Photography is the process of recording pictures by means of capturing light on a light-sensitive medium, such as a film or electronic sensor. Light patterns reflected or emitted from objects expose a sensitive silver halide based chemical or electronic medium during a timed exposure, usually through a photographic lens in a device known as a camera that also stores the resulting information chemically or electronically.
Lens and mounting of a large-format camera
A student using a handheld digital camera.
The word “photography” comes from the French photographie which is based on the Greek words φως phos (“light”), and γραφίς graphis (“stylus”, “paintbrush”) or γραφή graphê (“representation by means of lines” or “drawing”), together meaning “drawing with light.” Traditionally, the product of photography has been called a photograph, commonly shortened to photo.
1. Photographic cameras
The camera or camera obscura is the image-forming device, and photographic film or a silicon electronic image sensor is the sensing medium. The respective recording medium can be the film itself, or a digital electronic or magnetic memory.
Photographers control the camera and lens to “expose” the light recording material to the required amount of light to form a “latent image” or “raw file” which, after appropriate processing, is converted to a usable image. Modern digital cameras replace film with an electronic image sensor based on light-sensitive electronics such as charge-coupled device (CCD) or complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) technology. The resulting digital image is stored electronically, but can be reproduced on paper or film.
The controls usually include but are not limited to the following:
• Focus of the lens
• Aperture of the lens.
• Shutter speed.
• White balance.
• ISO speed.
• Auto-focus point.
2. Uses of photography
Photography gained the interest of many scientists and artists from its inception. Scientists have used photography to record and study movements, such as Eadweard Muybridge’s study of human and animal locomotion in 1887. Artists are equally interested by these aspects but also try to explore avenues other than the photo-mechanical representation of reality, such as the pictorialist movement. Military, police, and security forces use photography for surveillance, recognition and data storage. Photography is used to preserve memories of favorite times, to capture special moments, to tell stories, to send messages, and as a source of entertainment.
Commercial advertising relies heavily on photography and has contributed greatly to its development.
3. History of photography
Nicéphore Niépce’s earliest surviving photograph, c. 1826. This image required an eight-hour exposure, which resulted in sunlight being visible on both sides of the buildings.
Photography is the result of combining several technical discoveries. Long before the first photographs were made, Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) (965–1040) invented the camera obscura and pinhole camera. Albertus Magnus (1193–1280) discovered silver nitrate, and Georges Fabricius (1516–1571) discovered silver chloride. Daniel Barbaro described a diaphragm in 1568. Wilhelm Homberg described how light darkened some chemicals (photochemical effect) in 1694. The fiction book Giphantie (by the French Thiphaigne de La Roche, 1729-1774) described what can be interpreted as photography.
Photography as a usable process goes back to the 1820s with the development of chemical photography. The first permanent photograph was an image produced in 1826 by the French inventor Nicéphore Niépce. However, the picture took eight hours to expose, so he went about trying to find a new process. Working in conjunction with Louis Daguerre, they experimented with silver compounds based on a Johann Heinrich Schultz discovery in 1724 that a silver and chalk mixture darkens when exposed to light. Niépce died in 1833, but Daguerre continued the work, eventually culminating with the development of the daguerreotype in 1839.
Meanwhile, Hercules Florence had already created a very similar process in 1832, naming it Photographie, and William Fox Talbot had earlier discovered another means to fix a silver process image but had kept it secret. After reading about Daguerre’s invention, Talbot refined his process so that it might be fast enough to take photographs of people. By 1840, Talbot had invented the calotype process, which creates negative images. John Herschel made many contributions to the new methods. He invented the cyanotype process, now familiar as the “blueprint”. He was the first to use the terms “photography”, “negative” and “positive”. He discovered sodium thiosulphate solution to be a solvent of silver halides in 1819, and informed Talbot and Daguerre of his discovery in 1839 that it could be used to “fix” pictures and make them permanent. He made the first glass negative in late 1839.
In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer published his findings in “The Chemist” on the wet plate Collodion process. This became the most widely used process between 1852 and the late 1880s when the dry plate was introduced. There are three subsets to the Collodion process; the Ambrotype (positive image on glass), the Ferrotype or Tintype (positive image on metal) and the negative which was printed on Albumen or Salt paper.
Many advances in photographic glass plates and printing were made in through the nineteenth century. In 1884, George Eastman developed the technology of film to replace photographic plates, leading to the technology used by film cameras today.
4. Photography types
“Casting Winds” – this black & white displays the classic monochrome look, as well as the use of simulated optical filtering to enhance or diminish the rendering of certain light wavelengths.
All photography was originally monochrome, or black-and-white. Even after color film was readily available, black-and-white photography continued to dominate for decades, due to its lower cost and its “classic” photographic look. In modern times, black-and-white has mostly become a minority art form, and most photography has become color photography.
Many photographers continue to produce some monochrome images. Some full color digital images are processed using a variety of techniques to create black and whites, and some cameras have even been produced to exclusively shoot monochrome.
Color photography was explored beginning in the mid 1800s. Early experiments in color could not fix the photograph and prevent the color from fading. The first permanent color photo was taken in 1861 by the physicist James Clerk Maxwell.
Early color photograph taken by Prokudin-Gorskii (1915)
One of the early methods of taking color photos was to use three cameras. Each camera would have a color filter in front of the lens. This technique provides the photographer with the three basic channels required to recreate a color image in a darkroom or processing plant. Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii developed another technique, with three color plates taken in quick succession.
Practical application of the technique was held back by the very limited color response of early film; however, in the early 1900s, following the work of photo-chemists such as H. W. Vogel, emulsions with adequate sensitivity to green and red light at last became available.
The first color plate, Autochrome, invented by the French Lumière brothers, reached the market in 1907. It was based on a ‘screen-plate’ filter made of dyed dots of potato starch, and was the only color film on the market until German Agfa introduced the similar Agfacolor in 1932. In 1935, American Kodak introduced the first modern (‘integrated tri-pack’) color film, Kodachrome, based on three colored emulsions. This was followed in 1936 by Agfa’s Agfacolor Neue. Unlike the Kodachrome tri-pack process the color couplers in Agfacolor Neue were integral with the emulsion layers, which greatly simplified the film processing. Most modern color films, except Kodachrome, are based on the Agfacolor Neue technology. Instant color film was introduced by Polaroid in 1963.
As an interesting side note, the inventors of Kodachrome, Leopold Mannes and Leopold Godowsky, Jr. were both accomplished musicians. Godowsky was the brother-in-law of George Gershwin and his father was Leopold Godowsky, one of the world’s greatest pianists.
Color photography may form images as a positive transparency, intended for use in a slide projector or as color negatives, intended for use in creating positive color enlargements on specially coated paper. The latter is now the most common form of film (non-digital) color photography owing to the introduction of automated photoprinting equipment.
5. Digital photography
Nikon digital camera and scanner, which converts film images to digital
Traditional photography burdened photographers working at remote locations without easy access to processing facilities, and competition from television pressured photographers to deliver images to newspapers with greater speed. Photo journalists at remote locations often carried miniature photo labs and a means of transmitting images through telephone lines. In 1981, Sony unveiled the first consumer camera to use a charge-coupled device for imaging, eliminating the need for film: the Sony Mavica. While the Mavica saved images to disk, the images were displayed on television, and the camera was not fully digital. In 1990, Kodak unveiled the DCS 100, the first commercially available digital camera. Although its high cost precluded uses other than photojournalism and professional photography, commercial digital photography was born.
Digital imaging uses an electronic image sensor to record the image as a set of electronic data rather than as chemical changes on film. The primary difference between digital and chemical photography is that analog photography resists manipulation because it involves film, optics and photographic paper, while digital imaging is a highly manipulative medium. This difference allows for a degree of image post-processing that is comparatively difficult in film-based photography, permitting different communicative potentials and applications.
Digital imaging is rapidly replacing film photography in consumer and professional markets. Digital point-and-shoot cameras have become widespread consumer products, outselling film cameras, and including new features such as video and audio recording. Kodak announced in January 2004 that it would no longer produce reloadable 35 mm cameras after the end of that year. This was interpreted as a sign of the end of film photography. However, Kodak was at that time a minor player in the reloadable film cameras market. In January 2006, Nikon followed suit and announced that they will stop the production of all but two models of their film cameras: the low-end Nikon FM10, and the high-end Nikon F6. On May 25, 2006, Canon announced they will stop developing new film SLR cameras.
Because photography is popularly synonymous with truth (“The camera doesn’t lie.”), digital imaging has raised many ethical concerns. Many photojournalists have declared they will not crop their pictures, or are forbidden from combining elements of multiple photos to make “illustrations,” passing them as real photographs. Many courts will not accept digital images as evidence because of their inherently manipulative nature. Today’s technology has made picture editing relatively easy for even the novice photographer.
6. Photography styles
Manual shutter control and exposure settings can achieve unusual results
The commercial photographic world can be broken down to:
• Advertising photography: photographs made to illustrate and usually sell a service or product. These images are generally done with an advertising agency, design firm or with an in-house corporate design team.
• Fashion and glamour photography: This type of photography usually incorporates models. Fashion photography emphasizes the clothes or product, glamour emphasizes the model. Glamour photography is popular in advertising and in men’s magazines. Models in glamour photography may be nude, but this is not always the case.
• Crime Scene Photography: This type of photography consists of photographing scenes of crime such at robberies and murders. A black and white camera or an infrared camera may be used to capture specific details.
• Still life photography usually depicts inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which may be either natural or man-made.
• Food photography can be used for editorial, packaging or advertising use. Food photography is similar to still life photography, but requires some special skills.
• Editorial photography: photographs made to illustrate a story or idea within the context of a magazine. These are usually assigned by the magazine.
• Photojournalism: this can be considered a subset of editorial photography. Photographs made in this context are accepted as a documentation of a news story.
• Portrait and wedding photography: photographs made and sold directly to the end user of the images.
• Fine art photography: photographs made to fulfill a vision, and reproduced to be sold directly to the customer.
• Landscape photography: photographs of different locations made to be sold to tourists as postcards
The market for photographic services demonstrates the aphorism “one picture is worth a thousand words,” which has an interesting basis in the history of photography. Magazines and newspapers, companies putting up Web sites, advertising agencies and other groups pay for photography.
Many people take photographs for self-fulfillment or for commercial purposes. Organizations with a budget and a need for photography have several options: they can assign a member of the organization or hire someone to shoot exactly what they want, run a public competition, or obtain rights to stock photographs either through traditional stock giants, such as Getty Images, Corbis, or through smaller microstock agencies, such as Fotolia.
7. Photography as an art form
Classic Alfred Stieglitz photograph, The Steerage shows unique aesthetic of black and white photos.
During the twentieth century, both fine art photography and documentary photography became accepted by the English-speaking art world and the gallery system. In the United States, a handful of photographers, including Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, John Szarkowski, and Edward Weston, spent their lives advocating for photography as a fine art.
Phony meteors strike the sky around Milky Way
At first, fine art photographers tried to imitate painting styles. This movement is called Pictorialism, often using soft focus for a dreamy, ‘romantic’ look. In reaction to that, Weston, Ansel Adams, and others formed the f/64 Group to advocate ‘straight photography’, the photograph as a (sharply focused) thing in itself and not an imitation of something else.
The aesthetics of photography is a matter that continues to be discussed regularly, especially in artistic circles. Many artists argued that photography was the mechanical reproduction of an image. If photography is authentically art, then photography in the context of art would need redefinition, such as determining what component of a photograph makes it beautiful to the viewer. The controversy began with the earliest images “written with light”; Nicéphore Niépce, Louis Daguerre, and others among the very earliest photographers were met with acclaim, but some questioned if their work met the definitions and purposes of art.
Clive Bell in his classic essay Art states that only “significant form” can distinguish art from what is not art.
“ There must be some one quality without which a work of art cannot exist; possessing which, in the least degree, no work is altogether worthless. What is this quality? What quality is shared by all objects that provoke our aesthetic emotions? What quality is common to Sta. Sophia and the windows at Chartres, Mexican sculpture, a Persian bowl, Chinese carpets, Giotto’s frescoes at Padua, and the masterpieces of Poussin, Piero della Francesca, and Cezanne? Only one answer seems possible – significant form. In each, lines and colors combined in a particular way, certain forms and relations of forms, stir our aesthetic emotions. ”
8. Technical photography
The camera has a long and distinguished history as a means of recording phenomena from the first use by Daguerre and Fox-Talbot, such as astronomical events (eclipses for example) and small creatures when the camera was attached to the eyepiece of microscopes (in photomicroscopy). The camera also proved useful in recording crime scenes and the scenes of accidents, one of the first uses being at the scene of the Tay Rail Bridge disaster of 1879. The set of accident photographs was used in the subsequent court of inquiry so that witnesses could identify pieces of the wreckage, and the technique is now commonplace in courts of law.
9. Other photographic image forming techniques
Besides the camera, other methods of forming images with light are available. For instance, a photocopy or xerography machine forms permanent images but uses the transfer of static electrical charges rather than photographic film, hence the term electrophotography. Photograms are images produced by the shadows of objects cast on the photographic paper, without the use of a camera. Objects can also be placed directly on the glass of an image scanner to produce digital pictures.
10. Myths and superstition
Photographs capture a life-like view of the subject whereas paintings were subject to the interpretations and level of skill of the painter. Thus, since daguerreotypes were rendered on a mirrored surface, many spiritualists also became practitioners of the new art form. Spiritualists would claim that the human image on the mirrored surface was akin to looking into one’s soul. The spiritualists also believed that it would open their souls and let demons in.
11. Myths in rural India
A few people residing in rural India still believe that taking a photograph of a person reduces his lifetime. This myth was spread even among the educated community until the early twentieth century. The idea was abandoned only when they started seeing personalities and leaders as photographs in newspapers.
Another myth is associated with Vallalar, a saint who lived in the British era in South India, that his image could not be captured by a camera. Moreover his image when seen as a reflection in a mirror was reputed to be that of Lord Muruga, the Hindu God who is believed to help human beings to go through difficult times in their life.
A camera is a device used to capture images, as still photographs or as sequences of moving images (movies or videos). The term as well as the modern-day camera evolved from the camera obscura, Latin for “dark chamber”, an early mechanism for projecting images, in which an entire room functioned as a real-time imaging system. The camera obscura was first invented by the Iraqi scientist Alhazen and described in his Book of (1011-1021). English scientists Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke later invented a portable camera obscura in 1665-1666.
Cameras may work with the light of the visible spectrum or with other portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. A camera generally consists of some kind of enclosed hollow, with an opening or aperture at one end for light to enter, and a recording or viewing surface for capturing the light at the other end. Most cameras have a lens positioned in front of the camera’s opening to gather the incoming light and to focus the image, or part of the image, on the recording surface. The diameter of the aperture is often controlled by a diaphragm mechanism, but some cameras have a fixed-size aperture.
The forerunner to the camera was the camera obscura. The camera obscura is an instrument consisting of a darkened chamber or box, into which light is admitted through a double convex lens, forming an image of external objects on a surface of paper or glass, etc., placed at the focus of the lens. The camera obscura was first invented by the Iraqi scientist Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) as described in his Book of Optics (1015-1021). English scientist Robert Boyle and his assistant Robert Hooke later developed a portable camera obscura in the 1660s.
The first camera that was small and portable enough to be practical for photography was built by Johann Zahn in 1685, though it would be almost 150 years before technology caught up to the point where this was possible. Early photographic cameras were essentially similar to Zahn’s model, though usually with the addition of sliding boxes for focusing. Before each exposure, a sensitized plate would be inserted in front of the viewing screen to record the image. Jacques Daguerre’s popular daguerreotype process utilized copper plates, while the calotype process invented by William Fox Talbot recorded images on paper.
The first permanent colour photograph, taken by James Clerk Maxwell in 1861.
The first permanent photograph was made in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce using a sliding wooden box camera made by Charles and Vincent Chevalier in Paris. Niépce built on a discovery by Johann Heinrich Schultz (1724): a silver and chalk mixture darkens under exposure to light. However, while this was the birth of photography, the camera itself can be traced back much further. Before the invention of photography, there was no way to preserve the images produced by these cameras apart from manually tracing them.
The development of the collodion wet plate process by Frederick Scott Archer in 1850 cut exposure times dramatically, but required photographers to prepare and develop their glass plates on the spot, usually in a mobile darkroom. Despite their complexity, the wet-plate ambrotype and tintype processes were in widespread use in the latter half of the 19th century. Wet plate cameras were little different from previous designs, though there were some models, such as the sophisticated Dubroni of 1864, where the sensitizing and developing of the plates could be carried out inside the camera itself rather than in a separate darkroom. Other cameras were fitted with multiple lenses for making cartes de visite. It was during the wet plate era that the use of bellows for focusing became widespread.
The first colour photograph was made by James Clerk Maxwell, with the help of Thomas Sutton, in 1861.
2. Exposure control
Various Cameras: An Agfa Brownie, Polaroid Land Camera, and Yashica 35 mm SLR
The size of the aperture and the brightness of the scene control the amount of light that enters the camera during a period of time, and the shutter controls the length of time that the light hits the recording surface. Equivalent exposures can be made with a larger aperture and a faster shutter speed or a corresponding smaller aperture and with the shutter speed slowed down.
Due to the optical properties of photographic lenses, only objects within a certain range of distances from the camera will be reproduced clearly. The process of adjusting this range is known as changing the camera’s focus. There are various ways of focusing a camera accurately. The simplest cameras have fixed focus and use a small aperture and wide-angle lens to ensure that everything within a certain range of distance from the lens, usually around 3 metres (10 ft) to infinity, is in reasonable focus. Fixed focus cameras are usually inexpensive types, such as single-use cameras. The camera can also have a limited focusing range or scale-focus that is indicated on the camera body. The user will guess or calculate the distance to the subject and adjust the focus accordingly. On some cameras this is indicated by symbols (head-and-shoulders; two people standing upright; one tree; mountains).
Rangefinder cameras allow the distance to objects to be measured by means of a coupled parallax unit on top of the camera, allowing the focus to be set with accuracy. Single-lens reflex cameras allow the photographer to determine the focus and composition visually using the objective lens and a moving mirror to project the image onto a ground glass or plastic micro-prism screen. Twin-lens reflex cameras use an objective lens and a focusing lens unit (usually identical to the objective lens) in a parallel body for composition and focusing. View cameras use a ground glass screen which is removed and replaced by either a photographic plate or a reusable holder containing sheet film before exposure. Modern cameras often offer “auto-focus” systems to focus the camera automatically by a variety of methods.
4. Image capture
19th century studio camera, with bellows for focusing.
Traditional cameras capture light onto photographic film or photographic plate. Video and digital cameras use electronics, usually a charge coupled device (CCD) or sometimes a CMOS sensor to capture images which can be transferred or stored in tape or computer memory inside the camera for later playback or processing.
Cameras that capture many images in sequence are known as movie cameras or as ciné cameras in Europe; those designed for single images are still cameras. However these categories overlap, as still cameras are often used to capture moving images in special effects work and modern digital cameras are often able to trivially switch between still and motion recording modes. A video camera is a category of movie camera which captures images electronically (either using analogue or digital technology).
Stereo camera can take photographs that appear “three-dimensional” by taking two different photographs which are combined to create the illusion of depth in the composite image. Stereo cameras for making 3D prints or slides have two lenses side by side. Stereo cameras for making lenticular prints have 3, 4, 5, or even more lenses. Some film cameras feature date imprinting devices that can print a date on the negative itself.
5. Camera brands
• Burke & James
• Coronet • Ducati
• Diana camera
• Folmer & Schwing
• Gateway, Inc.
• Hewlett Packard
• Honeywell • Horseman
• Imaging Solutions Group
• Newman & Guardia • Nikon
• Oregon Scientific
• Plaubel Makina
• Seagull • Sigma
• Silvestri camera
• Van Oosbree
6. Camera gallery
Contax S—the world’s first pentaprism SLR Asahiflex
Kodak Retina IIIC Voigtländer Vitoret of 1962
Nikon F of 1959 Silvestri Flexicam
Opened up Cine Kodak, used 35mm movie film
A photographer at the Calgary Folk Music Festival
Paparazzi at the Tribeca Film Festival
A photographer is a person who takes a photograph using a camera. A professional photographer uses photography to make a living.
The work of a photographer may be limited to the actual shooting of the camera, or it may include all of the steps in the development of the image up to the presentation of the final product. A photograph may be the work of a single person or of a team. The most common teams are formed of a photographer and a laboratory technician. The laboratory work (photographic processing, image processing, plus other less common techniques) can completely change the appearance of a shot. Post-processing can be an art form in itself, but, the person who took the shot is often more likely to be considered the artist, and the developer an artisan
At the beginning of the photographic era, painters and photographers debated the role of photography in art. If photographers are considered to have “usurped” the exclusive domain of the image from painters, painters were profoundly influenced by the photographic technique, obliging them to better define their domain, subjects, and flexibility of technique. However, certain painters have reduced their art to that of a technician in a development lab, using another technique for copying photographs by hand.
Photographers are often categorized based on the subjects they photograph. Some photographers explore subjects typical of paintings such as landscape, still life, and portraiture. Other photographers specialize in subjects unique to photography, including street photography, documentary photography, fashion photography, wedding photography and commercial photography. The distinction between artistic photography and photojournalism or other types of photography and the associated techniques does not remove this personal aspect from the work of the great photographers.
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