Pinhole Cameras in China and Greece, 5th Century BC

  • In the 5th century BC, the Chinese philosopher Mozi mentioned the effect of an inverted image forming through a pinhole.
  • The Greek philosopher Aristotle observed the phenomenon in the fourth century BC.
  • A pinhole camera is a simple camera without a lens and with a single small aperture, a pinhole—
  • A light-proof box with a small hole in one side.
  • Light from a scene passes through the single point, and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box.
Pinhole camera

Ibn al-Haytham and Camera Obscura, 6th Century AD

  • Also known as Alhazen, Ibn al-Haytham was a polymath and philosopher.
  • He was born is Basra and lived in Cairo, Egypt most of his life.
  • He made significant contributions to optics, astronomy, mathematics, meteorology, visual perception, and the scientific method.
  • It is Alhazen’s work which contains the first clear description and early analysis of the camera obscura device.
  • Alhazen showed through experiment that light travels in straight lines.
  • He carried out various experiments with lenses, mirrors, refraction, and reflection.
alhazen camera obscura

Ibn al-Haytham’s Camera Obscura

  • This illustration shows how painters such as Leonardo daVinci used a camera obscura to being a sketch for a painting.
  • The clothing from this illustration is from a couple of hundred years later.
camera obscura and a painter

Camera Obscura and a Painter

  • This woodcut from the 19th century shows an artist using a camera obscura device to outline his subject on a sheet of paper.
18th century camera obscura woodcut

Camera Obscura, 19th Century Woodcut

Silver Photosensitivity

  • Photosensitivity is the amount to which an object reacts upon receiving photons, especially visible light.
  • Silver bromide, silver nitrate, and other silver halides are water-insoluble, and well known for their unusual sensitivity to light.
  • This property has allowed silver halides to become the basis of modern photographic materials.
  • The photosensitive nature of these chemicals was discovered sometime between 1200 BC and 1600 BC.
  • In 1694, Wilhelm Holmberg organized and recorded what he called the photochemical effect of silver compounds.


  • Ancient civilizations knew the magnifying properties of natural lenses, mirrors, and water.
  • Ancient Romans used a natural magnifier made out of emerald carved into a convex shape.
  • The invention of eyeglass lenses happened in the 1200’s BC.
  • These were made out of natural crystal.
  • They helped focus light rays into a single area, but would not have been uniformly focused.
  • In 1730, Chester More Hall improved upon the technology.
  • Lenses were added to camera obscura devices, to improve the quality of the projected image.

The First Captured Images

  • Prior to 1826, lots of people had combined these technologies together to create photographic images.
  • However, these images were short-lived.
  • The image could not be fixed permanently onto paper or another surface. It would quickly deteriorate.

Joseph Niépce and the Permanent Photograph

  • Niepce experimented with the use of camera obscura together with photosensitive papers.
  • He had on ongoing exchange of letters with Louis Daguerre about his experiments.
  • Niepce is the first person to create a permanent photo, in 1826.
  • The photo was captured onto a pewter plate with a coating of silver nitrate. It required an 8-hour exposure.
View from the Window at Le Gras Joseph Nicéphore Niépce

World’s earliest surviving camera photograph, 1826 or 1827, by Niépce

Louis Daguerre and the Daguerreotype

  • When Niepce died, he left all of his papers to Louis Daguerre.
  • Daguerre improved upon Niepce’s work, and invented what he called the daguerreotype in 1839.
  • The daguerreotype process could be done more quickly and permanently.
  • It would take only a few minutes for an exposure.
  • In this daguerreotype, the only person standing still long enough to be visible, is a man getting his shoes shined.
  • The images was exposed onto a silver polished copper plated.
  • This process required that the photographic plate remain wet until it was processed.
  • The image would be highly detailed.
  • It was not a process which allowed for multiple copies on the image.
Boulevard du Temple Daguerre

Boulevard du Temple, by Daguerre 1838

Daguerreotype - Abraham Lincoln

Daguerreotype – Abraham Lincoln

JohnHerschel, William Henry Fox Talbot, and the Glass Negative

  • Herschel was an astronomer by trade.
  • Both men had an interest in photography (though it did not have this name yet.)
  • Fox Talbot and Herschel invented the glass negative together.

William Henry Fox Talbot and the Calotype

  • Because it was cheaper and easier to work with, the Daguerreotype process won out in popularity and usage over the Calotype process.
  • Invented the Calotype process, which combined a wet plate with a paper negative.
  • The paper negative could be used to create a paper positive, so it was reproducible.
  • However, the images lacked detail and could be unpredictable.
  • He copyrighted his process.
  • The French government had bought the Daguerreotype process and made it freely available to everyone.
  • Because it was cheaper and easier to work with, the Daguerreotype process won out in popularity and usage over the Calotype process.

George Eastman and Kodak

  • Prior to the introduction of the dry plate process, a photographer in the mid-1800’s would need to bring his dark room/processing studio around with him in a wagon.
  • George Eastman and his Kodak company made big steps in photographic technology.
  • His cameras used a dry gel on paper.
  • They would send cameras out with 100 picture capacity.
  • Customers would take all their shots, and mail the camera back.
  • Kodak would process the negatives, and mail customers their photos.
  • Photo taking was forevermore separated from photo processing.
You press the button we do the rest, Kodak 1889

Early Photographic Portraiture

  • Because the exposure time was still quite long (30 seconds to 2 minutes), it was difficult to hold still.
  • Stands were invented to help the subjects of the photos hold their heads and arms still.
Photographer studio 1893

Photographer studio 1893, in which the photographer satirizes the stiff pose required for photographs

Early Photojournalism

  • In the 1860’s, photographers captured images from the Civil War.

The 35mm Camera

  • The first 35mm camera was introduced in 1924 by Leica.
  • The 35mm camera revolutionized photography.
  • Now cameras were faster, and more lightweight and portable—they did not require a tripod.
  • Action shots were possible, such as this one from World War II.

Color Photography

  • Three-color photography was first theoretically proposed by James Clerk Mazwell in 1861.
  • In 1870, Ducos du Hauron first demonstrated the technique.
  • Each three-color negative was created from three black-and-white negatives.
  • It was extremely difficult to actually create and exhibit the work.
  • Autochrome was a process patented in 1903 by the Lumiere brothers in France. It used glass platesIn the mid-1930s, color film was introduced by Kodak and Agfa.
  • In the mid-1930s, color film was introduced by Kodak and Agfa.
Shaftesbury Avenue from Piccadilly Circus, London, 1949. Kodachrome by Chalmers Butterfield

Shaftesbury Avenue from Piccadilly Circus, London, 1949. Kodachrome by Chalmers Butterfield

First SLR (single lens reflex)

  • In 1949, the SLR camera became available. It is not the standard for professional photography.

Digital Photography

  • In the 1990s, consumer camera companies began developing digital SLR photography.
  • The first digital still camera was invented by Kodak engineer Steven Sasson.

Video: Illuminating photography: From camera obscura to camera phone – Eva Timothy [4:49]

Video: How Does a Camera Work? [14:43]

Commercial Photography

  • Commercial photography is the creation of photographs for a variety of commercial purposes, as opposed to purely artistic creation.
  • Commercial photography began almost as soon as photography was invented, in the mid-1800s.
  • Between 1920 and 1930, the use of photographs in illustrated ads jumped from 15% to almost 80%.
  • Commercial photographs were in black and white until the 1950s, when color reproduction became much less expensive.
  • After World War II, advertising got much bigger budgets. A higher quality of photograph was expected.

Edward Steichen

  • One of the first photographers to produce advertising photographs.
  • Became the most dominant photographer in 1920s New York.
  • Counted among his clients Camel Cigarettes and Cartier Jewelry.
Edward Steichen, Kendall Lee, Cartier Earrings, 1925

Edward Steichen, Cartier Earrings, 1925

Edward Steichen, Camel Cigarettes

Edward Steichen, Camel Cigarettes

  • He was also a fine art painter and photographer.
Edward Steichen, Spiral Shell, 1921

Edward Steichen, Spiral Shell, 1921

Food Photography

  •  A photograph of food must be very appealing.
  • Food photographers learn how to achieve just the right lighting to bring the dishes to life.
  • Other important aspects of food photography include:
    • Choosing the right plates, glasses, and flatware to accompany the food,
    • being ready to shoot quickly before the food melts, wilts, or changes color,
    • creating a lively composition with the arrangement of the food and other props,
    • shooting slightly above plate level and focusing on one part of the dish
    • using tricks of the trade, such as olive oil to add a glistening surface, and adding steam with hidden cotton balls that have been soaked in water and heated in the microwave
food-photo1 food-photo2 food-photo2 food-photo2

Product Photography

  • Some product photos focus on the use of the product…
  • or on the status and attractions of the product.
model-photo2 model-photo3 product-photo2
  • Some product photos focus on the design of the product, revealing the detail and feel of a product to the customer..

Fashion Photography

  • Fashion photography is probably the best known type of commercial photography.
  • These types of photographs show up in ads as well as articles in magazines.
  • There are a range of styles and techniques in commercial fashion photography, from catalogue photographs which attempt to show the entire detail of clothing…
  • To high fashion shots, which attempt to use the clothes in unusual and dynamic ways.
  • To stories which suggest a lifestyle that the product may bring.