The salt print was the first process which allowed photographers to be able to print their images which would be fixed so that they didn’t disappear. This alternative process has become popular again, especially in the USA but some artists in the UK are also using it.
The materials needed for salt prints are:
- An empty bottle
- 12g Silver Nitrate
- 6g Citric Acid
- Hake brush. No metal ferrule. Preferably no metal by the bristles. No warm water.
- Coating glass rod
- Contact printing frame. Cheap clip frames will do.
- 100ml of distilled water or just water
- 20g of Sodium Chloride (kosher salt) or Ammonium Chloride
- 25g of sodium thiosulfate
- 2g of sodium Carbonate
- Sun light or any UV light source
- A saucer for mixing chemicals
- Plastic teaspoon
- Measuring jug
- Developing tray
- Paper to be coated. You are going to soak the paper in different baths about 5 times so the paper need to be strong enough. We used Arches Platine 310g.
- Hairdryer if you want them to dry faster (only cold air from a distance)
Step 1 – Salting
The paper that your using should be 100% acid free and it is also recommended to use paper with a smooth, which is what the Arches paper we used is.
Once you have your paper you next need to soak it in the salt bath which can be in normal light conditions and leave this for 5 minutes and then dry it. You can do as many sheets as you want in the solution as it will not deteriorate.
Step 2 – Coating
Pour the solution into a saucer and lightly dip your brush and apply the solution in quick light movements, you can also use a glass rod. The coating process needs to happen under safe light conditions.
You can double coat your paper but you need to wait for it to dry in between. The more layers you add the more sensitive the solution on the paper will be and so this will affect your exposure times.
Step 3 – Drying
In order to be able to remember which side you have coated make a mark on the corner of the paper. Let the paper sit for a few minutes before started to dry it, you can use a hair dryer to make the process faster but do it from far away and on the opposite side so it’s not directly onto the solution and make sure it’s on the cold setting. Once the paper is completely dry you should expose it as soon as possible.
Step 4 – Exposing
Place your negative on the coated paper and double check that the image will print on the right reading order.
Step 5 – Washing (first)
Leave the print in running water for 5 minutes.
Step 6 – Fixing
Leave the print in the fix for 5 minutes and constantly agitate the tray.
Step 7 – Washing (second)
Leave in running water for 5 minutes again.
Step 8 – Hypo Clearing
Leave your print in the bath for 5 minutes and agitate the tray. This bath shortens the final washing time.
Step 9 – Washing Final
Leave the print in running water for 10-15 minutes. If you do not use the hypo clearing agent this will instead need to be 20-30 minutes.
Step 10 – Drying
The image will get darker and it will lose some contrast once the print is completely dry.
Shown above are my prints from the salt print workshop, I quite liked this process but not for the images which I printed as I don’t think there’s enough detail. I also didn’t coat my paper properly so there are gaps in the image, I think that this can look interesting for some images but because it’s such a big gap I don’t think it works. It was however fascinating to do and learn how they used to do all their prints in the past when photography first began.