How did they print these photos onto tin? Can it be done today?

My SO has a tin plaque from 1948; it’s a white oval perhaps 35cm long and 20cm high with a gently convex face. It’s in two pieces, front and back; the edges of the front piece are curled over the edge all around the oval to attach it to the back piece.

The front is cream/white and has two photos on it (of a horse and gig winning a trotting race; her father trained the horse which is how she has it). They seem to be black and white but hand-coloured, and there is quite a bit of handwriting giving the details of the race, horse, jockey etc. The surface is quite shiny and the whole face has an enamelled look.

I have no photos of it just yet, but here are two images of what appears to be the same type of object, but much older than the one she has:

We thought originally the photo was on ordinary paper stuck onto the tin and varnished over, but there is no sign of the paper being creased so as to curve over the face and especially the edges where the front piece curls over to attach to the back. To all appearances the photos were taken on or photographically transferred onto the tin surface directly (unlike the ones above the photos do not cover the entire front surface), but we can’t see whether that’s likely to have been before or after the front piece was made convex and/or attached to the back piece.

Does anyone know what this process is called and how exactly it was done? And could it be done fairly easily today? Thanks all!


  • Coat a thin blackened sheet of iron with wet collodion on one side.
  • Take photo with special camera (with up to 36 lenses).
  • Process while still wet
  • Cut into small rectangles, one per photo.
  • Perhaps mount on card to fit a carte de visite album OR
  • Perhaps fit into a cheap case, possibly with glass

Here’s a different page on tintype, and yes I would say it is tintype photography of some sort.

If I understand correctly you’re saying the actual plaque was the photographic plate, in effect? It was covered in collodion and exposed? I see how that might work, but for the specific one my SO has I see two problems: there are two separate photos on the same plate, and in both of them the horses are moving - the collodion process seems to have a substantial exposure time and there is no blurringn in the pictures, even the horses’ legs are clear. That’s the big difference between her plate and the ones in the images above, which I agree are certainly tintype.

Note that her plaque is from 1948 whereas collodion was obsolete by 1940 in general; could there have been a tintype-like process using modern gelatin techniques but still onto a tin plate?

The link I posted has information that people do it currently. I believe they may have projected an image like enlargement equipment currently does.

This was achieved simply by tintyping an existing photograph. IOW it’s a tintype photograph of an existing photgraph. The same technique was, and is, used to transfer photographs onto t-shorts, mugs etc. You don’t diretcly expose the object you want printed, you take the photograph using a more suitable method and then transfer it.