Salt Prints vs. Albumen

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by Vlad Soare, Mar 4, 2011.

  1. Vlad Soare

    Vlad Soare Member

    Messages:
    253
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2009
    Location:
    Bucharest, R
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Hello,

    What are the practical differences between salt and albumen prints? The ingredients (excluding albumen, of course) are more or less the same, and the chemical reactions are the same. Are albumen prints just glossy salt prints and nothing more?
    Are there any other advantages of albumen over salt (or maybe the other way around), apart from the glossy finish?
    Actually, what I'm trying to ask is: "if I wanted to try out one of these processes, which one should I start with, and why?" :smile:

    And, while we're at it, how do they compare to vandyke prints? I've been playing with vandyke for a while, and I think I can control it pretty well now, and I can get nice prints quite easily. Is there any good reason to switch to salt or albumen? By good reason I don't mean slight differences in color (pinkish salt prints versus brown vandykes), or glossy versus matte finish, but rather contrast control, d-max, detail and gradations, print permanence, etc.

    Thank you.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2011
  2. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    9,521
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Salt prints will be easier to do because they don't require aging albumen. Your house won't smell of slightly rotten eggs.
     
  3. degruyl

    degruyl Member

    Messages:
    123
    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2009
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Or you could buy albumen coated paper from Alt Photo Products. I'd go with salt prints or van Dyke, first, though.
     
  4. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    20,104
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    salt prints require a negative with higher contrast.
    i don't think you need such extreme contrast with albumen,
    and ( for albumen) you can probably use the same negatives you have been using for vdb.
     
  5. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,047
    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2004
    Location:
    Lehi, Utah
    Shooter:
    ULarge Format
    Vlad,

    Look for the "James" book on alternative photography. Get a copy from Bostick and Sullivan. I know it's a bit expensive, but it's really a great reference. If you can find "Keepers of Light", a good one as well for alt processes.

    I have to agree that Van Dyke would be a great place to start with the alt process. Albumen and Salt have markedly different pallets of color as well. Van Dykes look more like Platinum prints.

    Salt prints are quite nice. I print quite a bit of that myself. I have a way to vary the contrast of the emulsion so I can better match my negatives. Jon is correct, without the ability to match contrast ranges on the negative, it's hard to get a decent salt print. One needs to tone in gold as well with salt. Really quite pricey now days. :sad:

    However, since you have tried Van Dyke, why not move on to Salt next. If you want a copy of my formula, feel free to PM me and I can help you out with contrast adjustment.

    If you want to find my Salt prints on Facebook, They will give you an example of what they can look like.
     
  6. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

    Messages:
    326
    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2007
    Location:
    Staten Islan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have found that albumen prints appear a bit sharper than salt prints. Also, some albumen prints I made about 15 years ago have yellowed, while salt prints made at the same time are fine. Both those processes require gold toning to get rid of the rather unpleasant orange color they exhibit without toning, although others may disagree. And I didn't detect any odor coming from the aged albumen. Perhaps because it's just the whites, or perhaps because of the small addition of acetic acid. BTW, I've found found palladium printing to be the easiest, most predictable of all the old processes. Think about it, no fixer!
     
  7. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    9,521
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Platinum/Palladium is quite easy. Even easier is Ziatype, which is a variant on Palladium. Ziatypes are printing-out images, instead of develop-out, so they're really very much what-you-see-is-what-you-get. And they have the added bonus of being able to adjust not only the contrast but also the image tone with chemistry. You can add gold chloride, sodium tungstate, or ammonium dichromate to control contrast and color. If you go heavy on the gold chloride, you can even produce a purple image.

    Albumen prints will definitely be sharper than salt prints because the salt emulsion is IN the paper, thus the paper texture has an impact on image resolution. With albumen, the emulsion sits on top of the albumen layer and is not absorbed into the paper fibers. If you want sharpness, then albumen is the way to go - if you want something a bit more textural and less literal, salt prints would be better.
     
  8. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

    Messages:
    2,156
    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2005
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Yes, albumen prints are sharper than their salt predecessors. In fact, that is the reason workers began experimenting with albumen.

    They do require the same DR if they are to be printed well and easily. The oldest negative i have printed with salt was from the 1840's,a paper negative. Shadow density=.32, HL density = 2.6.

    Since printing that negative for a museum I make my negatives match the shadow density and DR as closely as possible. As a result, no contrast manipulation is needed.

    These two processes are like all others, if the correct negative is produced, the printing is relatively easy.

    Although I have a very high intensity UV source, if I want a 19th century look, I use the sun.
     
  9. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,494
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2004
    Location:
    Bath, OH 442
    Shooter:
    ULarge Format
    Jim,

    Could you talk a little on how the looks differ? Does this change show in the other processes mentioned?

    Thank you.

    John Powers
     
  10. 77seriesiii

    77seriesiii Member

    Messages:
    98
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Location:
    Germany
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    when using a UV source your prints will come up faster and from what we have seen (wife and I) the contrast is different (higher with a uv source than sun). The recommendation for printing w/ sun is placing your contact frame in shadow versus direct sunlight. having done all the above (sun, shadow, uv source) it really depends on what your negative looks like. We shoot collodion and film, colldion negatives are easier to print to a traditional (alternative) paper process. When shooting film I originally just shot for alternative printing, now I'll shoot a few negatives (one for alternative and the other for sodium chloride paper.

    In our processing, because we live in Central Germany and sunlight from october thru March sucks, we have elevated our uv source further from contact frame in an attempt to process less harshly, this extends our exposure, slowing down the 'development' allowing the process to self mask. the long and short, it is difficult to explain but easy to see. Do a few prints and play around, get the experience and judge for yourself. For us the differences from UV to sunlight is very easy to see (due primarily to our location - winter time sunlight exposures can take upwards of two days and that is in direct sunlight). Based on your posted location of Ohio, I'm sure you will have different results than outs. I have egg whites in the fridge that are close to a year old, not a bad smell (wife hasnt told me to make more or thrown it out - that's my reference point :smile: )

    have fun

    erick
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 6, 2011
  11. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,494
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2004
    Location:
    Bath, OH 442
    Shooter:
    ULarge Format
    Thank you for the explanation.

    John
     
  12. Vlad Soare

    Vlad Soare Member

    Messages:
    253
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2009
    Location:
    Bucharest, R
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    So, I take it the only reason for choosing albumen would be a slight increase in sharpness and a glossier surface. Otherwise, they're both the same as far as exposure, processing, contrast, color, toning properties, permanency, etc. are concerned. Is this correct?

    Are they more susceptible to fogging than vandyke? Unlike vandyke, where the photosensitive compound is an iron(III) salt, here it's silver chloride, which is used in "normal" photo papers and is sensitive to visible light. I've never had fog on vandyke under incandescent white light. Will I have any problem with salt prints? Should I work under red light?
     
  13. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    17,979
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    The glossier surface of albumen also gives deeper shadows--I wouldn't call them "blacks" exactly.

    Over time all albumen prints develop tiny surface cracks from the swelling and contraction of the albumen layer, but there are lots of prints from the albumen era still around.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 8, 2011
  14. 77seriesiii

    77seriesiii Member

    Messages:
    98
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Location:
    Germany
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    On the blacks versus browns of albumen and salts...go with the previous suggestion and get the Chris James book and within you will find ways to take albumen and salt prints to different levels.

    For sharpness, paper selection plays a huge roll (outside of your negative) and you have to experiment. All of my salt prints come up a bit soft, I've never been able to get a truly sharp print...probably me (something I'm doing that I havent figured out yet). There are basic suggestions and one of the cheaper massed produced papers on the market is one of the highest recommended:

    Ruscombe: very very expensive - never used it
    Strathmore 500 (smooth late or hot press - double) very inexpensive and recommended by lots of folks - I've never used it
    cranes - like it
    arches - like it
    Zerkall book paper - really like it
    Bostick and Sullivan mass produced - like it

    We bought a bunch of paper from lots of different companies and then we just make prints to see what we like and how the paper reacts.

    Look for smooth or hot plate watercolor papers, decreases the bubble formation a bit on the paper. The tone of the paper will change the print so again play around.

    ./e
     
  15. degruyl

    degruyl Member

    Messages:
    123
    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2009
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Depending on which Ruscombe paper you are referring to, the Platinotype is very nice but is more difficult to coat than (for example) Arches. I expect that that is a difference in surface gelatin. It does give very rich, sharp van dykes / argyrotypes, though. (I don't do salt).

    Albumen would be practically identical, I suspect.
     
  16. Vlad Soare

    Vlad Soare Member

    Messages:
    253
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2009
    Location:
    Bucharest, R
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    How do you guys spread the silver nitrate solution? I have a hunch that the method I use with the vandyke sensitizer won't work with salt prints. I pour all the sensitizer in the middle of the paper, then spread it around with the brush. But I think that if I did this with salted paper then the silver nitrate would instantly react with the sodium chloride, diluting the solution instantly, so that the silver nitrate coating would get weaker and weaker with every brush stroke. I think the resulting silver chloride layer in the paper would be uneven and I'd get a streaky image. Am I right? :unsure:
     
  17. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

    Messages:
    2,156
    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2005
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    If the proper paper is utilized, sharpness is not a problem. I find it best to work with 100% cotton, 100% rag or 100% linen papers. The papers I use are 22-28 lb stationery. They are delicate but care in handling prevents tears. These papers are still heavier than the papers common during the salted paper era. I also insure that the printing frame makes very positive contact which requires additional padding on the backs of most contact frames. Older ones do not have this problem. To preserve silver nitrate I use a Magic Brush and take care not to go to the edge of the paper.
     
  18. 77seriesiii

    77seriesiii Member

    Messages:
    98
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Location:
    Germany
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    there are a few ways to spread the solution. One is to float the paper, brush it and lastly use a puddle pusher. If you use a brush try to not use one with a metal feral, the silver will react. IF you use one w/ a metal feral use clear nail polish to coat the feral (inside if possible) and that will help. Japanese hake brushes work well but pull out all the hairs and then use glue or the nail polish on the base to keep the hairs in the handle.

    float the paper is the most even coating; however it wastes lots of silver. do a search on albumen printing and take a look for some youtube videos, easier to see it. I think Bostick and sullivan have a good video. Essentially you make a boat of the paper, emulsion side down/bottom. I turn up the edges roughly .5 to 1 inch all around and i pinch the corners. Holding two corners (cade corner) I kind of roll bend the paper to form a 'U'. I place the bottom of the 'U' in the solution, lower one corner and then lower the other. If you are doing albumen, get toothpicks or pins to pop the bubbles. For salt, silver and albumen (using a clear glass pan) look up under the paper and make sure no bubbles (biggish ones) bwtn the paper and solution, you have to get rid of those otherwise no solution will attach to the paper. I have three acrylic pans for this process, one for salt solution, one for silver and one for albumen.

    puddle pusher is a variant of the brush but faster. I have tried pushing albumen around with it...I've heard its possible but as a beginner I would not recommend it, unless you have mad puddle pusher skills. For silver and salt mixutres it works well.

    Something that has made it easier is ironing the paper after the salt or albumen dries. The paper will curl like made, sometimes using film weights on the hanging edge helps. really depends on the paper used.

    The lowest weight paper we have used is 40lbs, Jim N. you are using 20ishlbs...WOW! The clarity of the 40# paper was gorgeous but man o man was it tender. I can only imagine what a 20# paper would be like. Beginners, in my opinion, do not use anything under 100#, learn the process then go to the lighter papers if desired.

    have fun

    ./e
     
  19. Vlad Soare

    Vlad Soare Member

    Messages:
    253
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2009
    Location:
    Bucharest, R
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    What? Float the paper on the silver nitrate solution? No way! I'm not that rich. At 6 euros per gram I'd go bankrupt in no time. :D

    Anyway, I think I've answered my own question. I did some calculations, and it seems that there's an excess of silver nitrate. If my math is correct, the ratio of silver nitrate to sodium chloride is approximately 2.5 times higher than the stoichiometric ratio (considering the standard recipe, with 2% sodium chloride and 12% silver nitrate). The excess of nitrate should keep the solution from getting weaker during the brushing stage. Theoretically, at least. :smile:

    In the meantime I've answered another one of my own questions, namely the one about light sensitivity and fog. I was worried that silver chloride, being used in "normal" papers, might be sensitive to visible light to a greater extent than other alternative processes. But in "normal" papers the increased sensitivity is not due to silver chloride alone, but mostly to the composition of the gelatin and to the ripening process. OK, so I guess I shouldn't worry about fog.

    I think I'll give it a try during the next week-end.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 17, 2011
  20. 77seriesiii

    77seriesiii Member

    Messages:
    98
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Location:
    Germany
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Vlad,

    What?! You dont want to waste silver on a glorious, beautiful OMG frustrating, dont get silver on the back float option? Craziness! :D I dont like floating on SN (silver maintenance, waste, etc., but for an even print it cant b beat - I save it for special images).

    You mentioned fog. Things that cause fogging in a silver nitrate print: florescent bulbs, certain LEDs, halogen bulbs...wait for it...sunlight. :laugh: Taking into account you probably arent spreading silver around in sunlight or outside, check your lights. We use 40-60w incandescent bulbs (getting harder to find so I bought a bunch) and it has worked out well. I did a test using a 100w but you have to work fast, so its not worth it. The amount of UV that a household lights put out is really too small to 'develop' a SN print; however, it will start the process earlier than you desired.

    too much SN will affect the print and the bad thing, at least what we have noticed, the SN % affects different papers differently. So many variables. Oh dont forget humidity or too much heat used during the drying process. too much heat during drying will sour the silver and the resulting image will be bad. Too little humidity and the albumen or starch used will flake/crack.

    ./e
     
  21. Vlad Soare

    Vlad Soare Member

    Messages:
    253
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2009
    Location:
    Bucharest, R
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Well, I couldn't wait until the week-end. I made my first attempt last night.
    It worked very well with the brush. I prefer this method not only because it's fast and easy, but mostly because I like the brush strokes to show at the edges of the image. I brushed the salt solution, waited for it to dry, then brushed the silver nitrate as fast as I could. It worked perfectly, and I can see no traces of uneven coating. The only difficulty is that both solutions are completely clear, and I find it hard to assess how well they've been spread on the paper. It's easy to miss a spot. The yellow vandyke sensitizer is easier in this respect.

    Unfortunately I have no suitable negatives. Even those which are contrasty enough for vandyke aren't contrasty enough for salt. You can see in the attached pictures how the same negative looks on salted paper (left) versus vandyke (right). Both prints were toned in selenium.

    Anyway, I think it's OK as a first attempt. I've got even coating, acceptable d-max (not as good as double-coated vandyke, of course, but good enough nevertheless), and good sharpness. All I need now are some over-contrasty negatives.

    Is it worth trying to increase contrast by adding a little potassium dichromate? I know it doesn't work with vandykes. Does it work with salt prints? I mean, does it really increase the contrast? Or does it merely clear the highlights, while leaving the rest of the curve unchanged, like it does with vandykes?
     

    Attached Files:

  22. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,047
    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2004
    Location:
    Lehi, Utah
    Shooter:
    ULarge Format
    Dichromate operates as a highlight restrainer. It does change the curve as it changes the curve with the Vandykes.

    The best way to see the difference, as well as measure it, is to do a print test using a step wedge.

    If you want to change the contrast of the salt print, a good method is to gold tone. A little goes a very long way, meaning I can tone 10 prints in a .1% gold solution with lots to spare.

    Toning before the fix bath has a different outcome than toning after the fix bath. If you can give it a try, you might like the outcome.

    One may also change the contrast of the salt print by manipulating the other salts in the formula.