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Photography has come a long way in its relatively short history. Over nearly 200 years, the camera evolved from a plain box that took blurry pictures to the high-tech mini-computers found in today's DSLRs and smartphones. The story of photography is fascinating and it is possible to go into great detail. However, let's take a brief look at the highlights and major events of this scientific art.

Vintage Rolleicord TLR
Photo by Umberto / Unsplash

First camera

The basic concept of photography was around 5th century BC. It was not until an Iraqi scientist developed something called cameras obscured in the 11th century. Nevertheless, the camera did not actually record images, it simply projected them onto another surface. The images were also turned upside down, although they can be traced to create accurate images of real objects such as buildings. The first camera obscura used a pinhole in a tent to create an image in a dark area from outside the tent. It was not until the 17th century that camera opacity became quite portable. Basic lenses for focusing light were also introduced around this time.

First permanent images

Photography, as we know it today, began in the late 1830s in France. Josef Knickelfor Neepe used a portable camera porn, exposing a plate plate coated with bitumen for light. This is the first recorded image that does not fade quickly. The success of Neap led to many other experiments and photography progressed very rapidly.


emulsion plates and wet plates were developed together in the mid to late-1800s. With each type of emulsion, photographers experimented with various chemicals and techniques. The following are three that were instrumental in the development of modern photography. Degurotype Neiss's experiment collaborated with Louis Daguerre. The result was the creation of Dagareotype, the precursor to the modern film.

• A copper plate was coated with silver and exposed to iodine vapor before being exposed to light.

• To make the image on the plate, the initial dagereprotipes had to be exposed to light for 15 minutes.

• The daggerotype was very popular until the emulsion plates were replaced in the late 1850s.

Emulsion plates

Emulsion plates, or wet plates, were less expensive than daguarotypes and required an exposure time of only two or three seconds. This made them more suited to portrait paintings, which was the most common use of photography at the time. Many photographs from the Civil War were made on wet plates. These wet plates use an emulsion process called collocation process instead of a simple coating on the image plate. It was during this time that the blower was added to focus with the help of cameras. The two common types of emulsion plates were ambrotype and tintype. Ambrotipes used a glass plate instead of a copper plate of Daguerotipes. Tintipes used a tin plate. While these plates were much more sensitive to light, they had to be developed quickly. Photographers needed to keep chemistry on hand and many traveled in wagons which doubled as a dark room.

Dry plates

In the 1870s, photography took another major leap. Richard Maddox improved on previous inventions to make gelatin plates that were comparable to wet plates in speed and quality. These dry plates can be made as needed. This gave photographers more freedom to take photographs. This process also allowed for smaller cameras that could be handheld. As the exposure time decreased, the first camera with a mechanical shutter was developed.

polaroid 03
Photo by eniko kis / Unsplash

Camera for everyone

Photography was for professionals only and was very rich until George Eastman started a company called Kodak in the 1880s. Eastman produced a flexible roll film with no need to continuously replace solid plates. This allowed him to develop a self-contained box camera, which had 100 film screenings. The camera had a small single lens with no focus adjustment. The consumer takes pictures and sends the cameras to the factory to produce the film and the prints are made, much like modern disposable cameras. This was the first camera that was significantly cheaper for the average person. The film was still larger than today's 35mm film. It was not until the late 1940s that 35mm film became fairly affordable for most use by consumers.

The horrors of war

Around 1930, Henri-Cartier Bresson and other photographers began using small 35mm cameras to capture images of life, as it did rather than staged pictures. When World War II began in 1939, many photo journalists adopted this style. Paintings painted before World War I soldiers gave way to graphic images of the war and beyond. Images such as Joel Rosenthal's picture, Rising the Flag on Iwo Jima, bring out the reality of the war house and help galvanize the American people as before. This style of capturing decisive moments shaped the face of photography forever.

Black and white Polaroid instant film photograph of an open book on a table.
Photo by Laura Rivera / Unsplash

Surprise of instantaneous images

At the same time as 35mm cameras were becoming popular, Polaroid introduced the Model 95. Model 95 used a secret chemical process to develop the film inside the camera in less than a minute. This new camera was quite expensive but the novelty of instantaneous pictures caught the attention of the people. By the mid-1960s, the Polaroid had many models on the market and the price had fallen so much that more people could buy it. In 2008, Polaroid stopped making his famous instant film and took his secrets with him. Several groups such as The Impossible Project and Lomography have tried to revive the film immediately with limited success. As of 2018, it is difficult to replicate the quality that was found in a polaroid.

Vintage analog camera
Photo by Mikkel Bech / Unsplash

Advanced Image Control

While the French introduced a permanent image, the Japanese brought easy image control for the photographer. In the 1950s, Asahi (which later became Pentax) introduced Asahiflex and Nikon introduced its Nikon F camera. These were both SLR-type cameras and Nikon F allowed for interchangeable lenses and other accessories. For the next 30 years, SLR-style cameras remained the camera of choice. Several improvements were introduced in both cameras and film.

Introducing smart cameras

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, compact cameras that were capable of making image control decisions on their own were introduced. These "point and shoot" cameras calculated shutter speed, aperture, and focus, leaving photographers free to focus on the composition. Automatic cameras became extremely popular with casual photographers. Professional and serious hobbyists continue to make their adjustments and enjoy the image control available with SLR cameras.

Photo by TVBEATS / Unsplash

Digital age

In the 1980s and 1990s, many manufacturers worked on cameras that stored images electronically. The first of these were point-and-shoot cameras that used digital media instead of film. By 1991, Kodak had produced the first digital camera that was advanced enough to be used successfully by professionals. Other manufacturers quickly followed, and today Canon, Nikon, Pentax and other manufacturers offer advanced digital SLR (DSLR) cameras. Even the most basic point-and-shoot camera now takes higher quality images than the Nepeus paver plate, and smartphones can easily capture a high-quality printed picture.