The history of photography is quite unique, and we have come a long way from where we started. About 200 whopping years ago, cameras were bulky boxes that resulted in blurry black-and-white photographs. Today, cameras are sleek, durable, easy to carry around and take realistic-looking photos.
Let's take a walk down memory lane and descend deeper into the history of photography and some of its more unforgettable moments.
Where it all started...
During the 11th century, an Iraqi scientist created the camera obscura bringing us the first type of camera. However, the idea of a camera has been around for a while. The concept of photography started around the 5th-century B.C.E - it took someone to put pen to paper and invent something. At first, these cameras weren't recording images but projected them onto something else. And the funny thing is, these projections were upside down! Someone had to trace these projections to depict real people and objects.
When the camera obscura came on the scene, it was a tiny pinhole within a tent and projected an image from outside the tent. When the 17th century came around, things started to get wild and basic lenses were presented. These lenses helped me focus on the subject better.
Alright, enough projected images.
Although projected images are how we started, permanent photos are how it's going. Things began to percolate in the photography world in France around the 1830s. A guy named Joseph Nicéphore Niépce exposed a pewter plate with bitumen to light by using the camera obscura (cue a bunch of minds being blown)! We were actually able to start having images that didn't fade (well, I should say they didn't fade quickly). This was when experimentation started to take off and lead to permanent images. Daguerreotypes, emulsion plates, and wet plates were created.
Louis Daguerre collaborated with our guy Niépce to create the OG of film, the daguerreotype. The daguerreotype was a silver-coated copper plate exposed to iodine vapor. Then, it would be exposed to light to create an image, and the light needed to be exposed to this plate for at least 15 minutes for the image to show up. Around the 1850s, this version got the boot because emulsion plates were introduced.
Step aside daguerreotypes; emulsion plates are here! Emulsion plates (also called wet plates) were more cost-efficient and only needed a few seconds of exposure time. Because of their low price and short exposure time, they were the perfect alternative for capturing portraits. Those Civil War pictures you see, those were taken on wet plates way back when.
The two different types of emulsion plates were the tintype and ambrotype. Tintypes were tin plates, and the ambrotypes were glass plates. These plates were susceptible to light and needed to be developed fast. This is where dark rooms came into play. Old-timey photographers had to travel in a dark room on wheels to create their photographs as quickly as possible.
Starting in the 1870s, Richard Maddox introduced dry plates. These dry plates were essentially gelatine plates, similar to the wet leaves previously used. The main difference was that these plates were able to be stored. Wet plates had to be made as needed, which would have been a considerable nuisance. Even better, these plates needed less exposure time. Cameras were now being made smaller, and the mechanical shutter was introduced.
Cameras are no longer for the wealthy...
Up until the 1880s, only wealthy and professional photographers had cameras. Our beloved Kodak was then founded by George Eastman. Eastman developed the first film rolls that were flexible, and plates were no more. Kodak released a box camera with 100 film exposures that couldn't adjust focus. Like the disposable cameras we know, the user took photos, and then the camera was sent in to develop.
Hello, 35mm cameras!
Once 1930 came around, smaller 35mm cameras were introduced. These cameras were better suited because they were smaller, and photographers could capture events; like World War II. Photojournalism started to really take off. One of the more notorious photos from Joel Rosenthal, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, was able to almost bring the war home. People were now seeing the gruesome and tragic side of the war as opposed to the previously posed portraits of soldiers. This photojournalism style has become a crucial part of history and will always be around.
Make room for the Polaroid Model 95
Photography just kept on advancing, and Polaroid released the glorious Model 95. The game changed here because of the chemical process that happened right inside the camera to develop a photo instantly. The price of these new nifty cameras started off steep, and eventually, the price dropped around the mid-1960s and made them attainable to almost anyone.
The Japanese decided to change the game and improve the camera by improving image control for the photographer. The 1950s brought on the Nikon F Camera, and the Asahi (now Pentax) created the Asahiflex. These cameras were similar to SLRs; they could switch out lenses and come with accessories. These remained the most popular type of camera for the next 30 years.
And then, cameras became smarter.
In the extraordinary era of the 80s, the good ol' point-and-shoot cameras became popular. These made photography simple for the average person, and they did all the hard stuff for the shooter by controlling the shutter speed, aperture, and focus. Although, professionals still preferred SLR cameras over point-and-shoot cameras.
Around 1991, the tried and true Kodak made the first digital camera that was refined and adored even by professionals. Everyone else, like Canon, Pentax, and Nikon, needed to jump on the bandwagon to offer DSLR cameras. And now, phones have excellent cameras built in.
And we keep on getting smarter...
Manufacturers continuously work on making cameras smarter, better, and more precise. It makes you wonder, what else could they possibly think of!? Now that you have some fun photography history check out these other articles with tips and tricks to improve your photographs.
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