Evolution of Photography 

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In today’s day and age, in two minutes, we take more pictures than the entire world did in the 1800s. Photography has changed from taking hours to take a picture to only taking seconds. The history, technique, and the ideas put behind to make photography took about a decade. Although, in that time frame it had the chance to grow tremendously, and it did. Not only did it evolve in how long it took to take a picture but the evolution of photography has changed from black and white film, to color film, to digital.

The first picture taken was in black and white on a metal sheet in1826/1827. It took an eight-hour exposure time to complete the picture (according to Ransom.) The picture wasn’t taken the way one would think it would be taken. It started off with a chemical process that Joseph Nicephore Niepce created. This was poured over a metal sheet which was then placed in a camera. This process included letting the sunlight hit the metal sheet in the camera, creating the first image after eight hours of exposure.

They often refer the process of the light making the photo as “heliography.”(Ransom) After the exposure time was complete, the metal sheet was taken out of the camera and washed in a mixture of lavender oil and white petroleum which dissolved the bitumen that had not been hardened by light. The first picture taken this way is famously known as View from the Window at Le Gras. It was taken in the house of Joseph on the second floor. The picture was taken from out of his window making the view a landscape picture, the first landscape picture.

However, 35 years later the first color picture was taken. James Maxwell came up with putting three filters together which eventually became known as the “Theory of Additive Color” (Norman.) Photographer, Thomas Sutton, learning about Maxwell’s theory through a presentation, applied James Maxwell’s theory to his work. His theory was that different filters, colors being red, blue, and yellow/green, would come together to make a color picture.

They would take the picture three separate times; one through a red filter, one through a blue filter, and the last through a yellow/green filter. The three pictures would then be combined to make one picture. Maxwell chose the red, blue, and yellow/green so the basic colors could come together and make a wider variety of colors present in the picture once all three were combined.

Maxwell was aiming to see a broad spectrum of colors in his picture just like one can see with their eyes (Jones). Sutton put Maxwell’s theory to the test and took the first ever color picture, which was a picture of a tartan ribbon. The picture came out to show some of the basic colors we see in our day-to-day life; pinks, blues, purples, whites, and blacks, but this was the start of the wave of colored pictures. This came together to be the first color picture that didn’t immediately fade or need hand painting (like most “color pictures” needed back in the mid to late 1800s.)

Over time, we progressed to producing the first digital photo. The first digital photo didn’t necessarily come off of a camera. Russell Kirsch and his colleagues created an image scanner and scanned the first digital photo. The photo was an image of Kirsch’s son, whom was an infant at the time according to “The World’s First Digital Image was in 1957”. They took the picture on the first digital camera, the Kodak. The Kodak only took black and white pictures at the time and it took a total of 23 seconds to capture a picture. The quality of the image isn’t like the quality that we have now.

According to “Waffles at Noon” the picture was 176 x 176 pixels, on the Kodak, it has a resolution of .01 mega pixels. The reason it was so pixilated was because in the 1950s they didn’t have the technology or resources that we have today. The computer memory limited how pixilated the picture could be once scanned. Although, as technology and computers evolved, the quality of pictures on the digital end started to become better and even more popular. In 1990, the real first digital camera to hit the market which was the Dycam Model 1. This helped promote a new market for those interested in photography if they had the money to invest into it. Back in the 1990s, according to “Waffles at Noon” it was $600 dollars for a digital camera that didn’t have a display screen and the memory card held very few photos.

Today you can buy a Cannon Camera for $500 which comes with a display screen and they quality is so much better than what it was only 20 years ago. In today’s day and age one can find a picture of just about anything they want on the internet and/or take a picture whenever they feel like it. Since the first digital photo to now, there is a rough estimate of about 14 trillion digital photos taken each year thanks to digital photos being able to be taken on a cell phone, camera, tablet, or just about anything electronic.

Not only has time changed but so has photography. Photography can mark how much we have changed over time and it shows how many memories can be saved in a single frame of a picture. Joseph Nicephore Niepce helped start what brings so many people joy, and over time James Maxwell, Thomas Sutton, and Russell Kirsch helped improve a technique that can have lasting effects on people.

They now impact people’s lives daily because something as simple as a black and white photo evolved over time to becoming a digital photo that makes it possible for people to use pictures as a way of communication. In fact, an estimate of 158 million people use Snapchat, a form of photography, to communicate every day. The life of technology is improving and becoming more sophisticated every minute, just as photography has in the past two decades.

Works Cited

  1. Jones, Josh, “Behold the Very First Color Photograph (1861): Taken by Scottish Physicist (and Poet!) James Clerk Maxwell” Openculture.com Accessed October 21, 2018
  2. Libina, Alexandra, “10 Fun Photography Facts” PastBook.com, Accessed October 21, 2018
  3. Norman, Jeremy, “James Clerk Maxwell Produces the First Color Photograph (1861)” HistoryofInformation.com Accessed October 21,2018
  4. Ransom, Harry, “Harry Ransom Center The University of Texas at Austin.” HarryRansom CenterAccessed October 21, 2018
  5. “The World’s First Digital Image was in 1957” WafflesatNoon.com Accessed October 21, 2018

Cite this paper

Evolution of Photography . (2021, Jun 18). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/evolution-of-photography/



How the evolution of photography has changed?
The evolution of photography has changed the way we capture and store memories. We can now take pictures with our phones and have them automatically backed up to the cloud.
What are the devices used during the evolution of photography?
Some of the devices used during the evolution of photography are the camera obscura, the daguerreotype, and the Kodak camera.
When was photography first used?
The first photograph was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. The earliest surviving photograph from nature was taken in 1827 by Niépce's associate Louis Daguerre.
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