Xmas present search: Antique photo mirror effect
November 5, 2018 2:05 PM   Subscribe

I've seen these charming antique booklets with mirrored photos, just like this one: https://photos.app.goo.gl/XQe68JANszcxoNVn8 I'm trying to find a service where I can send/upload a photo and have them printed/treated like this. Any tips?
posted by lapsang to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think these are daguerreotypes. They look silvery because they're actually made of silver-coated copper that have been shined. A few artists still make them, but it's very niche. Even just buying plates is expensive.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:29 PM on November 5, 2018

Yes, daguerreotypes are very old technology. I think someone with Photoshop skills could get you a version, but to get that shiny background is going to be difficult.
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 2:34 PM on November 5, 2018

There are services that will print pretty much anything on metal -- this one (not an endorsement) has a "silver" option where the white areas of the image are left as the metallic background. How the image is formatted / halftoned would affect the results, but it's possible.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:55 PM on November 5, 2018

Folks are right that it's probably a daguerreotype, but there are some other options that can get you close but much cheaper. The easiest would probably be having it printed on a thin pane of glass and mounting it in front of a silvered sheet (mirror). There are tons of places that do printing on glass — go somewhere local so you can make sure they leave off the opaque backing. For an even better approximation, flip it over so that the print is right against the silver so you won't see the thickness of the glass.

From there, the next level of difficulty would be having it printed with liquid light on a sheet of silvered metal, then varnished in place. It doesn't have quite the same level of negative-positive interplay, but can still look very cool. It's similar to collodion printing and ambrotypes.

You could also look into halo-chrome toning, which turns either the positive or the negative to a metallic silver, and if you're really adventurous, you could probably try double-toning (before and after fixing) to see whether that would give you a dual-tone complete silver image.

If you're interested in doing the liquid light on polished metal thing and can't get anyone to do it for you, let me know. It wouldn't be super cheap, but it's the sort of thing that I can do.
posted by klangklangston at 3:42 PM on November 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yes, as others have said, that is a daguerreotype. I have bought several on eBay (albeit) several years ago) for $20-$30. I even bought one that looked eerily like my grandmother and me. I haven't checked the prices in a long while though. Daguerreotypes of famous people or unusual subjects tend to be very expensive, but unknown ordinary people are not as expensive. You never know if you may find someone who resembles you.

Back in the 70s when I was in art school, a friend and I got an old 4x5" camera, dressed up in antique clothes, photographed each other, and developed the negatives. We then sandwiched the negative and a same size piece of smooth tinfoil between two pieces of glass, We built boxes of balsa wood and covered them with velvet and brocade and stitched two boxes togther (like a hinge). Very labor intensive but a pretty good fake daguerreotype.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:15 PM on November 6, 2018

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