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How Photography Developed: A Look at the History of Our Craft

By Hanssie on February 8th 2016

When we look at the past, we get a fascinating look at where we came from, how our thoughts and ways of doing things have evolved, and the mistakes that have been made so that we aren’t doomed to repeat them.

Photography is such an integral part of our lives today – easily accessed in the palm of our hands. The oldest known photograph dates back to the early 1800’s, but the first camera or, at least, the idea of the camera, was first mentioned in the ancient times by philosophers Mozi, Aristotle and Alhazen. The pinhole camera or camera obscura was a box with a hole in it where light passes through and produces an (upside down) image inside its wall.



In the 5-minute video below, COOPH shows how photography developed through history. “The History of Photography” highlights some of the major milestones that brought us from Aristotle and the Camera Obscura to the Pre-Teens and taking selfies on a smartphone. Using multimedia – animation and old photographs – the video is a fun watch and something that would be great to show this generation not only how far photography has come but the tedium of photography of the past (like in the 1850’s where exposure times were about 3 minutes long, and your subject had to “use neck braces and drugs to keep still.”)

To learn more about COOPH, check out their website here and follow them on the following social media sites:

[Related: The Evolution of Photography]


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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Edward Spiro

    Concerning the History of Photography in 5 Minutes, you might consider the following:

    Niepce’s photograph is usually described as requiring an exposure time of eight hours, not two days.

    Talbot is hardlly considered “a negative”. His process using the negative/positive became the basis of future photography as multiple copies could be made from one negative. His photography on paper resulted in less image sharpness than the Daguerrotype. This was later solved by using glass as a support. His lawsuits didn’t help him much but he was a well regarded scientist in his time and now. Find a biography of him and read it.

    Dry plates generally required cameras that were still large and needed tripods. Enlarging small negatives had not yet been invented.

    Edgar Allan Poe’s middle name was Allan, not Ellen.

    You illustrated a later Brownie camera , not the first.

    You illustrated a later Leica, not the first.

    Single lens reflexes were available in the early 20th Century. Steiglitz used one. 35mm single reflex and roll film cameras were generally available in the 1930’s ( ex. Exakta).

    I am sure I can find more mistakes if I look harder. Please don’t rewrite history.

    Ms. Hegner is quite correct about Atkins. Her cyanotypes are both scientific and beautiful. The video though is more about the development of photographic technology than individual photographers. A list of great woman photographers would be both extensive and welcome.

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  2. Chehalis Hegner

    Hello video producers of the History of Photography in 5 minutes! Love the video, but do not love the omission of women contributors. I did not see one development or sample image created by a woman. Women have played an equal role in the history of photography. Perhaps a more apt title for this video might be: The Technological History of Photography? At any rate, how about Anna Atkins? “Anna Atkins was an English botanist and photographer. She is often considered the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images. Some sources claim that she was the first woman to create a photograph.” Wikipedia

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  3. John Sheehan

    As someone who used film back in the 1980s and early 1990s (before I stopped doing photography for a while) I love watching videos on the history of photography. I believe newcomers should also learn about where photography came from, too.

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