Wet-plate collodion photography with Peter Renn

Ref: S3D31837

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About this course

This is a practical hands-on course covering all aspects of the wet collodion process, making negatives, ambrotypes and tintypes on original nineteenth century equipment.

Course Description

This course is for anyone interested in early photographic processes. Whether you are a photographer looking to expand your practice into wet-plate photography or you have a purely academic interest in how photographs were made in the mid-nineteenth century, this is an opportunity to make authentic photographs on glass or metal plates, using original equipment and authentic practices.

You will explore Frederick Scott Archer's Wet Collodion Process of 1851 by practical means: making photographs from first principles. As well as the historical context, the contemporary upsurge in interest in the collodion process is covered.

Through this the aim is to achieve a sound knowledge of the processes of preparation, exposure and processing of wet collodion photographs.You will acquire confidence in using all materials and processes involved and to have an understanding of the requirements for equipment (cameras, lenses, darkroom equipment, etc.).

On completion, you should be proficient and confident in: using a large format plate camera; preparing and coating plates; processing images and preserving; mounting and displaying finished photographs. Naturally, everyone gets to keep everything they have made.

On the first evening, there will be an introductory talk, covering historical context, potential and expectations.

On the first full day, we will cover:

Safe handling and use of chemicals and materials

Using a nineteenth century plate camera*

Exposure measurement and control

Preparation of plates

Processing images

On the second full day, we will continue working with the cameras, with everyone having an opportunity to make photographs. We will work both inside and outside (weather permitting), using the unique environment of the college and its grounds as much as possible.

* This course is described as Intermediate/Advanced as some prior knowledge of film-based photography is desirable. However, it is not essential.

Please note: Due to the potential hazards of using some of the chemicals involved, for health and safety reasons some processes may be carried out solely by the tutor, for you to observe. It will also be essential that a PPE dust mask, eye protection and disposable gloves are worn for handling chemicals and aspects of this course - supplied.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • On this course, the tutor will supply all of the materials, including chemicals and up to eight half-plate size images in a mix either glass or aluminum.

What students need to bring

  • Many people like to make portraits with this process. Special costume is not necessary, but if you have a favourite outfit or prop, do please bring things along! Anything goes – the more surreal the better.
  • An apron and appropriate clothing and covered non-slip footwear

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • You won’t need to buy anything from the shop as materials will be supplied.
  • Available from tutor:
  • Everything will be supplied for images up to half-plate (approx. 5 x 6in) size. More plates in glass or aluminium will be available to buy from the tutor if you want to make large images (up to 12 x 15in.).

Additional information

Wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear i.e. no open-toes or sandals. Safety boots, if specified.


Peter Renn

Long established as a photographer, printmaker and educator, Peter Renn has been working in photography since the late 1980s. He has made editorial, fashion and advertising work for clients nationally and internationally. He has also taught all ages and abilities including smaller groups such as photography societies and private clients.  With specialist expertise in large format, film and darkroom-based work he is particularly interested in historic processes and alternative/experimental forms of image making.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.