Camera Obscura


Inventor: Mo-tzu / Ibn al-Haytham

A camera obscura was a dark chamber or room with a hole/lens in it, in which light came through and was projected onto an opposite wall.

It is unknown exactly when this was invented, but many people speculate the idea was first created all the way back in the 5th century BCE, where the first recorded use was put together by a Chinese philosopher Mo-tzu in 400 BCE. However, the first proper camera obscura was created around the 11th century, when Iraqi scientist Ibn al-Haytham used fabric as a viewing screen, similar to a modern projector on a screen.

This technique was often used by artists, allowing them 
to sketch and paint from real life more accurately onto their canvases.

The idea of image projecting was created, along with capturing.



Inventor: Joseph Nicéphore Niépce

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce was a French inventor who pioneered the technology of photography in the future centuries. For years, he developed and combined chemicals to create a long-lasting image created from a camera obscura. 

To make a more permanent photo, Niépce dissolved light-sensitive bitumen in oil of lavender and applied a thin coating over a polished metal plate. He inserted the plate into a camera obscura and positioned it near a window. After several hours of exposure to sunlight, the plate yielded an impression of the courtyard, outbuildings, and the trees outside.

This produced the earliest known photograph, because it was everlasting instead of fleeting. He captured the view outside his window, which can still be viewed to this day as “printed” on a metal plate.

Photographs were captured on metal, using the sun.



Inventor: Louis Daguerre

Daguerreotype was focused on shortening the exposure time of capturing images while utilizing a technique similar to that of heliography.

The daguerreotype is a direct-positive process, creating  a highly detailed image on a sheet of copper coated with silver. The process required great care, and worked by coating a copperplate with silver and exposing it with iodine vapor, until it slightly turned color. After exposure to light, the plate was developed over hot mercury until an image appeared, which was fixed with even more chemical solutions.

The primary selling point for this technique of photography was that the exposure time shrank from a few hours to only 15 minutes, creating a much quicker way to produce an image. This ease-of-use allowed photography to be more publicly available, and portrait-making developed as a result.

Photography became quicker and more accessible to anyone.



Inventor: William Henry Fox Talbot

This technique was discovered by William Henry Fox Talbot, a British linguist. Gallic acid, used to increase the sensitivity of prepared paper for photography, was a highlight of his experiments. While testing things out, he discovered that it could be used to produce a latent image (or negative image) on the paper.

This technique revolutionized photography, producing 
the very first paper images, rather than ones produced 
on metal sheets with chemicals.

Using coated paper, images were able to be captured through a camera, taking the exposure time down even further – just a single minute was all you needed to capture a moment with calotype cameras. While it did capture less detail, the usage of paper made photographs even cheaper and easier for people to use.

Cameras were able to capture photographs on paper, and faster.

Mirror Camera


Inventor: Alexander Simon Wolcott

While both daguerreotype and calotype utilized similar functions of a camera, this type of camera was a step toward commercial photography. While the previously mentioned cameras produced photos that faded quickly, this new method didn’t require a lens – instead, it used a mirror – and thus, it extended the lifetime of photos.

Created by Alexander Simon Wolcott in 1840, the mirror camera utilized a concave mirror instead of a lens. Wolcott used the mirror to reflect light on a light-sensitive plate to produce a positive image.

This technique allowed the sitting time for a portraiture to be reduced from 30 minutes to just 5, and also increased the lifetime of the resulting pictures. Due to this increasing demand for photos and ease, Wolcott opened the world’s first portrait studio in 1840, located in New York City.

A mirror was used as a lens, making pictures last much longer.

Instant Exposure Camera


Inventor: Richard Leach Maddox

In 1871, Richard Leach Maddox found a way to reduce the chemicals required for photography while also decreasing the time for development even further. He began to use gelatin emulsion, which is a layer in film or prints of light-sensitive salts.

Gelatin had a dry plate, which didn’t require preparations for the consumer, meaning they could be purchased from the store and used immediately.  By the time it was fully developed, the exposure time required was only 1/25 of
a second.

As a result, negatives did not have to be developed immediately. Also, for the first time, cameras could be made small enough to be hand-held. This technique also played an important role in the development of cinematography, due to the speed at which photos could now be taken.

Film could be bought and used instead of prepared by hand.

Roll Film Camera


Inventor: George Eastman

The introduction of gelatin emulsion allowed for roll film cameras to be produced. In 1888, using celluloid film, George Eastman manufactured the Kodak camera and founded the Eastman Kodak Company shortly afterwards. The camera included a roll of film that could produce up to 100 exposures.

After the photographer used up all of the film, they would send their entire camera to the Kodak factory, where the film would be developed and sent back to the user as photographs. This allowed greater accessibility to consumers, who may not have the resources to develop all of their film at home.

At the time of their founding, Kodak’s motto was “You press the button, we do the rest.”

Film was increasingly accessible and had
more exposures.

35mm Film Camera


Inventor: Oskar Barnack

In 1913, German inventor Oskar Barnack produced the first renditions of the 35mm camera. The film, typically 35x24mm, was rolled into a protective and removable cassette case. It originally only took about 36 exposures, but allowed the camera to be much slimmer and more portable.

It was this time that a camera began to look like the ones we know and love today, as cameras became even more accessible. Companies sprung up to create more variations of the camera, feeding a blossoming industry.

Cameras became slimmer and more
open to consumers.

Polaroid Camera


Inventor: Edwin Land

In 1948, Edwin Land invented the instant camera and founded the Polaroid Corp. The first versions of Polaroids worked by connecting a film negative to a film positive using emulsion, and the user would then remove the negative after exposure to reveal their image. Later, the camera could achieve this itself.

These cameras dominated from the 1970s – 1990s, and began to show the appeal of the instant gratification that came with an instantly useable photo.

Photographs and development became instantaneous.