History Of Photography

The word “photography,” from the Greek words meaning “light” (photo) and “drawing” (graphy), literally translates to “drawing with light.” In step with the meaning of its name, photography is an art form that uses light to capture an image on a light-sensitive surface through either chemical, mechanical or digital means.

This article outlines the history of photography, from the development of the first primitive cameras through to the advent of digital photography.

Camera Obscura

The camera obscura, the ancestor of the modern camera, wasn”t actually a camera as much as a process. As a conception of the Muslim scientist Alhazen (written about in his Book of Optics), the camera obscura reproduced an image within a completely dark room in which a tiny, pinprick-sized hole was punched into one wall. When images from outside would reflect on the wall opposite the hole, they were rendered as an inverted reflectionbackward and upside down.

Over time, the room was downsized into a box that was more portable, paving the way for the modern cameras.

A Brief History of Cameras

Camera technology developed rapidly in the early 1800s. Frenchman Nicephore Niepce holds the distinction of being the first one to successfully capture an image. However, his process took eight long hours of sun exposure, severely limiting its uses. As Niepce thought about how to improve upon his methods of reproducing an image, he paired up with another leader in this field, a man named Louis Daguerre.

Daguerreotype and Calotype Cameras

After Niepce died in 1833, Daguerre continued his work. By 1839, Daguerre perfected a new technique that he called the daguerrotype. The process used an iodine vapor to help cast an image on polished silver. Daguerrotyping was a positive process, meaning that the resulting image was the only one created (as opposed to the negative-based process used today in which the captured imaged can be duplicated). The daguerrotype quickly gained popularity as the first mainstream method of cost-effective portraiture.

At nearly the same time, Englishman William Fox Talbot developed Calotypes. In Talbot”s process, silver iodide decomposed when exposed to light, leaving behind pure silver. The calotype process created negative images, making it possible to make multiple copies of the picture.

Dry Plates

Dry plates, invented by Richard L. Maddox in 1871, offered an alternative to the daguerrotype and calotype processes, which required emulsion in a wet chemical after exposure to rinse or seal the image. Dry plates, or gelatine emulsions, were less sensitive than wet plates and were easier to use because they could be prepared further in advance.

The Next Step in the History of Cameras: Film and Box Cameras

Major innovations in cameras and photography continued throughout the 1800s. One of the most notable achievements was the development of a process to replace metal plates with film in 1884. Not only did this bring photographic technology to the masses, it also marked the beginning of the era of moving pictures. George Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak Company, was the man responsible for this advancement in the history of photography.

Along with film, the Kodak Company was also making headway in the production of cameras. In fact, in 1888, Kodak came out with the very first box camera. Although this first box camera didn”t have a focusing system or a way to control shutter speed (making it only usable in daylight), it was the first portable device, greatly facilitating the process of taking pictures.

Digital Cameras and the Future of Cameras

Through the end of the 1800s into the mid-1900s, camera technology continued to advance rapidly. However, with the advent of the digital camera in the early 1970s, the way people took pictures radically changed. These early models of the digital camera, weighing about 8 lbs. and recording images on cassette tapes, were used primarily in astronomy to capture images of space.

Although digital camera technology has been around for decades, the first commercially available digital cameras weren”t released until 1991. The Kodak DCS-100 was the first digital camera made for the public, costing about $13,000!

Because digital technology continually progresses, digital cameras are now not only affordable but also the widely preferred method of taking pictures. With digital technology, people can record images without film and easily view their pictures to make sure they have captured the shot they want.

Similarly, digital technology allows people to skip the processing steps of the past. Rather than having to drop off your film at a photo lab, you can now download your images to your computer, edit them to create nearly flawless images and then either print them or store them on a CD. Because digital technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, who knows what the future of cameras holds!