All Collodion Formulas Prepared – Ready for Testing!

All I have to wait for is…time! Luckily I happen to have Friday and Saturday off (an unusual luxury) so I’ll probably get around testing the different formulas. I’ll describe all the formulas below.

Nr 1 The standard Quinn’s New Guy Formula (the one I normally use) 

120 ml USP Collodion
80 ml Ether
80 ml Alcohol

1,5 gr Cadmium Bromide
2 gr Ammonium Iodide

Nr 2 Lea’s Landscape #7 Alternate Formula – no additional ether

300 mL USP Collodion
300 ml Alcohol

1,5g  Cadmium Bromide
1,3 g Ammonium Bromide
3,4 g Cadmium Iodide
2,6 g Ammonium Iodide

Nr 3 Traditional Lea’s Landscape #7

300 ml USP Collodion
250 ml Alcohol
75 ml Ether

1,5 gr Cadmium Bromide
1,3 gr Ammonium Bromide
3,4 gr Cadmium Iodide
2,6 gr Ammonium Iodide

Nr 4 John Coffer’s Old Workhorse – Fast Clear

240 ml USP Collodion
200 ml Alcohol
200 ml Ether

1,6 gr Cadmium Bromide
1,4 gr Ammonium Bromide
5,0 gr Ammonium Iodide

Nr 5 Scully & Osterman’s Formula without Cadmium Bromide

118 ml USP Collodion
77 ml Alcohol
77 ml Ether

2 gr Pottasium Iodide
1,5 gr Pottasium Bromide

Now, that all sounds fantastic on its own but…the tricky part is, and probably the part where this test will fail beforehand is that all recipes need a matching developer and silver bath. I don’t have the time, and perhaps not even the interest, to try out all the possible combinations to find out which is the ultimate combo for each variation of collodion, developer and silver bath. Not to mention exterior factors that will have its impact on how it will all react; humidity, heat, just to name a few. So, this will not be a scientific test, merely for me to see what different formulas in my own setup will do.

The ether less variation interests me but I know beforehand I will not be using this as my collodion formula in the future, read to many issues with that formula. Besides, ether less working collodion, what’s the point? There’s ether in the USP Collodion so why bother bringing in technical difficulties with little to nothing to gain. The version without Cadmium Bromide interests me because of well, it’s without the use of a cadmium salt. I know some people don’t want to work with the process or are reluctant to because of it. Would be nice to see how that works out.
The one I’m interested in working with in the future is either Lea’s Traditional Landscape or Osterman’s Old Workhorse. We’ll see!

I’ve also made some new developers. Found Quinn’s developer to react too fast so want a more timid one. I made the following:

Lea’s Sugar Developer

15 gr Ferrous Sulfate
355 ml Distilled water
20 gr White table sugar
20 ml Glacial Acetic Acid
20 ml Alcohol

Scully & Ostermans Formula

15 gr Ferrous Sulfate
355 ml Distilled water
18 ml Alcohol
14 ml Glacial acetic acid

Keep in mind that what I wrote in a previous post about the amount of alcohol in the developer is related to the age of the silver bath and so on…These are just standards to work from and adjusted when needed.

Anyway, that was it so far… Have a great night!

From LTR: Lea's Landscape no ether, Lea's Traditional Landscape, Old Workhorse, No Cadmium Bromide version

From LTR: Lea’s Landscape no ether, Lea’s Traditional Landscape, Old Workhorse, No Cadmium Bromide version (note how that has to clear tremendously)

Byebye!!!

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43 responses

  1. Alex timmermans

    Indra, i have been using a non extra ether formula for already a few years now. It works like a charm without any problems.

    April 19, 2012 at 06:37

    • Hi Alex,

      I remember that, yes. You encountered some problems in the beginning, like 2 years ago or so, but got it working for you. However, since I work outside in the field most of the time I have the least confidence in the etherless formula, regarding the things I’ve read and heard.

      Anyway, thought it would be fun to try. I’m also looking for difference in tonal range so looking forward to see how that holds up! Looking forward to do some testing 😉

      Btw, your etherless formula is that the same as I mentioned above or do you use a different one?

      April 19, 2012 at 08:26

      • fabrice pejout

        Hi Indra,
        I think that OWH uses POTASSIUM iodide, but not Ammonium iodide…

        April 21, 2012 at 23:22

      • You are right Fabrice but this is the Fast Clear version which uses Ammonium Iodide instead of Potassium Iodide, as found on CWreenactors.

        April 22, 2012 at 10:23

  2. Pingback: The Big Collodion Test « Photography Contrastique – Alternative Photographic Processes

  3. fabrice pejout

    I’ve tried this OWH fast clear before but it turned dark red immediatly after mixing (I used a iodizer solution) I put one or two drops of aceton and it turned back to yellow but it gave me a much more fragil emulsion.
    I talk with Luther about OWH and he told me that the classical OWH (with pot iodide) was his basic formula, with a much longer lasting than fast clear (amm iodide seems to accelerate the aging)

    April 23, 2012 at 09:30

    • Hi Fabrice,

      I didn’t have the OWH fast clear to turn dark red. It actually stayed nicely yellow. I keep mine in the fridge.
      I’m still discussing the formula with Mark but I had very little time the past few days. I might alter the next batch a little.
      I’ll get back on that asap ( I hope). It’a bit busy but I hope to refine the formula soon, also for use with negatives.

      -Indra

      May 1, 2012 at 22:17

  4. hello,

    its great to see you doing and posting your experimentations here. just wondering though, have you tried of using sodium instead of cadmium for the collodion solution?

    May 4, 2012 at 07:54

    • Hi,

      Thanks! I have never tried that and actually can’t recall any formula which uses Sodium Iodide Or Sodium Bromide. Do you mean Potassium?

      -Indra

      May 8, 2012 at 12:25

      • nope, i do mean sodium as there have been concerns of cadmium waste disposal around here. that, coupled with waldack’s developer formula no 2, gives a really brilliant white. only negative with sodium is they do not last as long as cadmium, instead of months you get weeks. maybe you can go ahead and have a go..? =)

        May 9, 2012 at 11:53

      • Cadmium waste disposal? You mean when you’re left with a batch of old collodion which you have to dispose of?
        I have never seen the results of a sodium formula combined with Waldeck’s developing formula. Do you know of any examples online?

        Personally, I’m not particularly interested in this formula because of its shelf life. I don’t have the luxury of being able to shoot collodion plates weekly due to time restraints so to have a collodion with a shelf life of just several weeks would lead to having to throw away a lot (or making a really small amount but even then).

        If you’re interested in using it yourself because of the reasons you mention and seem to be familiar with its good results why not try it yourself? I’d love to see the results though! 🙂

        May 13, 2012 at 12:35

  5. BTW, do you mind telling me how do you store your extra ether, since it’s highly combustible and all that…

    May 12, 2012 at 17:58

    • I order small quantities of ether, 1 liter at a time and when it arrives I immediately mix it with ethanol, 50-50. This is known to stabilize ether and keep it from forming peroxides, which is what makes it so combustible.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:37

      • Thank you! that helps tremendously!

        May 14, 2012 at 05:24

      • Great! You’re welcome!!

        May 14, 2012 at 09:49

  6. Hi Indra, just making sure: Is the total amount of alcohol in Nr 3 Traditional Lea’s Landscape #7 supposed to be 225 ml (not 125 ml)? Or have I misunderstood something? Cheers, Janne

    June 19, 2012 at 13:18

    • Hi Janne,

      You’re absolutely right! I forgot the alcohol I used to mix the salts in…oops..it’s been rectified, thanks for noticing and notifying me!

      -Indra

      June 19, 2012 at 21:10

  7. Nathaniel

    Hey,
    I am only just starting out, but going by all the comments on here I figured I would at least get a straight answer from you.
    I’ve managed to get my head around everything EXCEPT the collodion…every source I see it, it is listed as slightly different.
    I have seen it called “Collodion USP Plain”, “Collodion USP”, “Collodion” and “Flexible Collodion”.
    Basically what I want to know is what is the difference, which ones can I use and are they at all interchangeable?
    Also, I am in Australia so it is EXTREMELY difficult to get here!
    So yeah, any light you could shed on the matter would be much appreciated!
    Thanks a million!
    Nathaniel 🙂

    June 19, 2012 at 18:35

    • Hi Nathaniel,

      “USP Collodion Plain” and “USP Collodion” is, as far as I know, the same. This USP version is what’s normally being used, either 4% or 6%, both are fine only require a different dilution. First see which one you can lay your hands on and then find out how much to dilute it. Don’t know this by heart as I normally only work with 4% which is the one available here in the Netherlands.
      “Flexible Collodion” is the one you should NOT be using. There’s camphor and castor oil in it which keeps the collodion flexible hence the name but makes it unsuitable for the Wet Plate Collodion process.

      If you have any more questions feel free to shoot!

      Best,

      Indra

      Btw.I’m about to receive a 6% Collodion in the next few weeks so I’ll have to look up the other dilution anyway. You can probably already find it on this forum.

      June 19, 2012 at 21:04

      • Nathaniel

        Thank you so much!
        That makes things a million times simpler! Why no one has just written that anywhere is beyond me….
        But thanks again,
        Nathaniel 🙂

        June 20, 2012 at 12:36

  8. Mike

    Hi Indra,

    I’m trying to get together a small wet-plate studio in my New York apartment and have come to learn that storing ether in here could be a really bad idea.

    Given that the recipe contains significantly less ether, do you think that the Lea’s #7 Landscape recipe – without additional ether would be an answer to my problem?

    I know you mentioned that it can have issues, although I imagine that with a little experimentation they could be ironed out (I could see that your plate had streaks which could be attributed to not enough collodion in the solution).

    I applaud your study and will refer back to it in the future.

    Regards,

    Mike

    July 17, 2012 at 14:51

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  10. Fra

    Compliments for the good work, your blog is very useful! Thank you!
    I would like to ask a question, I tried this collodion: 2 grams of ammonium iodide, 1 gram of ammonium bromide, 100 ml alcohol 95° and 100 ml 5% collodion.
    The images appear (dirty), but just touch the plate and the image disappears, like dust… but the collodion is perfectly attached to the glass! as though the image were created over the layer of collodion… Is perhaps not possible to use only ammonium salts?
    Thanks in any case. Best regards…

    November 9, 2012 at 23:25

    • Hi Fra,

      Thank you first of all!

      To answer your questions… I never used a formula with two ammonium salts so I’m not sure what results they are meant to give. An ammonium salt is normally being added to the formula to let the collodion clear faster. However, it will give you a shorter shelf life. Cadmium gives you a longer shelf life that’s why I use that in my collodion.
      Ammonium caused stripes in my plates and I don’t care about the faster clearing so I don’t use any ammonium salts in my formula anymore.

      Not sure what causes the image to disappear when wiping over it, while leaving the collodion layer intact though. I never had any of those issues. The dirty appearance of the images could be you’re not cleaning your plates well enough. It could be your silver bath is dirty.

      You can try and pour a plate, pretend to expose it and develop, stop and fix it. If it gives you a proper evenly black plate (which it should be with no exposure), you pretty much know your chemistry is fine. If it doesn’t then you need to locate where the problem is.

      How did you make your silver nitrate? 90 grams of silver nitrate to 1 liter of distilled water? No further ingredients?
      Did you measure its specific gravity? Is it around 1,07? Did you measure its acidity? Is it around 4-5?
      How long do you leave your plate to sit in the silver nitrate bath before exposing it?

      With what product do you clean your plates?

      Which version of collodion do you use? Plain USP Collodion? Maybe you should make a new batch of a formula that has been used and positively tested by a broad range of wetplaters. How old is your collodion?

      Which developer do you use? How long do you develop the plate? How do you develop the plate? By pouring a lot over the plate or only a small amount like a little more than needed?

      Do you have images of your dirty plates?

      Anyway, lots to check! If you have more questions or would like to answer a couple of the above I’d have a better idea of your working routine.

      Best,

      Indra

      November 11, 2012 at 17:43

      • Fra

        Hello, many thanks for the reply. So, the nitrate of silver is a bit ‘used, but I do not think dirty, I should, however, measure the density of it, the plate is sensitized for 3 minutes, the acidity is around 5, I clean the dishes with alcohol, i do not have calcium carbonate at the time, and the collodion is usp (non-elastic).
        The development is sulphate of iron, more or less the recipe Scully & Ostermans Formula with a teaspoon of sugar.
        Hereinafter two plate: a left collodion with potassium salts, about a week old, and right collodion with ammonium salts, the same age … I touched on this plate with the hand the entire surface except for a small square in the center.
        25 sec exposure. artificial light.
        Simply scanning the negatives and then reversed.

        http://www.photo4u.it/album_page.php?pic_id=597578

        I also wanted to ask you, have you ever had white shiny patches due to the varnish?
        Many tanks. Best regards…

        Fra

        November 12, 2012 at 18:31

      • Hi Fra,

        Those plates don’t look good indeed. Best is to measure the bath prior to using it so you know the “basis” values of the bath, thus when you measure it after having used it you know how it got altered and that tells you how to bring it back to its “original” state. The acidity can vary as distilled water does not have a standard pH value. But around 5 is fine. You can place the bottle in the sun or daylight with the lid open to let any contamination sink to the bottom. You can’t see the contamination until you do this. Also this helps evaporating alcohol and ether residue from your bath.

        Cleaning the plates with alcohol alone is not enough. You can check this by breathing onto your plate after you’ve cleaned it. If it doesn’t dry up in one smooth motion the plate is not cleaned properly. The collodion you’re using sounds like the right thing.

        I have never had white shiny patches due to the varnish..Have you filtered your varnish before using it?

        Best,

        Indra

        November 15, 2012 at 09:36

  11. Fra

    Hi, thanks for all. I will try to “purify” the bathroom and improve the cleaning of the glass. The varnish is filtered, I think probably  is also caused by contamination…
    I will try as soon as possible. Many thanks, best regards.
    Fra

    November 15, 2012 at 11:47

    • Fra

      😀 😀 ‘bathroom’ Great google translator! 😉

      December 18, 2012 at 01:21

  12. HI all,
    I am making my own collodian, and have been offered 1/2 second and 1/4 second nitrocellulose, does any one know or have made their own, can shed light.
    i think the chemist said, 1/4 sec was the same exept twice as condenced, so theoretically only need half as much, but any way, just trying to find out before i commit.

    cheers

    Andrew

    May 29, 2013 at 03:11

  13. Hi!

    I made poor boy collodion. I think its your “Nr 5 Scully & Osterman’s Formula without Cadmium Bromide”. A part: Alcohol+collodion, B part: dest. water+Potassium Bromide+Potassium Iodide (John Coffer receipt, no ether). When I mixing the two part, the solution was white. Precipitated very fine crystal and 12 hours later its sat on the bottom of glass.

    My solution such a mixture on Your picture (https://contrastique.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/photo1.jpg?w=590&h=442)

    Its good? The white precipitate will dissolve after a week? I do not move or shake it at times? How do you used that?

    June 16, 2013 at 17:28

    • Hi Krisz,

      Cadmium Bromide helps to shorten the clearing time. I left the solution to clear for over a week (if I recall correctly) and when I started doing the test the solution had not cleared at all. After a week (or so) salts sank to the bottom of the glass and I decanted the solution and used it as is. To my surprise it did work and did a pretty good job. The thing that I was supposed to do before mixing the two parts together was to first dissolve the salts in (warm) water. They have a hard time dissolving in alcohol. I’d try that next time.

      I NEVER shake the collodion. I normally do filter the solution and leave it to rest for at least a day after.

      Best,

      Indra

      June 19, 2013 at 20:10

      • Thank You!

        June 26, 2013 at 08:39

  14. Leanna Thomas

    I am going to be making fast clear collodion as of now

    I have all the ingredients except for Ammonium iodide, is it possible I can just use Ammonium Bromide

    July 7, 2013 at 00:47

    • Hi Leanna,

      I think you’re referring to this formula?
      240 ml USP Collodion
      200 ml Alcohol
      200 ml Ether

      1,6 gr Cadmium Bromide
      1,4 gr Ammonium Bromide
      5,0 gr Ammonium Iodide

      I think you need an Iodide in there to form Silver-Iodide, but I’m not a 100% sure. I guess you could just try. However, when using that amount of ammonium in my collodion ended up giving striations on the plate so I no longer use that. The speed was nice but can also be achieved by using more of another salt. It just makes it clear faster but collodion photography is not about the speed anyway so I didn’t bother. I now use Osterman’s standard formula:

      Part A
      155ml ether (56ml)
      236ml plain USP Collodion (305ml)
      3g cadmium bromide
      8ml distilled water

      Part B
      4g potassium iodide
      155ml Ethanol (186ml)
      Distilled water

      Good luck with your journey!

      Best,
      Indra

      July 10, 2013 at 17:55

  15. Alireza IR

    hi
    all of formulas for positive Collodion photography?
    what difference positive collodion with negative?
    many tanx

    August 13, 2013 at 17:39

    • Hello Alireza,

      What I believe to be the main difference is that a negative formula is meant to gain higher density on a plate. These negatives are then better suitable for printing with alternative (contact) printing methods. Extending exposure time compared to a exposing a positive plate is also used for this purpose as well as choosing a different developer and or in combination with various re-development techniques.

      Best,
      Indra

      August 13, 2013 at 19:03

  16. Alex

    Hello all,

    Ca someone give me a starting point regarding sensitivity of collodion, both the cadmium and a non-cadmium one (if there is a difference). I learned it’s about ISO 1, but today on a sunny September day, I got a reading form my Gossen meter of about 1/15th of a second
    for f-stop 4.0 for ISO 1. Isn’t that short for wet plates exposure? Thanks in advance

    September 25, 2014 at 14:39

    • It’s very difficult to give an ISO value to the wet plate collodion process. Its sensitivity relies on too many variables; age of collodion solution, age of silver nitrate bath but also the amount of UV available in the light. When I shoot outside in the warmer periods of the year the amount of UV can be so high I need to stop down the lens to about f16 or f22 and have an exposure time of around 4 seconds, not more. When I work in studio with studio lights the times can vary up to 30 seconds at f4.5. Experience will make it easier to pinpoint exposure over time. I never work with a meter for the wet plate process. Good luck and have fun 🙂

      Best,

      Indra

      September 29, 2014 at 10:14

  17. I’ve been using Quinn’s collodion recipe, and a variation of Scully & Ostermans Developer with reasonable success. a couple of days ago, I spoke with a gentleman who I think was using John Coffer’s collodion recipe and reported that his exposure times were often around 3 minutes, whereas mine are at most 30 seconds, that I’m trying to understand is why his would be so long as compared to mine, he said it was at the time all relatively new collodion etc.

    October 14, 2014 at 09:07

    • Hi Kristine,

      Not sure to be honest. Perhaps he used different lights? Different lens with a smaller max. aperture? Maybe he didn’t dissolve the salts in the collodion properly before mixing it together and loses speed because of that?

      Best,
      Indra

      February 5, 2015 at 23:15

  18. Hi Kristine
    I left a comment before.

    Ok o yrsterday I mixed a batch of Old Reliable without ether and brand new chemcais. The collodion cleared within minutes.

    So today Mixed up another batch of Old Reliable, same ingredients except I multuplied the ingredients x4 to end up wuth roughly 1000mL ol the same fomrula…. for some reason this forumla is not clearing fast a ll. I mixed it about 10am this morning, nearly 12 hours ago and it has barely cleared… do you think it because of the volume that it has no cleared or do you think there are other factors at play here? I really do not want to throw away so much volume of such expensive chemicas…. as they are expensive here. do you think it m may just take a longer time to clear? THe chemicals were from the same batches and everything…. I don’t quite understand why they have not cleared barely at all… the volumes were the same….. help!

    cheers alex lxgrd@fea.st

    August 12, 2015 at 12:38

  19. sorry to confirm, the cadmium bromide formula )1 litre) loos the same as your bromide-less formula in your picture)

    August 12, 2015 at 12:41

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