Tintypes are magnetic, but ambrotypes and daguerreotypes are not. The picture of a Daguerreotype has a beautiful, mirror-like appearance. The picture is only visible from certain angles. A sheet of paper with writing on it, like a mirror, will be mirrored in the image. This allows for more detail to be seen than would otherwise be possible with such a small photo.
Tintypes are unique in that they have no reverse side. There is never any way to tell if a tintype was taken up or down. This makes them fun items to collect!
Daguerreotypes were first produced in 1839 by Louis Daguerre. They are similar to modern photographs in that they use light rays to create images, but they do so using silver rather than glass plates.
Ambrotypes are earlier versions of the daguerreotype that were used from about 1835 to 1839. Instead of being coated with silver, they used copper plates which were etched with acid to create an image that could be viewed from both sides. These images can now be viewed through a microscope due to advances in technology.
Tintypes are smaller than daguerreotypes (about 3 x 5 inches vs 4 x 6 inches) and contain fewer photos per plate (usually 2-4 instead of 8).
Tintypes will attract a tiny magnet, however this technique of identification isn't infallible because some ambrotypes have a metal backing below the glass plate. Tintypes are often carved out rather crudely and are thinner than ambrotypes. The wood frame is also usually visible in the image.
The secret behind tintypes is simple: they were photographs. Before photography, people made portraits by painting pictures on canvas or wood. When cameras became available around 1840, people started using them to make copies of their paintings for preservation purposes. Since then, almost every kind of photographic material has been used for portraiture: albumen prints, daguerreotypes, cartes-de-visite, and more recently digital images.
In conclusion, a tintype is a small photograph that was popular among immigrants from Europe and America between 1855 and 1895.
The distinction is that, although a daguerreotype generated a positive picture that could be seen through glass, an ambrotype produced a negative image that could be seen through glass when it was backed with black material. The black portions of an ambrotype stay dark even when seen from an angle. This is why it is called a "negative" image.
Daguerreotypes were the first form of photography to offer photographers a way to make portraits that would not soon fade or lose their detail. Before this time, photographic images were only able to capture the moment because they required physical plates that would later have to be exposed again if you wanted to see another shot of the same subject. Once photography had been invented, people started making portraits on film instead, but they needed a way to make the pictures permanent before they could be viewed. Daguerre took this technology and made it available to everyone by reducing the cost of production and improving quality control.
Ambrotypes suffered from the same problems as daguerreotypes did - they were too expensive for most people to own and use. Only rich people could afford them. But they used the same technology, so they could also take positive images on a glass plate that would later be developed in a dark room using nitrate film.
A daguerreotype viewing experience is unlike any other type of image viewing experience. The picture does not rest on the plate's surface. Despite the fact that daguerreotypes are one-of-a-kind photographs, they may be replicated by re-daguerreotyping the original. Lithography and engraving were also used to make copies.
In addition to being one-of-a-kind, daguerreotypes are also unique in how they are viewed. The photographer would position you and your subject(s) in the field and then capture your image with a large glass plate coated with silver nitrate. When exposed to light, this coating would slowly decay, leaving an image trapped inside the plate. After about two weeks, a lab worker would wash the plate in acid to remove any remaining silver nitrate and store it in a dark box until ready to view/copy.
Once opened, daguerreotypes must be kept in a dark, cool place or they will fade over time.
Only one version of each photograph exists: the original from which copies were made. There are no prints or reproductions available for sale at any price. If you have a daguerreotype and want to share it with others, we recommend keeping it locked up in a safe deposit box or other security device.