How to Use a Holga as a Handheld Wet Plate Camera


Wet plate photographer Ian Ruhter has received a good deal of attention over the past year for using a custom camera van to create giant collodion process metal photos. When he’s not turning large sheets of metal into photographs, he’s sometimes working on the opposite side of the spectrum.

One of his recent interests has been shooting pint-sized photos using a Holga toy camera that he converted into a wet plate camera.

To help other photographers play around with the same concept, Ruhter created this 5-minute video showing the camera and teaching how it’s used:

You won’t need to do any major hardware modifications. A simple tape-up of the rear cover and some carefully sized aluminum plates are all you need (assuming you have all the other necessary wet plate supplies).




I think as photographers we get in a rhythm of playing by rules that were written by others. I feel this applies to life as well. To live by rules that were created by others we may never find out who we really are. — Ian Ruhter



Here are some photographs Ruhter has captured using his Holga wet plate camera:










(via ISO 1200)

Image credits: Photographs by Ian Ruhter

  • snooze…

    So, tell me again why the thousands of other people who have been doing this for years were ignored? And sorry, but what’s so special about the images shown above? I’m so sick of boring photography being lauded as revolutionary simply because of process. Show me something NEW!

  • snooze

    that is to say, thousands of others have done this… it’s really not that new, or even exciting to me.

  • April

    If people are going to complain that this has already been done then they need to remember that most everything has been done before. You’re using a digital camera so does that mean what you’re doing has already been done? I like how Ian states that no matter what type of camera you’re using, the whole point is to have fun. So if you’re having fun and you like what you’re producing, then who cares what others think. I think it’s cool that he’s showing the feasibility of doing wet plate photography.

  • Soroush Salehian

    just an FYI, the list for the Wet Plate Supplies is broken.

  • Justin

    So Snooze, have you ever done wet plate photography? Are you even a photographer? So, what makes the following plates above boring?

  • Kodachrome64

    Now I REALLY want to see your work. Please share a link of the work you’re doing that’s new and unboring.

  • KH

    I think this is just great. Well done, I loved the images.

  • Swade

    You see people doing 4 foot wetplates often which requires a camera the size of an ice cream truck?

  • Wallerus

    Great post and great photographer to highlight. I think he really gets what photography is all about. Mike, please ignore those who seem to think this photo blog is the only source for photography and complain when others are highlighted in your posts. Sheesh, there’s so much talent out there, go find it!

  • DamianMonsivais

    Its been done…hehe

  • DamianMonsivais

    Snooze he has a point.

    Its great that hes using wet plate collodion process and truck size plates which are an amazing feat….. but that’s all it is…so far. maybe he can really use the process and marry it with a great idea. Other then the process just being the idea.

    and some hardcore collodion guys might say the photos are a little sloppy.

  • Eziz

    If you want something new, google it!

  • Guest

    Another wanna be artist who wants attention and to be known as different and instead looking silly. His whole looks with the silly hat and the semi short sleeve shirt and gloves with the toy camera tells me all I need to know about him.

    If he wants to have fun then so be it, it’s a free country, but to actually want to pass this crap off as art requires more than doing exactly what thousands of other people already did when this was the only tool they had. Right now he has access to the best tools and instead of using a modern camera to take pictures that are going to be challenging with the right lighting, color, etc. he hides behind a toy camera to create toy pictures.

    Sad part is some people actually look at this crap as art.

  • tttulio

    why bother with those crap lenses and small size?
    Any polaroid 110/ 250 /180 etc can do much better than that

  • f/8andshutthefupalready

    I have to complain about the complainers here for a second- sometimes it’s downright funny to read the comments looking for the people who like to point fingers, but COME ON already- shut up! Please! Remember the expression “when you point a finger at someone you are pointing four back at yourself”! Oh yeah.
    Happy Holidays! Dicks.

  • Mansgame

    I just use Nikon @ 24 MP’s and send the Tiff file Mpix or some other lab and get a flawless picture instead of pretending I live in the 1800’s.

  • Danielle Skodak

    This is the kind of stuff I want to do, and screw those who don’t call it art. I’d also love to try my hand at 80 light set ups in studio and the recreation of historical paintings using film..those are art, why can’t something like this be art? There isn’t anything original anymore, it’s been done or thought of before, it’s about how YOU do it :)

  • Dee

    Can’t you accept that some people or many people don’t want “flawless” pictures? that they enjoy the aesthetic of toy camera? they enjoy trying old technology, different way of taking photos.

  • Swade

    He is doing something cool. He’s using it to make relationships and get people connected. He wants to tell peoples’ stories who he meets in his travels. He makes parties out of his pictures. He has gatherings with food and good times. He brings people together with his wet plate photography. I’d much rather see that then have him do some conceptual idea that brings no benefit to anyone. I believe he thinks the people and subjects in his photographs are more important than the actual photograph.

  • Mansgame

    Nope. Because people in the 1800’s weren’t taking pictures like that for the fun of it and would have rather had a new D800.

  • Swade

    So you have no connection to actually making a wet plate? Some people love the process. I really don’t think his focus is on the pictures, but the people. Y’all seem to focus so damn much on your image and not what is in the image.

  • Dee

    We are talking about people in 21st century, i’m sure that they know very well that they can use digital cameras, but you see, for fun the will use whatever they think is fun, if you don’t agree that is fine, but you just have to agree that the definition of “fun” is different for everyone, and that is fine, the world will be boring place if we all use and do the same thing.

    BTW, i prefer digital cameras, but i don’t see anything wrong with trying old tech for the fun of it.

  • DamianMonsivais

    This may be true but it doesn’t come across in the images.
    And to have party’s with food doesn’t seem to change anything or relate to the images, just shows him being “hip” and “artsy”.

    Again the images have to say this and so far its just the process screaming at you ..nothing more

  • DamianMonsivais

    Does mansgame stick his d in the d800 or what?

    “I love my camera, ooh it has 24 mpx, its o much better then anything and everyone sucks” —-Thats Mansgame——- in love with his technology and not photography.

    I criticized the guys inability to use the medium not that he used it.

    And a 4×5’s carry more detail then the d800 soooooooooo yeah.

  • DamianMonsivais

    the word art being thrown around like a nuddie magazine

  • corey zwegers

    The photo of the truck driver turned out great! It’s not a perspective I see too often, if ever. The reflection of the tree was timed perfectly. These (portraits) would be great photos on a D800 too…

  • John Waller

    There is an iPhone app for this – Instagram. Saves me the trouble.

  • April

    It’s all subjective. Some people would say the above photos don’t have any significance subject-wise/conceptually, but then others would love it. It’s all who you’re talking to.

  • hogan

    This is so awesome! I’m wanting to take a wet plate class now, digital can get a bit boring and artificial in my opinion. Thanks for posting this article!

  • Wayne Lennon Photo

    Something new like making larger prints than have been made before?
    Or using strobes to light a wet plate photograph?

    These are new, they are mixing styles and creating interesting work. Isn’t that what art is? Something interesting.

  • Dreamer Leo

    Very cool! Ian sounds like a person with a lot of heart.

  • Jo

    rediculous art-speakers. IAN, you have sparked a passion I long forgot. Thank you for sharing your work. I am forever indebted.

  • Jo

    i totally disagree. Nobody, in the 1800’s, took photographs without PASSION for process. It was not affordable as a hobby. Instant gratification was received thru the process.

    Today we call “process” the altering of an image in lightroom to make it flawless or to mimic something using…what are they called??? ACTIONS. the whole connection has been lost for most with the digital age.

    That’s not to say that all who take digital images are passion-less folks. I’m just saying that someone who would disregard another’s process as crap, or irrelevant has no idea what passion feels like when holding a camera to their eye.

    i remember spending HOURS in my darkroom but only after spending hours with my roll of 36 exposure film…..making sure not to waste a single shot……”Make it count” was my mantra. It was a high unlike any other.

    Here’s to hoping you try on a different perspective in this new year.

  • Stimpson

    people in these days seem to be very bored, spoiled and nihilistic. instead they could try to feel something Рbe passionate about something Рthink positive…