Photography has a long and fine history that dates back centuries, some of the concepts are far older. Now it’s a hobby enjoyed by many, and almost everyone that has a cell phone, also has a camera. Pictures, and their recording, have made a significant impact on the world as we know it.
Some of the foundations for photography were laid down as long ago as 330 BC where Aristotle started musing about light and images, wondering why the sun shining through square hole made a round circle on the ground. Alhazen is credited to making the first pinhole camera in 1000 AD, and also explained by through the pin hole an image appears upside down. Upon these early ideas and observations later inventors would build upon the idea that images and light are closely related and some materials are effected by light in such a way as to preserve an image.
In 1827 history was made as Nicephore Niepce created the first real photographic recording. Using a pinhole camera an engraving and a metallic plate coated in bitumen. This primitive camera took eight hours of exposure to natural sunlight but after exposure and dipping the plate in a solvent, an image resolved itself. The image would fade after a short time. A contemporary of Niepce, Louis Daguerre, was also making his own experiments and the two joined forces in order to improve the process. After many years their research made it possible for Daguerre to reduce the exposure time to less than 30 minutes although Niepce wouldn’t live to see this breakthrough. Daguerre went on to create the first practical process for taking and developing photographs which he called the daguerreotype.
The daguerreotype photographic process gave rise to the trend of portraits for the middle class throughout the industrial revolution. Previous to photography, portraits were created by artists and used expensive oil paints making them a luxury of the rich. Photography, by comparison, was much cheaper and accessible to those with modest wealth instead of just those with extravagant wealth.
The daguerreotype method was well and good, but only one print could be made from one exposure. It was an Englishman by the name of Henry Fox Talbot that first invented the negative to positive development method which allowed multiple prints to be created from one capture. Color photographs came closely, in 1860 and many different inventors contributed to different methods and ideas for adding color to photographs. In 1861 Thomas Sutton first added colors by using red, blue and green light filters but he was by no means the last.
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Digital photography is a thing of the modern era, but it too began a long while before it saw common household use. A team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology used a wirephoto drum scanner to convert an image into a binary file. No color was possible at this time, but by super imposing multiple 176×176 pixel scans over reach other, grey scale could be achieved. AT&T bell researchers Willard Boyle and George E. Smith founded the CCCD technology that was found in all modern digital cameras. This invention was used right up to when it was replaced by the active pixel sensor (APS) that is used in most modern cell phone cameras.