Let's imagine that you're hiking with friends to the summit of a nearby mountain or hill, and you'd like to capture the excursion on film. Today, you would just need carry along a small camera -- the kind that you send back with the film inside would work just fine. But what about in times past? Well, it turns out that you could have done the same 112 years ago with your Kodak camera, which you also sent back to the factory for processing (although the original Kodak camera was return to you with new film loaded).
But if you went back more than 112 years -- to, say, 1880 or so -- the story would be quite different.
For one thing, you'd be dealing with heavy glass plates. The camera, too, would be heavy, as well as bulky. And chances are you'd be working with wet-collodion plates, which would mean that, in addition to your camera and glass plates, you would also need to carry on your back a complete darkroom, with all its chemicals, and in your head a fairly in-depth knowledge of chemistry.
As if all of that wasn't enough, every time you decided to take a picture, you'd have to set up your darkroom tent, prepare a glass plate, then expose and develop the plate while it was still wet.
For a detailed description on how to make pictures using the wet-plate process, check out the following step-by-step instructions. When you're through, you'll know what's involved in making a collodion negative.