Photographic Chemistry for Preservation


The Photographic Chemistry series was initiated by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation in 2015, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This series explores key elements of photographic chemistry that are essential to understanding the nature of silver-based analog photographs, their creation, and their deterioration mechanisms. These topics are critical for photograph conservators, but also of interest to photographers, artists, collectors, and other photography enthusiasts. This series of online self-study modules includes video lectures and quizzes on specific topics in the chemistry of photography. Each course contains about 7 – 17 sections; each section includes a 3 -10 minute video lecture and a brief self-assessment quiz. The cost of the course includes access to a discussion forum where participants can ask an expert questions about the content. Study at your own pace and repeat sections as needed!


The fee for each course is $19, which provides access to:

  • Unlimited viewing of the online video lectures
  • Access to unit quizzes
  • Access to the discussion forum

The following courses will be open to registered participants beginning mid-August 2018. Registrants will have access to all units in the sections they paid for during this time. Participants can access the modules on their own schedule and work at their own pace.

Light Sensitivity of Silver Salts
The Latent Image
Chemical and Spectral Sensitization
The Role of Gelatin
Film and Paper Structures
General Development Process - NEW!

Additional sections will become available in 2019. The above sections will remain accessible to participants into the future.

Link to registration coming soon!

Online registration requires you to create a log-in (or to use one that you already have for our site) with a name and email address before you may purchase an event registration. No information aside from the username and email address is required to create a profile, but you will need a billing address to complete registration.

About the Instructor

Scott Williams is Professor of Physical and Inorganic Chemistry at Rochester Institute of Technology. Professor Williams is one of an ever-smaller group of individuals with expertise in photographic chemistry. This profound knowledge, combined with his thoughtful and lively teaching style, make for an easy-to-follow presentation of this potentially complex topic. This course is a fount of information essential to understanding the silver-based analog photographic processes represented in so many private and public collections around the globe.


Prior to starting the modules, participants should refresh their knowledge of basic chemistry.  The following tutorials, available without charge on the Khan Academy site (, are highly recommended:

  1. Atoms, compounds, and ions
  2. Chemical reactions and stoichiometry
  3. Electronic structure of atoms
  4. Periodic table
  5. Chemical bonds
  6. Acids and bases
  7. Redox reactions and electrochemistry

Additional Reading

Carroll B.H., Higgins, G.C. and James, T.H. (1986) Introduction to Photographic Theory. New York: John Wiley & Sons. (Available on Google Books)

Eaton, George T. (1980) Photographic Chemistry in Black-and-White and Color Photography.  Dobbs Ferry, NY: Morgan & Morgan, Inc. Third edition.

Eaton, George T. (1987) “History of Processing and Image Stability” in Pioneers of Photography: Their Achievements in Science and Technology.  Springfield, VA: SPSE--The Society for Imaging Science and Technology, pp. 87-93.

Haist, Grant. (1979) Modern Photographic Processing. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Vols I & II.

James, T.H. ed. (1977) The Theory of the Photographic Process.  New York: Macmillan. Fourth edition.

Ostroff, Eugene. Managing Editor. (1987) Pioneers of Photography: Their Achievements in Science and Technology.  Springfield, VA: SPSE-- The Society for Imaging Science and Technology.

Sturge, John M., Vivian Walworth, and Allan Shepp, Editors. (1989) Imaging Processes and Materials.  New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.  Neblette’s Eighth Edition.

Williams, S.A. (2007) 20th Century Materials and Process Essentials, in Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th Ed., Michael Peres, editor.  New York: Focal Press. (Available on Google Books