Making a Daguerreotype

Whilst I was reading about how Louis Daguerre perfected his process of fixing an image permanently, and since I have just completed DPP, I thought I’d challenge myself to use Photoshop to recreate the effect of a daguerreotype on a digital image.
I chose to use a photograph of Fountains Abbey because it had a clear subject, the abbey, that would be large and clear enough as a daguerreotype. I was liked the volume of the trees that surrounded it and how the water in the foreground leads the viewer into the picture.

Fountains Abbey original6
Once I had opened the image in Photoshop I converted it to black and white. Then, because of the long exposure experienced when using a camera obscura, the people in the photograph would not have been so clearly visible. Therefore I used the ‘Healing Brush Tool’ to remove them from the frame. Another problem was that the fast exposure on my DSLR had made the water appear too sharp, so I used the adjustment brush to blur the water.

Since daguerreotypes were exposed on metal, I found a scratched metallic texture on the internet and used it to overlay the image. Once this was complete the image still lacked something, the sky in the original Fountains Abbey photograph was over exposed and appeared too white for a daguerreotype. Remembering the task in DPP: Exercise 22, I decided to find a cloudy image that could be used. After looking through my images I decided to use the one below, taken in Porto. It seemed to have just enough cloud without being over-dramatic.


Once I had uploaded the file into Photoshop I used the Quick Selection Brush to select the clouds, and then copied and pasted them into a new layer, which was placed underneath the image of Fountains Abbey. After that I used the Quick Selection Brush again to remove the over-exposed, blown-out sky of the original image, revealing the Porto clouds behind. Finally I used the ‘Burn’ tool to darken some of the foliage on the trees. You can see my finished daguerreotype below. I enjoyed challenging myself to use the latest technology to reproduce an example of the earliest photo technology.

Fountains Abbey Daguerreotype




About Matt Davenport

With over 20 years teaching experience in primary schools, I am an ICT Advanced Skills Teacher and Apple Teacher.
This entry was posted in DPP, History of photography, Project 4: Reality and Intervention and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Making a Daguerreotype

  1. Catherine says:

    That looks pretty good Matt. I wonder how the time you took compares with that for an original daguerrotype? What module do you intend to do next by the way?


    • Matt says:

      Thanks Catherine. I’d really like to have tried to make a real daguerreotype. I’ve signed up to do People & Place next, which will be my last level 1 course.


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