The new type of photography became very popular very quickly as it was capable of capturing a "truthful likeness." By 1850, there were over seventy daguerreotype studios in New York alone.
However the popularity of the daguerreotype was short lived as other cheaper processes were invented. By the late 1850s faster and less expensive processes such as the ambrotype, became available. A drawback of the Daguerreotype was that there was no negative from which to produce lots of images. Each picture was therefore unique, the only way to get a copy was to rephotograph the image.
The daguerreotype is a direct-positive process, creating a highly detailed image on a sheet of copper plated with a thin coat of silver without the use of a negative. The process required great care. The silver-plated copper plate had first to be cleaned and polished until the surface looked like a mirror. Next, the plate was sensitized in a closed box over iodine until it took on a yellow-rose appearance. The plate, held in a lightproof holder, was then transferred to the camera. After exposure to light, the plate was developed over hot mercury until an image appeared. To fix the image, the plate was immersed in a solution of sodium thiosulfate or salt and then toned with gold chloride.
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