How to Make a 16x20-Inch Ambrotype on a Sheet of Glass Using a Homemade Field Camera

Photographer Giles Clement decided to spend an afternoon building his own 16x20-inch field camera from wood and plastic and make his own ambrotypes on large sheets of glass. This very short video reveals the magic of homemade, large format photography.

As Clement notes, “What started as a doodle on a napkin at 1 p.m. became a creation of wood, plastic, and yes, duct tape at about 2 a.m.” and the results are quite remarkable. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that anyone can try at home as you’ll need some very specific tools and materials to get yourself started, such as a sander to smooth the edges of your glass sheets and some collodion and silver nitrate. And you'll also need a studio large enough to host this beast of a field camera that is producing what seems to be a 1:1 macro image of its subject.

What's particularly remarkable is the range of tones that Clement is able to create through this historic process and from the quality of the images, it's no wonder that Clement has established himself as a portrait photographer who teaches a number of workshops on how to create tintypes.

You can find more of Clement's work on his website and Instagram.

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8 Comments

That’s pretty cool, thanks for showing the full process!

dierk topp's picture

fantastic images like this on you HP, Giles !

how do you know the sensitivity (ISO) of the material?
When I see this, I would like to trade some of my Sony/Zeiss/Leica glass and start shooting with this technique.
and get an old Petzval for my Sinar and/or a larger format anyway :-)
regards dierk

Scott Basile's picture

Sensitivity depends on a few factors, mostly how old your collodion is, but is in the range of .75 to 1 ISO. You need a shit ton of light to make an exposure. Giles is amazing.

Joe Black's picture

Waw. Amazing !!

1:1 macro?!? More like a 2:1 macro.

Rod Kestel's picture

Wow, that is very very cool. Looks like he's basically made a camera obscura. I wonder how durable the images are.

Tim Ericsson's picture

The ambrotype process has been around for over 150 years, and when done properly and cared for the images can last at least as long (we still have ambrotypes from the 19th century in surprisingly good condition). So if done properly, they can survive for a long time!

Rob Waller's picture

Brilliant.