Photography - Its History and the Earliest Techniques

The term ‘photography’ is of Greek origin and is derived from the combination of the words ‘photos, which means light’ and ‘graphein’, which means “to draw”. It refers to the application of light and other related radiation to capture images on a material that is sensitive and was first employed in 1839 by Sir John F W Herschel, the scientist.

The story of cameras and to describe it as an instrument used to take photographs extends beyond the introduction to the topic of photography. When we examine how the camera has evolved from its very earliest days into a highly sophisticated and sophisticated electronic gadget, there are parallels that can be found in the development of photography technology and cameras starting with the camera obscura as well as other cameras like daguerreotypes as well as calotypes. Plates, film, and then today’s digital cameras.

‘Camera Obscura’ or the Pinhole Camera

The camera’s origins started with the ‘camera obscure that can be traced back to the time of the ancient Chinese and Greeks when a pinhole or lens projected an upside-down image of a photograph or landscape outside onto an observation surface. One of the most renowned experts on Optics about the year 1000 AD, Ibn Al-Haytham, is acknowledged as the inventor of one of the first cameras with pinholes. The reason he could explain why the images appeared upside down when reflected on the surface, similar to the visual concept that the eye has. But, before it, the first mention of these optic laws was discovered in the year 330 BC by the Greek scholar and historian Aristotle. His question and hypothesis that the sun captured by the square hole created an image that was circular.

In 1545, an instrument maker and mathematician from Leuven University, Belgium, Reiners Gemma Frisius, wrote an illustration of the pinhole method he used in the year before to observe an eclipse of the sun. In 1558, a turn idea was introduced by Giovanni Batista Della Porta, who suggested the use of this idea as a tool for drawing.

The development of the photographic process was required to develop in a way that permitted the preservation of the images created through these cameras. The only method that was known at the time was to trace the pictures manually. It’s hard to believe how the cameras of old were significant that they could fit two people inside the cameras. The development was nearly complete in 1685 when the shift to a mobile camera instead of a larger one was described as a revolutionary idea in the work of Johann Zahn. However, it took another two centuries before the implementation of this idea could be incorporated into commercial fashion.

When was the first photo taken?

There is no definitive response to this query. The facts we have are the following.

The first camera was first patented in 1840 by Alexander Wolcott. But, there’s not enough evidence to prove that Wolcott’s camera could be used to create images and, if any, exist today.

What we can take as the earliest proof is a photograph taken by Frenchman Joseph Nicephore Niepce in 1816 using the pinhole camera. Before Niepce discovered his pivotal moment in establishing the first models for modern techniques of photography that were used by the pinhole camera or camera obscura to draw and for watching purposes, not to take photos. Niepce’s “heliographs” or sun-prints, as they were called, let the light of the sun create or imprint the image.

Niepce made use of a tiny camera that he created and projected the image to a sheet of paper covered with silver chloride. The silver chloride was darkened upon exposure to light. This created an image. However, at the time, Niepce was not aware of what to do to remove the silver chloride, which was not affected, so the photograph or image was not permanent, and eventually, the entire silver chloride drew a dark hue because of exposure to light that was too long.

In the following years, Niepce used a slightly different technique. Through the use of an encasement camera with a sliding mechanism that was created by French opticians Charles and Vincent Chevalier and a metal plate coated with bitumen, photographs were exposed. In the areas where the light reflection was the brightest on the photographs, the bitumen progressively hardened, leaving an imprint that was clear, while the parts that weren’t hardened were later dissolved to keep the image. There is a possibility that one of these early images of imprints is still available.