Frequently Asked Questions

What to Expect During Your Portrait Session


Sitting Still

Many contemporary tintypists use strobe lights to get nearly instantaneous portraits. Strobe lights are an option that we offer. This option has a more contemporary aesthetic. Strobe lights will generally be used for the Basic Sessions.

Since collodion is not as sensitive to light as modern films, average exposure times at Genesee Libby Studio range from 1 to 30 seconds. You will need to sit still for this duration, but you may blink and breathe normally. We have a head rest that you may opt to use to help keep your head still during the exposure. It is painless and simply allows you to rest your head against something stable.


What to Wear

Collodion is an actinic process, meaning that it is most sensitive to blue/UV light and least sensitive to red. Blue (including jeans), pink, and light yellow will appear light or white. Green usually appears as a middle grey tone, while reds and oranges tend to look grey or black.

It is best to wear something that will contrast with your skin tone. You may bring several outfits with you if you are unsure which is your best option and we can help select something suitable.

Patterns look striking in collodion portraits. Accessories—a hat, scarf, vest, monocle, pipe, ukulele, etc.— can also add interest to your portrait. Keep in mind that since the final photograph is a direct positive it will appear reversed, and text and logos in the image will be backwards.



Since collodion is sensitive to the blue end of the spectrum, people with ruddy skin tones will tend to look darker than they do when photographed with contemporary panchromatic films. Freckles, blemishes, and sun-damage will also show up more prominently.

If you prefer, you can even out your skin tones or hide freckles with some neutral foundation. Since collodion imagery generally appears less contrasty than contemporary images some eye make-up and lipstick can also be helpful. Choose a non-glossy lipstick in red or brown tones.



For Deluxe Sessions we have many patterned and solid backdrops available, as well as a painted backdrop based on an early painting of the Lower Falls on the Genesee River. Weather permitting we can also shoot outdoors.

We frequently make portraits using a traditional style that includes more of the sitter’s body than in modern portraits. However, we are happy to emulate the modern “close-up” aesthetic as well.

While we offer the use of strobe lights to shorten your exposure time, we often opt to shoot without them. The long exposure time adds to the ethereal quality of collodion images.


Ambrotype VS Tintype

An ambrotype is a thin negative on clear glass that appears as a positive when backed with something black. We use black glass to make our ambrotypes (we use clear glass upon request). A tintype, traditionally made on a japanned (blackened) iron plate, is most often made on black aluminum these days.

The same principals apply to both ambrotypes and tintypes, they just use different materials as their substrata for the image.


After the Session

After the shoot, we will make a digital scan of the image before it is varnished. We will send you a digital file that is suitable for Internet presentation. The order can be ready for pick-up the following day.

We like to show people samples of our work. We would be grateful if you are willing to sign a release form so we can use your images for promotional purposes.