Salt Prints vs. Albumen
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?"
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.
Last edited by Vlad Soare; 03-04-2011 at 06:42 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Salt prints will be easier to do because they don't require aging albumen. Your house won't smell of slightly rotten eggs.
Or you could buy albumen coated paper from Alt Photo Products. I'd go with salt prints or van Dyke, first, though.
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.
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.
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.
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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!
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.
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.
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Originally Posted by Jim Noel
Could you talk a little on how the looks differ? Does this change show in the other processes mentioned?
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 :-) )
Last edited by 77seriesiii; 03-06-2011 at 03:06 AM. Click to view previous post history.