The History of Photography

During its short existence, photography had come a very long way. The camera had progressed from a simple box that took shaky images to the high-tech mini computers found inside today’s optical single-lens reflex cameras and smartphones.

Photography as we know it today started in France in the late 1830s. The first known image that did not fade rapidly was created by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, who used a handheld camera obscura to expose a pewter plate coated with bitumen to light. Because of Niépce’s popularity, a slew of other experiments followed, and photography advanced quickly. In the mid to late 1800s, daguerreotypes, emulsion plates, and wet plates were formed almost simultaneously. Photographers have tried a variety of chemicals and methods for each method of evaluation.

Niépce’s experiment led to a collaboration with Louis Daguerre, which resulted in the creation of the Daguerreotype, a forerunner of the modern film. A Daguerreotype was created by coating a copper plate with silver and exposing it to iodine vapor before exposing it to light. To make the image on the plate, the early Daguerreotype had to be exposed to light for up to 15 minutes. It was very common until the late 1850s when Emulsion plates replaced it.

Emulsion plates, also known as Wet plates, were less costly than Daguerreotypes and usually allowed two to three seconds of light exposure. This made them more suited for portrait photography, which was the most common use of photography at the time. Wet plates were used to make several photos during the Civil War. 

Photography has taken yet another significant step forward in the 1870s. Richard Maddox had improved a previous discovery to produce dry gelatine plates that were almost as fast and as good as wet gelatine plates in terms of speed and consistency. Dry plates may be stored rather than produced as desired, giving photographers a lot more flexibility when it came to taking pictures.

Several creators focused on cameras that processed photographs electronically in the 1980s and 1990s, the first of which were point-and-shoot cameras that used optical technology instead of film. Even a simple point-and-shoot camera can take a better shot than Niépce’s pewter plate, and smartphones can quickly take a high-quality printed photograph.