The basic concepts of photography date back to ancient China and Greece, but the modern version of the practice is directly related to the camera obscura. This device was a dark chamber with a hole through which images outside of the chamber were projected onto the opposite wall of the chamber. The camera obscura was described in writing by scientist and writer Giambattista della Porta, so it was easy for future generations to understand how the device worked. Later versions of the camera obscura relied on photographer’s drawing skills. The first successful photograph similar to what we know today as film photography was produced by Nicephore Niepce in the early 1800s. He shared his technique with chemist Louis Daguerre, who went on to invent the process of capturing still images known as the daguerrotype.
British inventor William Talbot later developed a method of photography that reduced exposure time in 1840. Talbot also found a way to make photos reproducible, which allowed professional photographs to share images of major events with many people. One of the first examples of this was during the Civil War when Matthew Brady photographed more than 10,000 images of the war.
During the mid-1800s a photo studio was opened in Boston by Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes. The studio was known as The
Artist’s Daguerreotype Room and the two produced portraits through the daguerreotype process. The duo was known for their inventive way of working and did not utilize the typical lighting and stiff posing of the time. They also incorporated natural lighting, true-life images, and the “ugly” side of things. Daguerreaotypists also captured images of landscapes. As a matter of fact, the development of the city of San Francisco was documented through the process.
Toward the end of the century, photography became a way to spread information about social conditions to people who would otherwise not be exposed to issues. Jacob Riis took photos of poor neighborhoods in New York City, allowing people all over to see how others were living. It was shortly after this that George Eastman developed a camera that was simple and inexpensive enough for amateurs to use to document their own personal events.
Throughout the 20th century there were a number of developments in photography, including the development of the 35mm camera, the Polaroid camera, and the instant camera. The Polaroid made it possible to snap a photo and have the image develop on paper in mere minutes. Instant cameras made it easier for amateur photographers to take high quality photographs because of features such as auto focus and auto flash.
Today, the preferred method of photography for amateurs is digital. Many professionals use this method as well, but there are still more traditional photographers who prefer film. Digital photos are easier to store, require no development, and can easily be resized, so enlargements are much easier. Today, digital cameras can be installed into cell phones and other electronic devices, so amateur photographs do not need to carry a separate camera to capture images.