top of page

History Of Photography: You Really Should Not Avoid Learning These 7 Facts

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

When did photography first appear? Which unusual stepping stones did we have to traverse to get to our current state of photography and technology?

In photography, a picture is created by capturing electromagnetic radiation onto a light-sensitive material. Images can be captured either electrically, using an image sensor, or chemically, using a light-sensitive substance such as photographic film. Photographs originally only came in black and white. Nonetheless, advancements in technology and the application of previously unknown techniques have allowed for the recording of colours, and in the digital millennium, we have even seen the emergence of special effects and three-dimensional representations.

Woman trying to capture a scene of Ocean waves

Using a camera to snap a photo. Manufacturing, science, business, pleasure, mass communication, and hobbies are just a few of the many uses for photography that have developed throughout the years. The history of photographic science is distinct from other scientific disciplines. Here are seven foundational details from photography's past that everyone should know.

1. The creation of the word "photography"

Canon EDS 6D Camera In Hands

The term "photography" originates in the Greek language. The word is derived from the Greek words for light (photos) and drawing (graphein). The use of the phrase dates back to the 1830s. When used together, the phrase means "light sketching." As popular lore has it, Sir John Herschel first popularized the term "photography" among the general public. Hercules Florence and Johann von Maedler are only two of the many authors that have utilised this word. Sun prints or heliographs were the original names for pictures.

2. The earliest surviving image

Oldest Existing Image The Earliest Image Black And White

To this day, Joseph Niepce's 1826–1827 image is the first known and oldest surviving example of photography. He used a sheet of polished pewter on which he had applied a small layer of bitumen to make it light sensitive. He used lavender oil to dilute the petroleum tar, which he then put on the metal and let dry. Bitumen became solidified after being exposed to the camera for around 8 hours. Without employing a solvent to remove the softened areas, a positive picture was preserved. If you wanted to see the picture clearly, you had to illuminate the plate such that the bitumen stood out and the metal was in shadow. He later perfected this method, which made viewing images simpler and cut down on exposure time.

3. The original selfie

Worlds first and original selfie image

These days, everyone seems to be taking selfies. People smile, frown, and pull a variety of faces for their own camera photos. But who took the first selfie, if anyone? He was a scientist and amateur photographer named Robert Cornelius, and he was from Philadelphia, in the United States. He had set up his camera in the back portion of his family store. He removed the lens cap and ran into the picture to shoot his own shot. After taking the picture, which took about a minute, he turned around and hid the lens. On the photograph's backside, he scribbled 'first light image ever captured'. Selfies have been around for a long time, but this one, taken in 1839, is the oldest known.

4. Current camera types

Different kinds of vintage cameras

Studio cameras, which were mounted on tripods and utilised glass plates for photography, were among the earliest types of cameras to gain widespread popularity. Then, to accommodate the rising demand for photography, the point-and-shoot box camera was extensively distributed. In 1922, Kodak introduced a foldable camera to make taking pictures easier and more convenient. 135 film cameras, pentaprism cameras, and Polaroid instant cameras followed. With the advent of PCs and digital photography, digital cameras also started on their path to fame. These days, almost everyone has a cell phone, and the majority of them even have a camera. Thanks to recent technological advancements, miniaturised cameras seen in smartphones are quickly becoming the industry standard.

5. The first examples of colour photography

Worlds first colour photography

A well-known Scottish scientist by name of James Clerk Maxwell took the first colour picture in 1861. By this point, he was already well-known for his advancements in electromagnetism, and he used this shot in one of his lectures. A red filter, a green filter, and a blue filter were used to create a collection of three black and white images. Due to its lacklustre performance, it was quickly forgotten. Photographs could not be viewed until later when Charles Cros and Louis Ducos du Hauron developed a method to do so without the need for projection. They also made full-colour paper prints using this approach.

6. Photography's emergence as a creative medium

Alfred Steilglitz earliest Photos

It was Alfred Steiglitz who popularised photography as an art form among the general public. He was a pioneer of the contemporary art movement in the United States and a prominent photographer. He owned a number of art galleries in New York with the intention of showcasing the work of European artists, and photography was a hobby of his. A photographic art movement known as Photo-Secession ( might be credited to his acknowledgement of photographers as artists. The painting was revered as an art form at the time, but photography was regarded as strictly scientific. In order to spread the word about photography's artistic merits, he also founded the publications Camera Work and Camera Notes.

7. The first digital photograph

First digital photo in the world fact drive

Russell A. Kirsch created a digital wire picture drum scanner that can save an image from an analogue source on a digital computer. With a resolution of just 176 × 176 pixels, the first photo he scanned was of his own son. There were no shades of grey or other colours present at all; everything was in black and white. In later times, numerous scans were combined to partially get grayscale images.

Since its origin, photography has seen several transformations. There has been a lot of attention paid to three-dimensional representations in recent advancements, and we can all only wonder what will happen next.

7 Facts About History of Photography That You Must Know. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2022, from