Photography Evolution

Photography Evolution

Art or painting is an ancient mother of photography. An ancient people used to painting to express their imagination and technical skill. All kinds of arts are the visual formation of human imagination and creativity. Photography is the modified form of an ancient art and painting. The word ‘Photography’ is a combination of two Greek words. ‘Photo’ means ‘Light’ and ‘Graphia’ means ‘Writing’ or ‘Drawing’. Thus, ‘Photography’ literally means ‘Writing or drawing with light.’ Photography was started from the early of 19th century. At that time, some experimenters used camera obscura (a darkroom) to create photographs. In these days (Early 21st century), we are using digital camera to create photographs. Let’s understand briefly, the evolution of photographic inventions in two centuries.

5th – 4th Centuries B.C.

Chinese and Greek philosophers describe the basic principles of optics and the camera.

In 19th Century

1802 – Thomas Wedgewood (English) was the first person to attempt to record the camera image. He used silver nitrate on the white leather or paper when exposed, however he was unable to find a way to make those images permanent.

1814 – Joseph Nicephore Niepce (French) achieved first photographic image with camera obscura (a darkroom) – however, that required eight hours exposure time and later faded. In 1816 he succeeded making negative photographs or camera’s images on paper coated with silver chloride, again it wasn’t permanent because after few time the image darkened when exposed to light for viewing. He started heliography process in 1825 and he succeeded to make the earliest know surviving photograph made in a camera in 1826 or 1827 that required an exposure in the camera at least eight hours and long time. Niepce continued to experiment with heliography, in 1827 he visited the painter Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre who was also trying to figure out how to capture the camera image.

                                    Joseph Nicephore Niepce

1835 – William Henry Fox Talbot (English) created permanent (negative) images using paper soaked in silver chloride and fixed with a salt solution. He introduced two-step negative-positive procedure, through that process he created positive image by contacting printing onto another sheet of paper.

1837 – Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre (French) created images on a sheet of copper, which was coated with silver iodide and developed with warmed mercury. It needed less than thirty minutes of light exposure, and did not fade.

1839 – Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre (French) publicly introduced his daguerreotype process, which produces highly detailed permanent photographs on silver-plated sheet of copper. At first, it requires several minutes of exposure in the camera but later improvements reduced the exposure time to a few seconds. Photography suddenly entered the public consciousness and became a commercial success.

John Frederick William Herschel (English) introduced hyposulfite of soda, also known as sodium thiosulfate but still it is so popular with nickname ‘Hypo’. This is highly effective fixer for all silver-based processes. He also made the first glass negative.

1841- William Henry Fox Talbot (English) Introduced his improved process ‘Drawing Process’. The new process called Calotype (beautiful picture) or talbotype, which develop the latent image. It created negatives which were then used to make positives. This process reduced the required exposure time and became the first negative-positive process making possible the first multiple copies. He patented his developed process.

1851 – Frederick Scott Archer (English) improved photographic solution by spreading mixture of collodion (nitrated cotton dissolved in ether and alcohol) and chemicals on sheet of glass which was called ‘Collodion wet plate process’. Collodion process was much cheaper than daguerreotype, it required only few seconds of light exposure. The negative-positive process permitted unlimited reproductions, and the process was published but not patented.

1871- Richard Leach Maddox (English) When he noticed that F. S. Archer’s health was being affected by the wet collodion’s ether vapor, Maddox began looking for a substitute of collodion process. After several experiment he proposed the use of an emulsion of gelatin and silver bromide on a glass plate, and called the ‘Dry Plate’ process.

1888- George Eastman and Kodak George Eastman (American) registered the trademark ‘Kodak’ and introduced first Roll film (also the basis for the invention of motion picture film) and patented first camera ‘Kodak Box’. Soon after ‘Kodak Box’ slightly improved and released with new version called ‘Kodak no. 1’. The new version was $25 price and loaded 100 exposures at the factory. That was very easy-to-use camera, so advertised with the slogan. “You press the button, we do the rest”.

George Eastman

In 20th Century

1920 – Oskar Barnack (German) introduced 35mm film photography with new 35mm format Leica camera. Before introduced 35mm format the cameras were so big sized and heavy weighted because of medium and large format film. In 35mm film, an image is exposed 36mm length by 24mm height with 3:2 ratio. Later in 1927, he invented Leica 1 camera, for worldwide 35mm film photography which is still popular as full frame, FF or Fx format in this digital photographic age.

1935 – Eastman Kodak introduced Kodachrome film, a color reversal film for both movie and still photography. The first multi-layered colour film and it doesn’t need two way negative and positive developing process.

1936 – 35mm SLR camera The first 35mm SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera was Soviet Union’s (now known as Russia) Спорт, which was used in 1934 but didn’t entered the market until 1937. So it cannot be claimed as the first 35mm SLR camera. The real first 35mm format SLR camera was Ihagee’s Kine Exakta produced in 1936 in Germany.

1969 – Charge Coupled Device (CCD) invented. George E. Smith and Willard S. Boyle (both American) invented the Charge Coupled Device (CCD) in 1969. CCD is the main image sensor of a digital camera. They were researchers of Bell Labs (American Research and Scientific Development Company)

1974 – An another American Semiconductor Company Fairchild Semiconductor International Inc., led by ex-Bell researcher Gil Amelio, invented the first bigger imaging CCD with 100 rows and 100 columns of pixels.

1984 – Canon conducted a trail of a professional color still video camera D413 and an analog transmitter at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. The images were transmitted back to Japan via phone lines in less than 30 minutes. They were then printed in the Yomiuri newspaper. Immediately before the Games, Canon announced its successful development of a color electronic still camera designed for commercial broadcasting use.

1986 – Kodak created the world’s first megapixel image sensor, capable of recording 1.4 million pixels that could produce a 5 x 7 inch digital print out.

1990 – Adobe releases Photoshop 1.0, an image manipulation program for Apple Macintosh computers.

1999 – Nikon introduced the D1, Nikon’s first professional digital SLR camera featured 2.6 megapixel image sensor.

21st Century

2001 – Canon released the EOS 1D, Canon’s first professional digital SLR camera. It has 4.1 megapixels.

Nikon released the D100 with 6.1 megapixels, is Nikon’s first prosumer digital SLR.

Invention continues ….. Evolution never ends …..

Text References
Philip Greenspun, History of Photography Timeline,
Wikipedia, Timeline of photography technology,
Harry Ransom Center,

Image sources
Joseph Nicephore Niepce -
George Eastman – skeeze
Kodachrome Film roll –


Ruman Shrestha

Ruman Shrestha

Hello! Professionally I’m photographer, Photoshoper, Illustrator and graphic designer. I had taken photography training with Photojournalism in 1996. I’m self-learned Photoshoper and Illustrator. I'm fully freelancer. I love to learn new tools of Photoshop and Illustrator then create various kinds of artwork and vector graphics in my free time. On long days vacation, I would like to travel and trek high-altitude area to celebrate my leisure time. I’ve deep interest in Nature photography. Landscape and Wildlife are my favorite subjects. Moreover, I like also birding and bird’s photography. I'm general member of 'Bird Conservation Nepal' too. I am the founder of TutsGallery. I’ve founded this website to share my knowledge and experience to new generation in photography. I hope, you’ll like this. If you also like to contribute such kind of knowledge and experience, I request you, start from today and contact me. Let’s enjoy photographing!

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