The History of Photography: From Its Invention to the Modern Day

Photographers are an exceptionally creative bunch. Their art is so diverse and dynamic in its execution that photographers have been able to produce some of the most visually striking images ever documented by mankind. The history of photography, however, is a very long and complex one – especially with so many different styles and techniques coming from so many different people at the same time. Moreover, the history of photography has been one of constant change. Each year brings new variations and adaptations on old techniques, with technology advancing and society’s tastes adapting accordingly. From the earliest experiments in capturing images to where we’re headed next, here is a brief history of photography as we know it today.

Early photography: From its invention to 1839

Perhaps unsurprisingly, photography as we know it today was actually not invented in the way we’ve come to understand it. It was invented as a way to create images on chemically treated papers that would permanently capture the likeness of a person or a landscape. Two separate inventors laid claim to the invention of photography. The first was British scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel, who discovered the process in 1819. It involved taking a silver-coated plate, exposing it to sunlight and then washing it in a chemical bath to create a permanent image. This process, however, required large amounts of light and was never really commercially viable. The other inventor was Frenchman Joseph Niépce, who discovered the process after reading Herschel’s research. He tried to adapt Herschel’s method to work in lower light conditions, but his efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. Niépce, however, did manage to create a usable and commercially viable process, successfully inventing the first known photographic image.

Daguerreotypes and Tintypes: 1839-1868

The first commercially viable form of photography, the Daguerreotype, was the first step from these early experiments in capturing images. It was a process invented by Frenchman Louis Daguerre, in which a camera shutter was opened for just long enough to take the image. The image was then developed on silver-coated copper plates in a dark room, with the result being a permanent and visually arresting image. This method of photography remained popular until the invention of the Paper Negative in 1839. The camera’s shutter was opened and light hit sensitized paper that would darken in proportion to the amount of light hitting it. The paper was then developed in water and fixed to paper to create the image. This technique remained popular until the advent of the Tintype, which was invented in the 1860s.

The Rise of the Handheld Camera: 1868-1900

The next major development in photography was the invention of the handheld camera. The camera was invented in 1868 by a camera company in New York City called the Kodak Camera Company, who pioneered the world’s first commercially viable camera and film system. Their camera was a simple wooden box with a shutter, a lens and a box of chemicals for processing the film, and it was a huge success. The rising popularity of the handheld camera led to the invention of the Carte de Visite system of photography, which involved the taking of small photographs on a large card. The invention of this card brought with it the invention of the Photobooth, which allowed people to have their photograph taken more easily.

Kodak and Brownie: 1900-1934


The advent of the Brownie Camera in 1900 was a game-changer for photography. It was a simple and cheap way of taking photographs and was a great way for amateurs to learn and experiment with the art of photography. It was a massive success and by the 1930s, Kodak were producing over two million Brownie cameras every year. The Kodak Box Camera, another important invention, was first created in 1901 and was used as a standard camera by amateurs and professionals alike. The invention of the Box Camera paved the way for the invention of the Instant Camera in the 1950s. The invention of the Instant Camera revolutionized the photography industry by allowing people to see the image as it was being taken. This meant that people could correct their mistakes as they went along and allowed amateurs to take far more visually striking images.

The Advent of Color Film: 1934-1969

Throughout most of photography’s history, black and white was the only color available. This all changed in 1934, when the first commercially available color film was created. Kodak’s Kodachrome film was a huge success and allowed amateurs and professionals alike to experiment with color in their images. The advent of color film paved the way for the invention of the first ever instant color photo system in 1936. The first instant photo system was called the Autosnap and allowed amateurs to take colorful photos and view them immediately. The invention of instant color photo systems also allowed for the first ever self-service photo booths to be created. These booths allowed people to take their own colorful and fun photos, which they could keep and take home with them.

Video Cameras in the 70s and 80s

The invention of a video camera in the 1970s was a huge step for the history of photography. It allowed people to record moving images, which could be played back at any time and from any place. The invention of the first ever video camera was a collaboration between Ampex Corporation and the Bingham brothers. The Bingham brothers had created a prototype video camera in 1956, but it was Ampex who created the first commercially available video camera in 1956. The first video camera was huge, heavy and very expensive. It was also very large and difficult to use, but it paved the way for the invention of the first ever video camera. The first commercially available video camera was the Sony Portapak. It was a handheld portable video camera that was easy to use and extremely difficult to break. It was a huge success and cemented the video camera’s place in history.

The Digital Renaissance: 2000 to Today

The history of photography was almost ended in the 21st century, as photography almost became a thing of the past. Then, in 2000, the world was introduced to the first ever digital camera. The first digital camera was created in 1975, but it was never truly commercially viable. The digital camera was not invented again until 2000, when the first ever digital camera was released to the public. The first ever digital camera created was called the Fuji DS-X and was a very basic and simple camera. It caused a massive stir, however, as it was the first truly digital camera. The digital camera revolutionized the photography industry and allowed anyone to take professional-looking images without having to use film. It also meant that any images taken could be sent and viewed in an instant, which was a massive step forward for the digital photography industry.

The Future of Photography

Photography has been around for a long time, and it shows no signs of slowing down. New advancements in technology and new techniques mean that there will always be something new to learn and discover when it comes to photography. From artificial intelligence to virtual reality, the future of photography is certainly bright! As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to advance, we expect that AI will be a big part of the future of photography. With the level of sophistication in AI growing every year, it is not inconceivable that photographers will one day use AI as a tool for their craft. Virtual reality (VR) has also become increasingly popular and is expected to become a big part of the future of photography. With VR headsets like the Oculus Go becoming more affordable, there are more people than ever before experiencing VR. VR is expected to have a major impact on photography, as more people have access to VR headsets, meaning more people will be able to view VR content. And while these technologies are certainly expected to play a major role, there are many other factors that will influence the future of photography. From different types of cameras to new ways of editing images and more, the future of photography is full of exciting possibilities.


The history of photography is long, complex and dynamic. Each year brings new variations and adaptations on old techniques, with technology advancing and society’s tastes adapting accordingly. From the earliest experiments in capturing images to where we’re headed next, here is a brief history of photography as we know it today.

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