How to Make a Daguerreotype


Daguerreotypes date back to 1840. They were the first method of capturing images and the earliest form of photography. They are made on polished silver, so they are reflective, much like a mirror. Because silver is subject to tarnish, daguerreotypes were sealed with paper tape behind glass plates so that they were not exposed to air and corrupted. Daguerreotypes were used between 1840 and 1855 before the invention of the ambrotype and the tintype. Making a daguerreotype is a delicate and lengthy process.

Step 1

Polish the silver plate as close to a mirror finish as possible using a soft cloth.

Step 2

Sensitize the plate by placing it in a sealed box filled with iodine crystals. Allow the plate to sit until it turns a purplish hue, usually up to ten minutes. When the plate is purple, remove it using the soft cloth, taking care not to touch the plate or breathe in the iodine vapors.

Step 3

Mount the sensitized plate onto the camera's film holder, and seal the camera.

Step 4

Capture the image of a well-lit, stationary object with the camera. Exposure time usually takes between 1 and 7 minutes.

Step 5

Go to a darkroom. Remove the exposed plate and tape a sheet of Amberlith film on top of it, sealing the edges with light-proof tape. Place the covered plate in the sun for two hours.

Step 6

Mix up the hypo clearing agent in a developing tray and wash the plate by gently stirring the solution until your image shows up clear in black and white. Follow this process with a water bath to remove any silver halide particles.

Step 7

Mount the image behind a piece of glass in a daguerreotype holder.

Tips and Warnings

  • Be cautious when handling hazardous chemicals. Do not touch dangerous chemicals or breathe in their vapors.

Things You'll Need

  • Silver-plated piece of copper
  • Soft cloth
  • Sealed box
  • Iodine crystals
  • Camera
  • Darkroom
  • Amberlith film
  • Light-proof tape
  • Hypo clearing agent
  • Development tray
  • Piece of glass
  • Daguerreotype holder


  • The Daguerreian Society
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About this Author

Kayla Lowe has been a freelance writer for three years and is an elementary education major who writes on virtually every subject for numerous leading online publications, such as Demand Studios and Associated Content. She is also the author of a published work, Maiden's Blush, a Christian fiction romance novel.

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