How to modify an 8×10 sheet film holder for shooting wet plate collodion

Tips & Techniques

While it was once the only way you could really shoot a photo, wet plate photography went off almost into the realm of complete non-existence just a few years ago. Lately, though, it seems to be making something of a comeback. Much of the hardware isn’t as easy to get as it once was, although it seems to be more popular again now than it has been for a very long time.

One problem to be overcome with wet plate, though, is actually loading the plates into a large format camera. You typically can’t just use a regular sheet film holder. At least, not without alteration. In this video, photographer Markus Hofstätter shows us how he modifies his 8×10 film holders for the wet plate process.

You will need some tools for this, as double darkslide sheet film holders are fairly solid, and you’ll want to cut out a hole in order to be able to fit your plate in there. Markus begins by laying a plate down on top of the holder and marking the area that needs to be cut out, which he starts with drills and then completes with a Jigsaw.

Small holes are then drilled in the corners and wire is epoxied in to form a stopper to keep the plate in the appropriate position. Essentially, the front of the plate needs to sit in the same position within the camera as the front of the ground glass focusing screen. This way, after you’ve focused your shot, the scene is still focused where it’s supposed to be once you drop in the plate.

Once the epoxy is set, parts are sanded to remove any burrs, and any exposed metals or non-black parts are painted black to minimise any unwanted reflections inside the camera.

Markus also shows in the video how he constructed his adjustable lens support system. After all, these large cameras can get quite heavy, and things can easily flex and twist if you’re not careful.

Markus has started detailing several of his DIY projects for wet plate photography on his YouTube channel, and you can see Part 1 here for the camera base. There will be no doubt more to come.

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