Brief History of photography and the camera

Photography and cameras date back to 200 years. It is one form of scientific art with a history of development, thanks to dynamic technologies. It evolved from a pinhole camera to the current mini cameras integrated on smartphones.

 Currently, it’s an industry with a capital base of billions of dollars. Let’s look at the stages that this spectacular industry has taken to become what it is in the current market.


  1. Camera Obscura

Before photography- recording of images- an Iraqi scientist, used a pinhole camera to project the photos to a dark surface. There was no hard copy format. The only way to get it was to get an artist to retrace the shadow to get a similar image.

 The technology existed until the 11th century. The name Obscura was derived from a Latin word meaning a dark room. It was the only way to get the image due to the reflection of light in bright areas.

  It is a typical example of analog photography. As much it didn’t have the option of a printout, it gave upcoming scientists principles and insights to invent better cameras. 

 The same concept is integrated into the current images to have a touch of old-school. So, you can’t ignore its effect on contemporary photography. The main disadvantages that made this technology invalid were


  • Images were upside down.
  • No real images
  • No option for printout


  • It was portable 
  • Easy to manage due to minimal, sophisticated features


  1. First photographs

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, a scientist, based in France, took time in the late 18th century to study the first camera to make improvements on it. Instead of projecting it in a dark room, he directed the image to a bitumen-coated plate but now exposed it to light. Damn it!


The image was recorded, and it had a permanent mark that took time to fade. It was the beginning of various innovations on permanent images and, further, modern photography.


Numerous experiments were carried out to direct the image to multiple plates with different chemicals to get what works best. The main aim was to get a permanent image that couldn’t fade. Out of these trials, three camera plates came to existence

  • Daguerreotype
  • Emulsion plates
  • Dry plates


  1. Daguerreotype

Louis Daguerre collaborated with Niépce to make Daguerreotype films. The issue was on the plate and not the transmission of light from the object to the image. They used a silver-coated copper plate subjected to iodine exposure just before being taken through a light system. The only disadvantage of this technology was the fact that the dish had to have sunlight exposure for at least 15 minutes to get the image. They were in existence up to the 1850s, where emulsion plates took center stage.


  • Time-consuming
  • Expensive because unavailability of copper coated with a silver lining
  • Required too much time to expose to light


  • Better than the traditional camera obscura


  1. Emulsion plates

Emulsion plates, commonly known as wet plates, made sure they capitalized on the weaknesses of their predecessors. They were cheap and reduced the exposure time- 2 or 3 minutes- to get the images. They moved from the coating instead used emulsion plates through the Collodion process. They had better focus. It explains why the technology stayed longer up to the post-civil war. Two technologies were using this format


  • Ambrotypes- used a glass plate
  • Tintypes- used tin plate



  • Slow speed
  • Wet plates were produced on a need-to-need basis


  • Reduced light exposure time
  • Better quality than the Daguerreotype
  • Plates were sensitive to light


The founders took their time to study the chemistry of light movement with a close look at the darkroom effect. Moreover, they improved the quality of the images as well as the light speed.

  • Dry plates

The challenges involved in wet plates made Richard Maddox take the invention to a high level by introducing the concept of dry plates in developing images from objects.


Although they were equal in terms of speed and the quality of the images, the fact that his plates were dried meant you could produce many of them and store for use at a later date. It opened the door to freedom in photography.


Now the cameras were portable with the option for storage and not forgetting the minimal exposure time that came with the invention. It saw the development of the first mechanical cameras with a shutter.

  1. Cameras for all

Everyone knows Kodak, a company renowned for manufacturing cameras. George Eastman, the founder, introduced a permanent roll film that could take many photographs and store them.

Once the film is filled with images on the solid plates, you take to the film to his factory for image development. It could accommodate up to 100 film exposures.


Moreover, the camera has a lens without adjustments. He made cameras affordable to the ordinary citizen.


  1. Instant cameras

George opened room for more innovation to a point now we have thin films. The Polaroid technology revolutionalized photography and innovation of cameras to an extent we now have the smart cameras with numerous options to get the image as you want it.


Several developments soon came to the films and cameras. It saw the introduction of other camera brands like Nikon and Asahi, among other renowned camera brands.