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Salt Prints

Salt prints were invented in the mid-1830s by Henry Fox Talbot. They were the dominant paper-based photographic process for producing positive prints through about 1860.

In 1847, P.E. Mathieu introduced gold toning to modify the tone of the image in salt prints. Not long after that, Blanquart-Evrard introduced a chemical development method which replaced the slow sun development procedure. Because of this, mass production was possible.

Most salt prints can be identified by their characteristic matte finish, but the tonality of images can range from light brown to reddish brown. The process involves first applying a salt solution to paper, then coating it with a silver nitrate solution.

Quick Facts

  • Roger Fenton's salt print "The Valley of the Shadow of Death" sold for $157,000 in April 2008 at Sotheby's New York
  • Salt prints were replaced by the albumen process, which gave a clearer image
  • The salt print process was the basis for Talbot's calotype process

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