Early years of photography
Credit: photoreview.org (public domain)

Photography had evolved so much since the term “photography” was first introduced in 1839 by John F.W. Herschel. But, did you know that the first camera known as camera obscura was invented in 1000AD by Ibn al-Haitham?  However, this  camera was not meant to take images. Instead, it is meant for drawing or viewing purposes. In 1827, Joseph Nicephore Niepce produced the first ever photographic image. It was after more than a decade that scientists started to study photography and started making breakthroughs. From there, the evolution of photography has branch-out to become one of today’s most sought hobby or profession. In this article, you will read about the exact process or timeline how the camera obscura turned into today’s widely used DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex). 

The early years

As mentioned earlier, cameras have existed long before the term “photography” was used and defined. Aristotle was actually the first  person who questioned why the sun produces a circular image through a square hole during 330 BC. This curiosity led to the formulation of the optics law and bring forth the invention of the pinhole camera also  known as the camera obscura. However, back then, image preservation is only done through manual tracing. Furthermore, these cameras are bulky and hand carrying it is impossible. Nonetheless, this does not stop people from creating breakthroughs and exploring the world of images. After years of experiments, the evolution of photography continued until Joseph Nicephore Niepce produced the first photographic image. However, to produce an image, it needs light exposure for an utmost of eight hours. Furthermore, once the image is produced, it will fade away after a few minutes. 

Camera Obscura
Credit: Wikimedia common (public domain)

The birth of photography

In 1839, twelve years after Joseph Nicephore Niepce’s discovery, Louis Daguerre developed a more practical  process of preserving images. Unlike the latter process, this method  only takes 30 minutes by combining silver-plated copper metal sheets in different kinds of chemicals namely iodine and chlorine. To explain his method, he explained that light is  the key element  in creating the perfect photo wherein too much light can result in dark images while lesser light creates faded images. However, this process is not perfect since he used metal sheets. Hence, the evolution of photography continues.

The major problem of the daguerreotype is the use of metal sheets. In 1841, this problem was resolved by Henry Fox Talbot. He first developed a negative image wherein a black background and a gray subject is produced. From there, he created a beautiful picture by interchanging the shadow and the light. This process is widely known as the calotype. 

There are other breakthroughs during this period of the evolution of photography to improve the paper-negative method. But, the most significant one was conducted by George Eastman in 1889. He invented an emulsion coated nitrocellulose film that is durable and flexible enough to be  rolled. In addition to that, he is also known for creating the  first “Kodak  camera” in 1888. This camera has a film that is  conveniently installed by the manufacturer. Once, film is used, it will be sent to the Kodak factory for the film processing and printing. Afterwards, the camera will be returned with a new set of unused film. 

Modern photography

The beginning of modern photography starts upon the development of colored photos in 1940. During this era, light weight cameras are already sold in the market. It was actually in 1902 that Oskar Barnack came up with the idea of enlarging high-quality images. However, the 35 mm camera, the specific equipment that can make this happen was not built until 1913. Quality testing and mass production of this camera was delayed because of World War I. Hence, it was only released to the public in 1925. From there, different  competitors have also produced the same type of gadget up until 1939. From this evolution of photography, instant cameras emerged. The instant camera, best known as Polaroid is invented by Edwin Herbert Land and it was sold in the market in November 1948. After a few years, disposable cameras were introduced to the market in 1986.

As for SLR (Single-Lens Reflex) and TLR (Twin-Lens Reflex), they are already available during. There are actually a lot of SLR models that became  popular after World  War II. However, it was in 1962 when an SLR model with a TTL system is first introduced. In 1984, Canon explained the mechanics behind the digital electronic camera. 

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21st century photography

The evolution of photography continues as part of the technological era. As you can observe today, you can do various tasks in one image. It all started in 1981 when Sony launched their first digital camera prototype with two CCD chips as a storage device. However, this gadget is actually a video camera that freezes video recordings. Nonetheless, this is the start of the digital era. Camera-computer linking was introduced in 1991 for photojournalism purposes. It was not until 1994 when these gadgets became popular for home use.

What about image editing? This progress is credited to the Knoll brothers namely Thomas and John. It was in 1987, when Thomas Knoll started creating monochrome display program. Later on, John Knoll proposes an image editing program instead. By 1988, Adobe bought the Photoshop license for distribution. And, that is the beginning of image editing. As of today, image editing software is yearly updated and programmed to be more user-friendly. 

A final thought

Today, photography is not only about preserving images. Instead, it is about creating art and showing deep emotions. Because of today’s technology, you don’t need  superb skills to become a photographer. As long as you have the eye to catch inspiring moments, you can share these images worldwide via different photo-sharing sites such as Flickr. But, if you really  want  to broaden your skills  and become professionals, there are hundreds of photography books you can purchase and classes you can attend. Remember, with today’s advancements, nothing is impossible when it comes to creating art.  

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