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Photography History

Tintypes (also known as a Ferrotype) are a photograph made on a thin piece of metal. One side of the metal is coated black to create contrast. This is the side the photograph is taken on. These are one of a kind artifacts because there is no negative, so no way to make duplicates. The image “struck” on the metal is a reverse image.

At H.H. Bennett Studio & Museum we provide two options

for an authentic historic lens to capture your one-of-a-kind image that will last a lifetime.

A couple pose in the studio looking frightened, in the foreground their tintype shows two young girls standing behind them... that aren't in the live image... spooky! Striking your tintypes can be fun!


A woman sits in a studio getting ready to pose for her portrait, the image reads "step 1 take a seat! (if you move, the photo will turn out blurry)"
A woman sits with her head braced, viewed from behind the image reads "step 2 head brace is applied to ensure you don't move"
A man works in a dark room this image reads "step 3 the wet plate is prepared in the dark room"
A zoomed in shot of the woman's portrait, upside down, with slight cross hairs visible. This image reads "step 4 you are positioned correctly in the camera"
The man sets up the camera and positions it in front of the woman, this image reads "step 5 striking your portrait!"
The man works in the red lit dark room preparing the tintype, this image reads "step 6 wet plate developed using secret ingredients from studio."
Someone pours a liquid substance over the negative appearing image in a metal tray, this image reads "step 7 fixer is applied"
The woman appears in her final picture, in black and white tintype, smiling serenely off camera a slight smile on her face, chin resting on her fist. This image reads "step 8 finished product"

THE FERROTYPE: 1856-1900

Also called melainotype or more often tintype, was America’s first major contribution to the art of photography. These tintypes were made in the same way as an ambrotype except that a thin piece of black enameled iron was used in place of glass. Like the ambrotype, the image is reversed.

Ferrotypes were made from thumbnail size to as large as 11”x14”. With the introduction of multi-lensed cameras with sliding backs in the early 1860’s, the more typical small sizes were made in volume. These were usually mounted in card mounts of the popular cart-de-visite size.

Being on a metal plate with its surface varnished, ferrotypes have proven to be very durable. The ferrotype superseded the ambrotype by the end of the Civil War and went on to become 19th century America’s favorite quick picture.


The Studio Experience for tintypes


Step back in time and experience the historic photography studio like never before! H.H. Bennett Studio & Museum is one of the few places left where you can have your portrait “struck” using the same wet plate photography method used by H.H. Bennett, in the same studio, over 100 years ago. Learn about this type of photography all while the authentic historic lens captures your one-of-a-kind image that will last a lifetime.

A woman is posed like her tintypes which is held in the foreground to compare.
Guest posing during The Studio Experience and her final tintype!

A tintype (also known as a ferrotype) is a photograph made on a thin piece of metal. One side of the metal is coated black to create contrast. This is the side the photograph is taken on. These are one of a kind artifacts because there is no negative, so no way to make duplicates. The image “struck” on the metal is a reverse image.

Much like a tintype, it is the same process but on glass. A black backing is put against it once complete which creates contrast to see the photograph.

A studio session is approximately 45 minutes long. We’ll share with you some history of H.H. Bennett and the family’s studio and you’ll learn about historic photography while getting your very own portrait “struck”. This is historic photography so any subject will need to sit still anywhere from 5 to 20 seconds per photograph. Don’t worry, you can still breathe and blink normally!

Of course! If you can hold a smile for 5 to 20 seconds, please do. Many of our guests like to look “historic” by not having a full smile with teeth showing.

This type of photography loves blue and red. Blue will look white (including those with bright blue eyes!) and red will look black. Keep these things in mind when it comes to clothing and makeup choices. Fun patterns are always encouraged but remember, if you wear items with writing on them, the image will be reversed with the writing backwards!

No. We do not provide any costumes to wear. If however you have something specific, even if it is a costume, you would like to wear, you are welcome to do so. Don’t want to wear it here? That’s ok, we have restrooms for you to change in.

No. Your tintype image must first dry and then be heat varnished overnight so it is archivally stable enough to last for many years - maybe even hundreds! You can pick it up in person the following day when it is ready, or if you are unable to return we can ship it to you.

This is wet plate photography and requires some chemistry, which doesn’t always cooperate. Don’t worry, you will see your portrait turn from a negative to a positive right before your eyes! You will know what it looks like before you leave and if there’s a problem, we will take it again during your session at no extra cost. We want you to be happy with how you look! This is not a “one and done” type of photography session.

DigiType photograph of a tintypes


We understand coming to our studio is not always an option, so we are bringing this unique experience right to you. Following the same methods H.H. Bennett perfected over 100 years ago, the DigiType enhances your favorite photo. We create a stunning image by transforming your treasured memory into a one-of-a-kind work of art on metal, a timeless heirloom that can be passed down for generations to come.

a photo of a cow on the lower left corner and tintypes of the cow on the upper right corner
Cow digital image and the resulting tintype!

We advise you to NOT send us your original photo as we cannot guarantee it will be returned! We do need a copy of your original. We encourage you to scan and send a copy of your image to us digitally at a high resolution (at least 300 dpi), so we can provide you with the best quality tintype we can offer.

If you do not have a digital copy and there is no way for you to generate one, you may send us a physical copy of your original. Please reach out to us to discuss options and details.

Your personal photograph can be either! We do want to remind you that historic wet plate photography like what we are using is sensitive to certain colors. For example, reds will turn dark or to black and blues will turn white or look light. If your original photograph is black and white the same or similar shades and tones will be seen in your tintype as in your original image.

If you would like more than one tintype of the image you send us, we will need to do the same process multiple times. It would be as if you sent us the same photo over and over again. There is no way to digitally reproduce the original tintypes we are creating for you. It will be the same fees per each tintype made.

Unfortunately, we cannot make any edits to your original photo. The photo you send is what we will be reproducing.

That’s ok! As mentioned, if you have to send a physical copy of your photograph we will need to discuss details with you directly. In sending us a digital copy of your image we will print it to the size we need, this is why it needs to be a high-quality digital image/scan.

Yes and no! Your tintype will be in black and white. As mentioned in another question, if you send us a color photo, wet plate photography will be sensitive to specific colors. Reds will turn dark or black, blues will turn white or light.

Also, your image will be laterally reversed, meaning it will be flipped around. For example, if you’re seated on the left of your photo, in the tintype you will look like you’re on the right. Keep this in mind if there are any insignia or words in the image you send us as they will be backwards. We can flip your digital copy of the tintype you’ll receive around, but the physical tintype will be reversed.

Any agreement of rights of usage for any professional images are between you and the original photographer. In sending us a photograph, you should be the owner of that image and have the right to reproduce that image.

Some images simply may not lend themselves to a high-quality tintype. The coloring may cause issues, it may not be high enough quality, etc. These issues will be addressed as needed on a case by case basis.

These one-of-a-kind pieces of art start at just $65! They include one tintype of your original photo shipped to you in a branded sleeve and a digital copy of your tintype for you to share with friends and family.


Peruse the options below to upgrade your tintype for an additional fee (plus tax) while on-site during your pre-booked Studio Experience.

Much like a tintype, ambrotype is the same chemical process but on a plate of glass. A black backing is put against it once complete which creates contrast to see the photograph as a positive image.

additional charge of $20

additional $50 each (plus tax)

Instead of the standard 4x6 size, transform your photograph into a larger 5x7!

upgrade for $20 (plus tax) 

additional size for $75 (plus tax)

Order a simple wood frame in black or walnut (4x6 or 5x7) - $20 (plus tax)

Order a Victorian ornate frame in gold or walnut with gold accents (4x6 or 5x7) - $40 (plus tax)

Dave prepares to take photo to create  tintypes of an older couple sitting and holding hands in mildly old fashioned clothing.