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Video: Using wet-plate collodion photography process for high-end food photography: Digital Photography Review


Photographer Markus Hofstaetter works with the wet-plate collodion process. While this process is typically seen with portraiture — and Hofstaetter does that, too — he recently teamed up with food photographer and chef Hans Gerlach to use the wet-plate process for food photography. The results are excellent.

In a blog post, Hofstaetter discussed how he met with Gerlach and set up his equipment for food photography. Hofstaetter bought a 150kg Cambo studio stand earlier this year and then found a tray for it on eBay. Gerlach was the eBay seller, and the two got to talking, deciding they’d like to work together on a project. Gerlach brought food over, and they grabbed some plants from Hofstaetter’s garden.

It’s unusual to see monochromatic food photography. After all, the vibrant colors of the food are often part of the overall composition. Wet-plate collodion photography is monochromatic. Further, the process only sees blue light, making it different from traditional black and white film photography and much different from digital photography. The process makes red colors appear black and blue colors appear white, with other colors falling somewhere along that spectrum. It impacts how Hofstaetter and Gerlach had to think about the food and how the plates were organized.

Another consideration is perspective. Wet-plate cameras can be quite large, making them difficult to work with in small spaces or to shoot from an overhead view. Hofstaetter opted for a 13 x 18cm format Mentor camera and a 250mm Zeiss Tessar lens that can be stopped down to F16 without requiring a lot of light. Speaking of light, two 9000ws Hensel generators were used for lighting the scene.

Image credit: Markus Hofstaetter

During the shoot, there were some difficulties. A few plates weren’t coming out as expected, and Hofstaetter had to figure out what was going wrong. Was it the fixer, developer or something else? It turns out it was the silver nitrate bath, so he mixed up a new solution. There were also issues with the plate holder, resulting in scratched plates. Hofstaetter made on-the-fly modifications to solve the problem.

He also worked with some larger 18 x 24cm plates, as well, paired with a 150-year-old Dallmeyer 2b Petzval lens. The smaller plates were scanned at 200MP, and the larger plates were scanned at 300MP. You can see more photos here. It’s incredible how detailed images shot with such an old lens can be.

Image credit: Markus Hofstaetter

To learn more about the equipment Hofstaetter uses for wet-plate photography, check out his shopping list. If you’d like to view more of Hofstaetter’s work, we’ve covered his photography before:

Video: Shooting wet plate portraits with affordable large format camera equipment

Video: Photographer uses a 4×5 large format camera and expired film for wildlife photography

This crazy fire-and-water wedding portrait was shot in a single exposure

Behind the scenes: Capturing creepy Halloween wet plate portraits

Shooting wet plate collodion double exposures…handheld


(Images used with permission from Markus Hofstaetter)



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