Dozens and dozens of photographic processes have come and gone over the past 170 years, but none enjoyed a longer and more successful run than silver gelatin paper. Commercially produced printing out papers (POP) first appeared in France around 1860. These were collodion silver chloride papers on which the image was printed out rather than developed. This often meant long exposure times and required sunny days. In the 1880s, however, gelatin silver developing-out papers were introduced. These papers only required a short exposure under artificial light, and the latent image was later revealed by chemical development. This advancement not only increased the uniformity of prints produced, but also greatly increased the rate at which they could be created. There were initially two types of develop-out paper: gelatin silver bromide and gelatin silver chloride. Bromide papers were much faster than chloride papers and were able to be used under an enlarger.
Though most chloride papers became extinct some time ago, gelatin silver bromide papers can still be purchased, though the selection is far less than it was just a few years ago. As ink-based printing processes continue to claim their place in photography’s ever evolving history, silver based papers continue to disappear. Fortunately, for those with an interest in silver gelatin printing, creating your own light sensitive paper is easy, inexpensive and fun.
There are many recipes for making these emulsions, and some are more complicated than others. I usually recommend starting with the simplest possible procedure that enables you to achieve success. You can try something more complicated and intense, the next time around. The gelatin silver recipe presented here is a very simple unwashed three-ingredient emulsion.
Other recipes generally require more apparatus and have more steps that can include mixing, cooling, setting, shredding, washing and melting, but this one only requires mixing and applying. You don’t need an extensive inventory of supplies to create emulsions and many of them can be found or adapted from items found in the kitchen section of a big box store.