Albumen - Introduction, History, and Resources


Albumen was one of the most common method and the dominant process in the 19th century (around 1850’s) and it was popular because it was “user-friendly”. A man named Niepce de Saint Victor published his method that used albumen on glass, but most people complained that it was impractical for several reasons.

Niepce de Saint Victor

Louis Desire Blanquart-Evrard, a French photographer, discovered this as well and both Louis and Niepce announced their techniques around the same time.

"Photogenic Drawing - Considering that any (however trifling) improvement will not be unacceptable to those of your readers who feel an interest in this art, I have been induced to communicate the following method of preparing the paper, which, after many experiments, I find to succeed best. Wash the paper with a mixture of equal parts of the WHITE OF EGG and water, afterwards with the solution of nitrate of silver, fixing the drawing as usual with the iodide of potassium." - H.L.

With different names of people and photographers who found egg whites to be useful, some may say that H.L. was the first to discover the albumen process, however, his name was unidentified and he had his own recipes that were not the same everyone else used nor it was the same with the recipes we use now. H.L.’s recipes did not call for chlorides, but Blanquart-Evrard added this to the recipe for albumen. While most people had their own recipes back in the time - most were about the same with a few adjustments.

Le Gray (a photographer back in their time) came up with his own recipe which was egg whites mixed with 1/5 sodium chloride. It is beaten until it is frothy and then clear liquid is removed from the mixture. Let it settle for one night then the liquid is poured in a container. You have albumen, ready to use. Most photographers placed it on a tray, get a piece of paper, and kind of just dip the paper in the albumen, on one side only. To make it sensitive to the sunlight, most photographers would put one or two coats of silver nitrate (diluted solution mixed with water). The recipes we use now compared to back then are somewhat similar, except I don’t think we leave it over night to settle, everything is done on one spot and ready for albumen coating.


Portrait of Louis Desire Blanquart-Evrard, from Wikipedia

Albumen wasn’t always used on glass plates. A man named Frederick Scott Archer, suggested that albumen was better on paper as a positive print and that collodion was better for glass plates as negatives. Collodion-Albumen became the standard and this technique was used throughout until 1895, which was pretty long for a specific technique.

Some examples of Albumen Prints:


Brig in the moonlight, marine by Gustave Le Gray (1865), from Wikipedia


Lighthouse by Bradley and Rulofson (1868)


  • Sobieszek, Robert A. British Masters of the Albumen Print: A Selection of Mid-Nineteenth Century Victorian Photography. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1976. Print.

  • Reilly, James M. The Albumen and Salted Paper Book: The History and Practice of Photographic Printing, 1840-1895. Rochester, NY: Light Impressions Corporation, 1980. Print.

Lab Day - Open Lab (Arrowroot and Gelatin)

Since the professor scheduled this Monday as “TBA”, she decided to make it an optional open lab day. I thought it was a good opportunity to prepare papers because then this way, when I show up on week 11, I can just go ahead and expose them. Since I liked the albumen lab the best out of all - I decided to go with arrowroot and gelatin.

Note: This blog entry is treated as a lab report journal.

Hypothesis: Based on the experiences from the previous lab that used arrowroot and gelatin, does it make any difference when you use a different type of paper based on the quality, the brand name, what kind of materials is inside the paper, and the texture of the paper?

- Arrowroot
- Citric Acid
- Water
- NaCl (Sodium Chloride)
- Gelatin
- Bowls and foam brushes
- Burner and Pot

- Five different types of papers: Bienfang Carton Bristol Board paper, Stonehenge 100% Rag paper, Canson Watercolor paper (cold press), Strathmore Canvas paper, and Strathmore Wind-power Watercolor paper (cold press).

Our Trials/Recipes:

  • 4 g arrowroot
  • 119 ml water
  • 4 g NaCl
  • 0.5 g citric acid


  • 125 ml water
  • 1 g gelatin
  • 2.5 g citric acid
  • 2.5 g NaCl

- For each type of paper, one would be for arrowroot and another set of five papers would be for gelatin.

I made a bad batch of arrowroot the first time so I had to start over. (I didn’t constantly stir the mixture and it just became a gross clumpy mixture.) I made the arrowroot mixture by heating the water in the double boiler until it was hot. Arrowroot paste was made by mixing arrowroot with little bit of water. The paste was added to the hot water and kept stirring to prevent the clumping. NaCl was added next and then citric acid was added to the mixture. The professor commented that it was easier to use the pot directly, so that was what I did. I kept stirring until the mixture was not so cloudy. It was supposed to be clear, but I wasn’t able to get to that point.

Arrowroot was applied to five different types of paper. All of them had one coat each.

Next, the gelatin mixture was made by heating the water until it was warm then mix gelatin, citric acid, and NaCl in a double boiler and kept it warm. It was applied to five different types of papers when it was still warm.

N/A (No results yet. Wait for week 11!)


Conclusion/Summary: There is not much to comment on this, I have done this before with my group and I just thought it was a good opportunity to make new papers so I can just do the exposure on week 11 open lab day. I also thought it would be interesting to experiment with different types of papers for arrowroot and for gelatin and see if there’s any strong noticeable differences or not based on the type of paper it is and the texture of the paper.

I didn’t really deem this necessary, but I took a couple of pictures anyway. They are hard to see because of the low light condition. The windows were closed and it was very dark outside that day.



Time for another post for moar Ultimate Muscle lurve. <3



cat lady 4life.

Hmm. Definitely sounds like me. XD


cat lady 4life.

Hmm. Definitely sounds like me. XD

(via modcatlove)


Last images for the results. (I guess I really should stop using pictures of my cats… time for something new for next lab!)

Also, Bell’s images do not belong to me, it belongs to her friend who gave her permission to use the pictures for the laboratory purposes. The cats images belong to me.

So no stealing.


Results from the lab. I labeled each negative with the name, same as the data section so hopefully there’s no confusion about which one is which.


That’s the pictures from the lab day. The next two posts will show the results and the negative prints.