tip the tray so all of the fluid is in one end, and place the plate on the dry end. Quickly and evenly lower the tray and rock it back and forth for twice the time it takes to completely clear the plate of Iodine. Wash the plate in slowly running tap water for five or more minutes and let sit in distilled water. The image is very delicate at this stage, and you must be very careful not to touch the image with fingers or a direct stream or spray of water.

Gilding: Gilding is the most difficult stage of Daguerreotype. Gilded plates are more archival, much more resistant to damage, and have more apparent depth and richer tones. However, gilding is expensive and accentuates latent imperfections, apparently creating stains where there were none.

Gilding solution:

  • Part A: 1 gram of Gold Chloride dissolved in 500ml of distilled water.
  • Part B: 4 grams of Sodium Thiosulfate dissolved in 500ml of distilled water.

To make the gilding solution, add one Part A to one Part B. This means add the Gold to the Sodium Thiosulfate, the other way will precipitate the gold and ruin the solution. Allow it to sit for a full day. Keep the solution stored in a brown bottle.

How to Gild: Placed the fixed and washed plate on a level laboratory stand, and quickly cover with gilding solution before it dries. Carefully pour the solution on the plate so it forms a meniscus that covers the entire surface. It is not difficult to do, but does take some practice. Make sure the plate is level or the gilding solution will run off.

Once the plate has a good meniscus, light your propane torch, and begin smoothly moving the flame over the bottom of the plate. The goal is to bring the solution just under the boiling point. It should steam and produce small bubbles, but never actually boil. Keep the torch moving so the heat is evenly disbersed.

Carefully watch the plate for the stains that will appear about halfway through the process. The whole plate will become darker, and a few stains will appear on your plate. Keep heating until the plate lightens and the stains disappear. This is a judgment that requires lots of practice and careful observation. It is far better to slightly over-gild, which creates a pleasant yellow-gold tone, than to under-gild, which leaves behind those nasty stains and a dark plate. Watching the plate in negative form, with a white wall behind or outside with the sky above, helps tremendously. An easier but more expensive way of gilding is to dedicate a small frying pan, stainless steel, or Pyrex-type glass container that can be placed directly onto a hot-plate or other heat source. The plate and enough solution to completely cover are heated until gilded, following the instructions above.

Washing: Once gilded the plate should be washed for five or more minutes in slowly moving tap-water. After washing in tap water, allow the plate to sit in distilled water for a few minutes before drying. If you don’t gild you may want to consider adding a bit of Photo-Flo or other drying aid to reduce drying marks.

Drying: Remove the plate from the distilled water, and holding it at an angle, use the hot air from a hairdryer to push all of the water to the end of the plate, where it can be soaked up by a rag or paper towel. Careful not to touch the plate with the dryer!

Mounting: Once dry immediately mount the plate behind glass using a high-quality pH-neutral tape. A thin matt between the glass and the plate’s surface will prevent the glass from scratching the plate. Once mounted, keep your Daguerreotype dry and out of direct sunlight, and it should outlast any of us. (Alternative Photography, 200o)


Creating my Own Daguerreotype using the Becquerel Process:

Preparing the Copper:

The copper plate is measured to fit the 4×5″ film holder and then cut to size using sharp metal shears.



Polishing Method:

The plate is then well polished and taken to the electroplaters to be coated in silver. I used Revive Power Paste followed by Rouge Polish which was applied with a wheel buffer.




The plate is beautifully coated in silver after visiting an electroplaters, the coast was £20 per plate. There is an image below to compare the difference of a copper plate and a silver coated plate.



A fume box was then made to house the Iodine Crystals, Crystal dish holder and the plate during fuming to make light sensitive.

A rubylith cover was then constructed from a cardboard corn flour box, rubylith and some sticky tape. This will allow for good exposure that is light tight and safe from debris and other natural elements such as dust.


The Plate holder was made by cutting pieces of plastic and wood, then glued together creating a holder that is deep enough to hold the plate. It was needed as the plates were to thick for the original film holder.


Day 1: Positive Transparency (Cheese Board with Wine)

  • Fuming time-  3 minutes
  • Exposure time- 30 seconds (cloudy with sunny spells and rainy weather conditions)
  • Development time under rubylith- 2 hours in daylight (Not consistent UV light)

A cardboard frame was made for this method to hold the transparency away from the copper plate. This was done by taping the transparency to the top of a thick piece of cardboard with tape.


Gas masks and rubber gloves were required due to the hazardous nature of the Iodine Crystals.

Once all the materials are gathered together the plate is then heated with a hair dryer and backed with double sided sticky tape and placed onto the slider ready for fuming.


Once the plate is in place and heated the Iodine crystals can be placed into the dish inside the box (Masks and gloved to be worn at this point). A moderate coverage is required for sensitisation of the plate, the full pot of 25g is put into the dish and they appeared to activate immediately.

Once fumed and assembled the plate was the exposed outside of the darkroom in natural daylight. Unfortunately, the weather conditions were very temperamental with conditions ranging from sun, cloud and rain within a very limited time period. The plate was exposed for thirty seconds and then taken back to the darkroom to apply the rubylith under a safe light. During development it began to rain so I made use of a glass Pyrex dish to protect the film from falling rain droplets. I then decided to take to plate indoors as it began to rain heavily, it was put into the window and during development the weather condition continued to vary. During the first five to ten minutes of development under rubylith the image appears to transfer and the image was visible to the eye on the plate. However, the lighter areas were turning very dark and the darker areas were beginning to lighten. As the plate was exposed for a longer period of time (Desired time 2 to 3 hours) the image began to disappear and there was nothing to be seen on the plate after removing the rubylith. Total development time was two hours.




There are many reasons why the plate could not have worked i.e. not enough fuming time, weather was too unpredictable with not enough consistent light. Exposure time could have been too much or too little and the transparency could be too contrasted proving difficult to transfer the image due to too much blacks and whites. During research it was suggested to use a gray scale positive image so I will return to experiment with this technique in due time, with a gray scale transparency.



Day 2: Exposure in Camera (House)

  • Fuming time- 1 minute
  • Exposure time- 7 minutes (Sunny and cloudy weather conditions)
  • Development under 500 watt lamp- 2 hours, 15 minutes

The plate holder was sealed with lightproof tape to avoid any leaks of white light onto the sensitised plate. The plate was then polished and re-buffed ready for another exposure. This time the plate was placed into the holder and exposed in the large format camera.



Re-polished the plate:


I followed the fuming method stated above in day 1.

After exposing the plate in the camera for seven minutes it was then placed under a 400watt light source to develop for two hours and fifteen minutes. I set the camera up to take an image of the house and placed the plate into position in camera. This shoot was a little stressful due to my camera positioning and the camera leaning to one side during the exposure, cars also passed during the seven minute exposure leading me to believe that there was no image on the plate. However, during development under the rubylith (Applied under safe light) more and more detail began to appear within the photograph. After exposure the plate was then taken back to the dark room and carefully removed from the film holder and from under the rubylith and ready to be fixed.



  • Sodium Sulphate 30g with 500ml of distilled water- 1 minute
  • Wash in tray of tap water 1 minute
  • Sat in distilled water for 1 hour

I was instructed by my research to use 15g Sodium Sulphate, 15g Sodium Sulfite and 500ml of distilled water. However, Sodium Sulfite didn’t arrive during the time I had the camera booked out, so as an alternative 30g of Sodium Sulphate was used as replacement. The image was fixed by rocking gently in the solution for around one minute, however after 30 to 40 seconds the image appeared and then began to fade. I was then placed in a tray of tap water and gently rocked for 40 seconds, finally being placed in a tray of distilled water.


Final results:

Here is the final result from the second attempt at daguerreotypes. The image is only visible form a certain angle or under a safe light. When viewing the plate straight on in white day light the plate still appears to be a mirror like surface. However, At the moment I am not sure if the image is correct or not. As this is my first time at daguerreotypes I am not sure what the result should be before guiding and there does not seem to be much photographic evidence of the process available during research to compare the results to.

Again, there could be variable factors as to why the plate has turned out like this. The plate could be under fumed, under/over exposed, under/over developed, or it could have been the fixing method. As I am unexperienced I may need to approach a professional daguerreotypist to seek advice or possibly re-polish the plate and start the process again.



Day 3: Exposure in Camera (Indoors, Still Life)

  • Fuming time- 2 minutes
  • Exposure in Camera- 9 minutes
  • Development under rubylith and 500 watt bulb- 2 hours

Followed same procedure as above, no image appeared on the plate.




Day 4: Exposure in Camera (Outdoors, Still Life)

  • Fuming time- 3 minutes
  • Exposure time- 6 minutes in camera
  • Development time under rubylith and 500 watt bulb- 3 hours

Followed the same procedure as above, no image appeared on the plate.



Day 5: Transparency (Gray Scale, Seville 1)

As I only had a short period with the 4″x5″ camera I decided to return to experimenting with transparencies. I printed onto acetate a more gray scale, positive image so see if this had any effect compared to the contrasted image of the cheese with wine.

I followed the same method as the transparency exposure on day 1 above. The plate was re-polished then I followed the same procedure only I adjusted;

  • Fuming time- 1 minute and 30 seconds
  • Exposure time- 2minutes in moderate sunlight
  • Development time- mixture of 4 hours in-between inconsistent sunlight and 400 watt bulb.
  • Fix solution- 15g thiosulphate and 10g Sodium Sulfite, with 500ml of distilled water.




Day 6: Transparency (Gray Scale, Seville 2)

This transparency was a little lighter in colour, so I thought it was a good idea to experiment with exposing lighter tones onto the plate.

I followed the same method as the transparency exposure on day 1 above. The plate was re-polished then I followed the same procedure only I adjusted;

  • Fuming time- 2 minutes and 30 seconds
  • Exposure time- 8 minutes in bright sunlight
  • Development time- 5 hours and 10 minutes in consistent sunlight.
  • Fix solution same as ‘Day 5’





Day 7: Transparency (Gray Scale, Seville 2)

I followed the same method as the transparency exposure on day 1 above. The plate was re-polished then I followed the same procedure only I adjusted;

  • Fuming time- 2 minutes with an extra heated plate that was hot to touch. The plate turned to a strong purple colour. Checked after 50 seconds and it was yellow and purple. For the last 30 seconds of fuming the plate turned the desired blue.
  • Exposure time- 13 minutes in bright sunlight with the odd cloud.
  • Development time- 4 hours and 15 minutes in in-consistent sunlight.
  • Fix solution same as ‘Day 5’




Instructions stated to mix both solutions separately and then add the gold solution to the salt solution, not the other way around as this will ruin the mixture. The instructions also stated to store the mixture in a brown bottle so that it is protected from light. The measurement went as follows;

0.1g Gold Chloride + 50mls of distilled water

0.4g Sodium Thiosulphate + 50mls of distilled water

I then mixed the two together, however the mixture turned to black with lots of particles in it. So this first attempt was a failure, this could have happened for a number of reasons i.e. Scales not being accurate enough resulting in too much or too little of the measured chemicals, it could have been exposed to too much bright light (I also tried to take a picture using flash which could have been the cause), or not agitated enough.



For attempt two at mixing the gilding solution I purchased some more accurate scales that weighed below 1g. I also did not leave the solution sitting in the jug whilst trying to take a picture and I agitated the mixture well. This appeared to work and the mixture was of an even consistency. So I proceeded to guild the plate.

This image appears darker in the colour tone due to the gilding process but has left unsightly stains that were created during the procedure. I have learned that a well fixed image can be achieved, however it is a highly skilled process that requires a lot of practice and skill. I therefore decided to forego the gilding process with my final two attempts due to the risk of incorrect gilding ruining the image.


Day 8: Transparency (Contrasted, Cheese Board with Wine)

I decided to return to my first transparency of the cheese board with wine mainly for variation but also due to it being more contrasted in tone, it’s a darker image with bright and dull spots rather than just gray scale. Plus I did have a good first attempt with this transparency, however it was lost during exposure but I thought returning to this may possibly work more efficiently.

Fuming: 1 minute 25 seconds with an extra heated plate, turned to a strong purple colour. Checked after 50 seconds and it was yellow and purple. For the last 30 seconds of fuming the plate turned the desired blue.

Exposure: 10 minutes in over cast but bright sunshine, or relatively bright.

Fixing: followed the same steps as used above.

Gilding: did not reach the gilding stage due to image not being strong enough and the plate obtained an unwanted finger print.

The images can be clearly seen in the final result, however they are negative form so dark where you would expect them to be light. A daguerreotype is supposed to flip between negative and positive but this image didn’t. This has given me the intention to try a negative overlay so that when the capturing process reverses it, I should get a positive image.


Day 9: Transparency (Frog)

I followed most of the steps as above accept I made a few slight alterations, which are discussed in more detail below.


For this attempt I decided to change the transparency, to try a negative rather the a positive to see if this alters the results any. I used the image of a frog with has a gradient through it as the light hits its back, I am hoping that this will provide some clarity on whether a negative will work better than a positive, also just to rule out possible causes to the problem.

  • Fuming: for 1 minute, ‘stage 1’as guided by the new founded method in the New Dimensions in Photo Processes Book.
  • Exposure: 40 seconds, creating a very dark image on the plate (possibly over-exposed)
  • Development: 1 1/2 hours as stated in the same book as above and to compensate for the possible over-exposure
  • Gilding:

Seemingly the use of a negative has definitely been the correct choice as I have actually captured a strong image of the frog. The decision to only expose for 40 seconds was also a good choice as the detail is quite prominent.

For fixing, due to conflicting advice from different resources a different concentration of half the original dilution was used. This was of 30g of ‘Hypo’ sodium thoisulphate to 1 litre of water. I also reduced the time for fixing and did not agitate the water during the after washes. This seems to have produced successful results and has given me a suggestion that this may have been one of the prominent causes of my previous lack lustre results. Due to the way the fixer works by dissolving away the remaining silver iodide particles, a solution that is too concentrated may have also dissolved the image.

The plate was not gilded due to previous attempts being unsuccessful, so as this was my first strong image capture I didn’t want to chance ruining it by gilding, so decided to frame it instead in an air tight frame.




I have found this process to be very temperamental and challenging, with multiple factors that can go wrong. I am however very proud that through thorough investigation and research, I have managed to achieve desirable results. Although that image is not gilded it should still preserve well behind the glass photo frame, as it is sealed with tape to prevent any air entering. I believe the contrast could be better, even though the bequerel process I have researched, is known for producing images of less contrast and clarity than the original daguerreotype.

I have truly come to admire and sympathise with the original work of Niepce and Daguerre. Perfecting a daguerreotype is synonymous with ‘catching a wisp’ or ‘chasing the end of a rainbow’ as it is a very delicate and hard won process to achieve an image. Its elusive nature has given me a great deal of respect for it and led me to cherish my final images greatly.



[1] ALTERNATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY, (2000). A Brief Guide To Becquerel Daguerreotype. [Online] Available from: http://www.alternativephotography.com/wp/processes/daguerrotypes/becquerel-daguerreotype                                                                                                                                 [Accessed: 22 March 2016]

[2] BLACKLAW, L. (2007) New Dimensions In Photo Processes. Part III, Chapter 14: Contemporary Daguerreotypes (Becquerel Process), assisted by Tyler Treadwell. Oxford:Focal Press. Pages 252-261                                                                                                    ISBN N0 13: 0-240-80789-8                                                                                                        ISBN No- 10: 978-0-240-807-89-8

[3] SUSSEX PHOTO HISTORY, (2016). The Daguerreotype Process. [Online] Available from: http://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/dagprocess.htm                                                     [Accessed: 22 March 2016]

[4] RICHTER, S. (1989). The Art of The Daguerreotype:With an Introduction by Helmut Gernshein. London:Penguin Group.                                                                                            ISBN N0 10: 067082688X                                                                                                            ISBN No 13: 9780670826889




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