Tutorial: How to Create a Wet-Plate Look Photography Using Photoshop


Faking the look of old films is becoming ubiquitous in the world of mobile photo sharing apps, but so far the popular apps have stuck with various films and not older photographic processes. If you want to create a photograph that mimics the look of a wet plate, it’s actually pretty easy to do in Photoshop.

Finnish photographer Lauri Laukkanen was recently inspired to create this DIY faux-filter after seeing the wet plate work of photographer Ian Ruhter, who we’ve featured here a number of times. The photograph above shows the look Laukkanen was able to achieve.

Here’s a short video tutorial in which he explains how you can do it yourself:

One of the main things you’ll need is a high-quality wet plate texture layer. As Laukkanen mentions in the video, Flickr user Clifford Sax has an account full of various textures, including a wet plate one that was used above:


Once you get your fill of this faked look, you can also try your hand at some actual wet plate photography (that’s what Laukkanen is doing!). The process has been seeing a resurgence as of late!

(via Lauri Laukkanen via ISO 1200)

Image credit: Photograph and video by Lauri Laukkanen

  • Dave

    It is easy to make a digital image look as bad as film, but you will never make film look as good as a high end digital capture.

  • DafOwen

    For me wet-plate photography is one of those things you do properly or not at all. Wouldn’t feel right doing it in photoshop.

  • ennuipoet

    For the consumer photography market digital has surpassed 35mm film, yes and is as good as most medium format film. Large format films still provide superior image reproduction and quality over digital sensors, except perhaps in some very high end cameras, which run in the twenty to thirty thousand dollar range. The aesthetics of film, which is entirely subjective, is entirely different. There is a certain bitter irony in the current fad of reproducing old film lines digitally while film manufacturers struggle economically. It say to me that a lot of people prefer the aesthetic of film. I shoot digital for work, because it is economical but I use film for “play” because it will always have a feel and quality to the image that digital will never be able to capture.

  • joshmolina2

    not necessarily true. More recent works in film and wetplate usually have a very strong use of process artifacts. But that doesnt mean film looks bad. There always were, and still are masters of their craft who can make film images cleaner, sharper, and of higher resolution than any digital camera on the market. Ive seen some colloidon photographs that are incredibly clean, have incredible dynamic range and are razor sharp. Same with both large and medium format film. It all depends on the quality of the tools used, and the skills of the user. Sure, throw some expired film in a holga and you will get “bad film” results compared to a 5D mkIII, but put some well kept tmax in a hasselblad with zeiss glass, in the hands of a skilled film chemist and the results might surprise you. Not to mention the resolution of film or dynamic range. You can make film prints at astounding sizes and even scans of my medium format film beat out the resolution of most digital cameras

  • The Incredible Hoke

    I haven’t seen a digital capture that can even come close to properly exposed large format film. I wish there was something available/affordable to me that could match LF film, but I haven’t discovered it yet.

    And man, a properly done wet plate is razor sharp with depth for miles. That photoshopped one above just looks sad.

  • PaulJay

    I dont like it. At all.

  • Dave

    I strongly disagree with this. I shot film for 30 years and have spent the last 13 years dealing with digital images and high resolution film scans. When you say ‘most digital cameras’ you are being truthful only because ‘most digital cameras’ are in cell phones. Digital resolution in a good dslr passed high res 35mm film at the 10mp stage. Every time I see a file of scanned film the poor quality of the file itself just jumps off the screen. And the res of the film itself is no better when using a loupe over a light table. Hi res scans record all the good of film and all of the bad. Rocks of grain in 50 iso pro films. And please compare the same sensor vs film size. Of course a ‘Blad with fine grain film will walk on a Canon powershot image. Do you think a digital back on the same sized medium format camera will not cream the film image?

  • Jostein Roalkvam

    Yeah…. no. That doesn’t even look remotely like a real wet-plate photograph. Tacky as f***

  • Nathan Blaney

    I’ve had a little fun playing with a much simpler process – just using Hipstamatic.

  • afs d

    now that wet plate is trending…this is dumb. go shoot the real thing

  • DamianMonsivais

    Yes it might in resolution and data, but what about aesthetically?

    All the greatest images ever captured have been on film and no one ever complained about the rocks of grain. And the high end cameras have been capturing what exactly? advertisements?

    This argument here seems to be very amateurish as well.

    I’m A film shooter, Large and medium formats. I just like the tangible image that exist, not 0’s and 1’s on the computer.

    But it is in the end a different way of working, not a superior way of working.

  • Brent

    Wet plate is the new HDR… which is somehow more terrible than HDR.

  • J

    This is simply a “how to put a texture on a photo” 101. Open your photo. Bring in a texture. Change the blending mode. Done.
    Not sure why this tutorial and photos keep popping up all over the place.

  • Joseph Aschiero

    This looks more like a bad attempt at a b&w HDR than a wet plate image. If you really want the wet plate look, do wet plate, not digital.

  • DamianMonsivais

    In the end, this is pretty insulting.

  • Dave

    The medium has nothing to do with aesthetics. Nothing. And I don’t know where you came up with the fiction that “All the greatest images ever captured have been on film”. Iconic images have been and are captured on digital. You are perpetuating a myth that makes me believe you have relatively little experience in photography. And for the life of me, I have never seen a 1 or a 0 while dealing with digital images. Grain on the other hand……..? As a so called large format shooter, how much luck have you had with sports, wedding, wildlife, action or travel photography? Meanwhile, those of us using high end digital cameras can shoot all of that as well as the scenic and still life subject matter you are limited to. Shoot film. Digital shooters that want a film look can easily dumb down the file to mimic film (see above), but a film shooter can never match the image quality of a high end dslr or digital medium format camera.

  • DamianMonsivais

    If the medium has nothing to do with aesthetics, then the medium is dead. If its all about commerce then go sell it and stop believe to be a contender of the industry.

    And it isn’t a myth btw 150 years of photography proves this.

    I did say I use a medium format camera, you know for those “quick” events that a LF camera can’t get, and it isn’t sports, wedding, action or travel photography (All commerce BTW). Which also seems to point to the idea that you have limited LF camera to a studio or Mountain, which is a bore.

    If you don’t know what your digital files are made of (0’s and 1’s, little lego blocks) then you need to do some research.

    So while you keep on drooling over your Idea of better image quality I’m going to keep on loving shooting analog – making Photographs I love, until the day its gone and not try to shove some misplaced insecurity down some strangers throat.

  • Dave

    I will refer you to the first comment in this thread to get you back on track from your insecure diversions. The first comment still holds true no matter how much your insulting makes you feel superior. With equal sensor/film size digital can capture a higher quality image. What you record on that small square or rectangle is what makes you a good or bad photographer. If the same image were captured on each medium, the digital file would have more detail and texture. If you wanted to make it look like film, you could damage the file in post with filters and dropping the res, but you can’t make the film look as good as the digital. Sorry your feeling were hurt. You should have that looked at.

  • Nathan Blaney

    A vote down, huh? Feel good about yourself big guy? What point could voting my comment down possibly serve? Bunch of arrogant assholes around here…

  • DamianMonsivais

    My feelings aren’t hurt, I was afraid yours where since no one agreed with your delusions of grandeur.

    Again where do you believe that digital looks better then Film.

    I don’t agree with you, a lot of major directors in Hollywood don’t agree with you. Prices are still high on all the film equipment as well.

    Films being phased out only because its not as fast to make a buck as digital is and that’s all it is, a faster way to make a buck.

    Have you for 30 years not been able to get amazing results with the medium? and now since digital is so much easier, you can fix everything in post and then does it looks so much “better”.

    BTW Wet-plate photography produces a grainless image and unmatched sharpness, as well as daguerreotype. So I have no Idea where it becomes inferior, maybe because it takes real dedication to produce a photograph with such mediums.

    I’m sorry but I call bull and I am saddened by such a weak argument towards the use of analog and its “inferiority”. But its okay Dave you can continue photographing generic sunsets with your superior digital camera.

  • DamianMonsivais

    dont take it so hard ( i wasn’t the guy btw)

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    DownloadThe owner has disabled downloading of their photos

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  • Ripley

    Ew. No. If you choose to use digital because it’s easier and you can take many photos and choose the best, then stick with digital looking photos. If you want your photos to look analogue, then use analogue, etc.

  • Eric Omori

    If you are trying to fool someone into thinking this is a wet plate collodion photography you might want to try adding a shallow depth of field and slight color tint next time…

    c’mon pay attention to details haha

  • Eric Omori

    kudos to DamianMonsivais for actually knowing what he is talking about.

    PS. search on youtube for “Primer on Film and Digital Capture by Rob Hummel at Cine Gear Expo 2011″

    Film for the win…(LF)

  • Mitch Labuda

    A softer focus would add to the affect

  • know it all

    looks like Peta has a ton of smart ass photogs. Send me a link of your tutorial?

  • mchats

    cool thank you it helped with my homework