View Full Version : Our Recent Silver Bromide Gelatin Emulsion Workshop

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Mark Osterman
04-02-2013, 11:11 PM
Looking Back at the Recent Workshop

We scheduled a four day silver bromide gelatin emulsion workshop at George Eastman House this March and the response was very encouraging. Soon after posting our 2013 workshop series we filled the first workshop ... and with the people on the "wait list" we had enough to schedule a second session for the next week. The premise was simple; to teach the very basics of silver bromide emulsion making. Nothing fast; just easy to make and clean working. In the past two years we had already taught workshops in Gas Light [AZO] silver chloride emulsion for paper and Collodion Chloride printing out emulsion, so this seemed to be the next step.

Each four day workshop when like this. With the help of volunteer research assistants Nick Brandreth and Chris Holmquist and my good friend Ron Mowrey, we demonstrated how to make an actual emulsion with the lights on so that it was easier for the class to see and also to take reference pictures. We then divided the class into two groups that made their own emulsions in separate darkrooms with the help of Nick/Ron and Dave/me. After the first day we had our emulsions, which were noodled and washed the next morning.

Glass plates were cut, cleaned, coated and dried. While they dried the entire group went to the photograph archives to see masterworks of gelatin silver prints and early hand coated negative plates. They also saw rare antique emulsion making and coating equipment from the Eastman Dry Plate and Eastman Kodak Company in the technology collection. After the plates were dry, the class made exposures using an old 4x5" press camera on the Eastman House property. The test plates were developed and processed and the dried plates evaluated the next day. The rest of the workshop provided the class enough time for everyone to coat, expose and process eight 4x5 plates..followed by evaluation and class discussions which included the theory of how to make the same emulsion more sensitive. At the end of the last day Chris gave a demonstration of coating paper and subbed film stock.

We were very pleased with the pace of our schedule, the energy of the groups and the great results. All the groups made emulsions that were virtually fog free, had amazing density potential and could be used for a variety of printing options depending on the developer choice. We'll schedule this workshop again for 2014 and we're contemplating adding a more advanced class [faster speed and increased spectral sensitivity] if we see that there's interest and people who have already basic skills. If we do this, it will no doubt include using a film coating machine for 2 1/4 and 35 mm.

I've attached a few images from the workshop.


Our next emulsion workshop is in May featuring collodion chloride printing out paper emulsion with both gold and platinum toning. The easiest emulsion to make and produces a very sophisticated factory like finish. See: http://www.eastmanhouse.org/events/eventSeries.php?title=photo-workshops

Ken Nadvornick
04-02-2013, 11:21 PM
That is soooo cool...

(That can't be PE in the background, can it? He looks so young.)



04-03-2013, 12:00 AM
+1 It's damn cool.

Those of us on the west coast are green with envy!!!!!! I know I am. I wish we could have had such a workshop in the Pacific NW!

04-03-2013, 12:11 AM
Mark/Ron/Nick/Chris - Thanks for all you do to teach others! Looks like fun! Rochester might be calling one day...

04-03-2013, 01:00 AM
Mark/Ron/Nick/Chris - Thanks for all you do to teach others! Looks like fun! Rochester might be calling one day...


Bob Carnie
04-03-2013, 09:36 AM
I met with Ron and Chris a couple of months back and saw some of their coated prints, very exciting work , Ron is wonderful to talk with as he is very forthcoming with ideas and advice.
Chris is a great dude as well and is coming to work with Ron Reeder, Sandy King here in Toronto for a couple of weeks. We plan to keep him very busy for the two weeks he is in our hands.

Photo Engineer
04-03-2013, 11:14 AM
Thanks Bob. Thanks Mark.

We hope to have many more of these workshops, and we are always happy to meet with people, as long as schedules permit.

Both Mark and I have run workshops at the Formulary ( in the Pacific NW ). Sorry that those of you on the left coast missed them.


04-03-2013, 11:21 AM
So you've the left and right coast covered, what about the "middle coast" and "down coast"?

Photo Engineer
04-03-2013, 01:07 PM

Mark and France have the middle and down covered with workshops. Mark is going to WY next week and France has been to NM teaching. Mark has also been to MN (IIRC) within the last month. Of course he is about 2 decades younger than I am!

Take a workshop and then go into the teaching business yourself! :)

Others have done it!


04-03-2013, 03:07 PM
There is no excuse. If I can fly over from the UK and have a very enjoyable week, anyone can. It was a privilege to work with so many nice people in pleasant surroundings.

And of course at Eastman House which of course adds to the magic of the place. This is one of my attempts.
Mark and Co. were great teachers guided of course by the Master!



Mark Osterman
04-03-2013, 03:33 PM
We had people from the left coast as well as England attend. It's like that with all our workshops. Denise Ross is much closer to you...ask her to do a workshop.

Mark Osterman
04-04-2013, 07:32 PM
More pictures from our two recent bromide emulsion workshops. We had a real mix of crazy weather both weeks. Still, we made over 100 negatives and had some very nice test plates.


04-04-2013, 08:21 PM
Looking good! Thanks for the share!

04-04-2013, 09:02 PM
Mark/Ron/Nick/Chris - Thanks for all you do to teach others! Looks like fun! Rochester might be calling one day...

Yes, I'd like to thank you all for your hard work running the workshop! I really enjoyed it and look forward to making the emulsion we learned at home (I' gathering what I need)

04-04-2013, 09:53 PM
Can I ask a silly question, I've never considered making my own emulsion to coat plates, film, paper, etc., but why does it seem that the workshops I have seen that create materials create types that are not often avail (eg a bromide only paper, which I believe is only made in matte by Slavich, AZO which only one company sells, or a slow ISO film 25 or so - which is not even made anymore, I think)? See my point? It's like these workshops teach how to make materials that are limited or impossible to get!

Disclosure - I'm a fan of slooooowwwww film and bromide paper! Why's it seem the few places making this kind of great goods is at these kind of workshops?! I think you all are drawing me in :)

Would love to make a tips to Rochester to see where it all began ( in the states at least)

Photo Engineer
04-04-2013, 10:08 PM

Each emulsion is specific to a given target purpose. Also, you cannot run before you walk. So, you learn in stages and you move in the direction you want most. A paper emulsion is AgCl or AgClBr. A film emulsion is AgBr or AgBrI and the method to make them is different.

So, if you ever get oranges from an apple tree, let me know! :D


04-04-2013, 10:22 PM
Makes sense. I just want to see one of you all selling these neat materials!

04-04-2013, 10:40 PM
Actually I had no problem finding the chemicals required at Artcraft Chemicals or Photographer's Formulary with the exception of thymol. I spoke to a nice lady at Photographers Formulary today and she said suppliers only want to sell them huge amounts which used to not be the case. The only expensive material is, as you'd expect, silver nitrate. Is there a substitute preserative for thymol???

Photo Engineer
04-04-2013, 11:51 PM
You can do without Thymol if you use the emulsion right away (within about 1 month). After that, all bets are off.


05-25-2013, 08:25 PM
It was a great workshop.
I am now shooting with my 2nd home brewed batch of emulsion. I tried slowing down the injection of the silver nitrate. No noticeable speed increase.

Please keep me informed if there is an advanced class next year. Thanks.