A Brief History of Photography (Complete Timeline)

| Published On:
Orah.co is supported by its audience. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More
History of Photography timeline

The one thing that we can all say confidently is that photography has come a long, long way, and to be honest, it really should not be a surprise to anyone.

It easily has become one of the most diverse art forms, with countless photographers all around the world taking pictures in their style and publishing them on various platforms.

At this point, photography is as diverse as things get, but a lot of people do not know much about the history of photography, and that is what we are going to do as we explore all the aspects of it, so let’s get started, shall we?

The History Of Photography

Now, for those who do not know, photography, as we know it today, started somewhere in the 1830s in France. I know this is something that a lot of people do not know about, but Joseph Nicéphore Niépce used a portable camera obscura and then exposed a pewter plate that was coated with bitumen to light.

The First Ever Photograph
@First photograph, by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. / Getty Images

This s the first recorded image that did not fade right away, but there is a chance that photography existed before this too.

Still, it is impressive that photography has been here for such a long time and survived such a time in the world, and evolved into something infinitely better.

The Early History Of The Camera

Now, we are going to talk a little about the early history of the cameras, and this is where things are going to get a bit more interesting than you might think.

The earlier camera or the first camera that is known to history is the camera obscura, something that we have talked about in detail in our prior article as well.

The camera obscura

Conceptual descriptions pertinent to camera obscura can be found in Chinese texts from 400 B.C. as well as in the writings of Aristotle that would be around 330 B.C.

So, needless to say, the early history of cameras dates back to times that barely anyone can recall, and the only solid information we have is through the written records.

The First Camera

The history of cameras and photography is not as clear as one might want. For starters, the first photographic camera was developed by Alphonse Giroux in 1839. It was a daguerreotype camera, and it was manufactured in France.

daguerreotype camera
Daguerreotype Camera

However, it is important to understand that the history of cameras can be found spanning across various eras and a lot of different places and inventors, too. After all, photography is something that might look simple, but it can be complicated to understand for a lot of people.

The Modern Cameras

Now, when you are talking about modern cameras, things did not just jump to the digital cameras that we see in the market today.

As a matter of fact, digital cameras came after a while. Before we got the digital cameras, we had film cameras that prevailed for as long as one can remember.

black and white image of a film camera

However the first digital camera came into being around 1975; however, it was never a production unit as it was built by using parts from different kits and leftovers found in the Kodak factories.

Needless to say, modern cameras have come a long way and easily have become way, way more accessible than they used to be. Not just that, the modern-day cameras have become a lot more advanced, as well, so there is another bonus.

Digital And Smartphone Cameras

Okay, now, we are moving to digital and smartphone cameras; this can easily be considered the current era, but even this era has seen a lot of improvements for all sorts of cameras.

For starters, the digital cameras that we now know as point-and-shoot cameras are not as common as they used to be and are largely replaced by smartphone cameras. Smartphone cameras are now using sensors as large as 1-inch, which does deliver better performance.

On the other hand, we have really powerful mirrorless cameras from the likes of Nikon, Sony, Canon, Panasonic, and more companies, and things are only getting better. Cameras have never been this good, and it is a good sign going forward.

The Photographic Filters

Next up, we are going to talk about photographic filters. No, these are not the Snapchat filters that you see or other filters on various apps.

image of some Photographic Filters

A photographic filter is a camera accessory that consists of an optical filter that you can install on the optical path; the filter can be of a square or oblong shape and is mounted on the lens almost all the lenses have threads for the filter that can vary in size.

Filters are used for various reasons; for instance, you have neutral density filters, as well as filters that can get rid of UV rays, along with filters that can actually enhance or mute the colors, or polarizing filters, too.

The First Photographers

Now, this is something that is not as simple to answer, considering how photography has been around for a lot longer than most people are able to document, but in some cases, we can imagine Joseph Nicéphore Niépce to be the first photographer in the history as the French scientist took the photograph using a camera obscura. It was a tilted view from the Window at Le Gras, at his family’s country home.

image of The First Photographer Joseph Nicephore Niepce

However, ever since then, photographers and photography, in general, have evolved so much to the point that it is hard to put the finger on a single invention or evolution.

The First Permanent Images

Now, this is something that most people do not know, but the first permanent image is known as the Niépce Heliograph, and for those wondering, it was taken by the same French scientist we talked about before. This picture was made somewhere in 1827 and after a lot of experimentation.

The First Permanent Image Niépce Heliograph

However, there are chances that there could be permanent images before that, as well; those images just have not survived as the Niépce Heliograph is the only known image that has survived ever since it was produced, which technically makes it the first permanent image.

The Development Of Photography

Moving onto the development of photography, now this is something that has changed a lot, but we are talking about the actual process of development that has been happening. For starters, photographs have gone from being developed in photography rooms or red rooms to being digital all the way.

Sure, film-based photography still exists, but it has become a niche, to be honest. Not a lot of people are taking such pictures, and those who are taking these pictures do not do it on a large scale; therefore, it is crucial to have an understanding of this in the first place.

The First Color Photograph

Color photography is something that, well, is still relevant today, and almost all the images we take in the modern day and age are in color. But it makes one wonder about where it originated from because, as we have mentioned numerous times before, the first picture was not at all in color, so when did it all start?

First Color Photograph
Credits: OpenCulture

Well, the world’s first color photography was produced in 1861 by a Scottish physicist named James Clerk Maxwell, and the image was created by photographing the tartan ribbon three times through red, blue, and yellow filters and then recombining the produced images into a single color composite.

The First Digital Photograph

Digital photographs are everywhere, and we all know that. So, it is safe to assume that they are relatively new, right? Wrong. The first digital photograph was produced back in 1972 using CCD sensor technology.

First Digital Photograph

The picture was produced by Francis Tompsett and was also featured on the cover of Electronics Magazine; the picture was of his wife Margaret Thompsett, and ever since then, we have seen digital photographs evolve into what we know today.

The First Portrait Photograph

Portrait photography has come a long, long way, and we are all aware of that, to be honest. However, one would wonder that portraits are just as old, right? No, that is not how it works.

The First Portrait Photograph in 1838

The first portrait photograph was taken by Louis Daguerre in 1838, and that is believed to be the earliest photograph of a living person. This means that it could also be considered as the first example of portrait photography.

Again, the world of photography has become so diverse that it has become almost impossible to actually point out the actuality of the history.

The First Aerial Photograph

Aerial photography, while it is not something that I personally am a fan of, is still something that is considered to be very important in the history of photography. So, when one thinks about aerial photography in general, we all think about drones and whatnot.

The First Aerial Photograph
Credits: Time.com

However, you would be surprised to know that just like other forms of photography, aerial photography has been around for a long, long time.

Gaspar Felix Tournachon, more commonly known as “Nadar,” is the first person who was credited with the first successful aerial photograph back in 1858 from a hot air balloon that was tethered 262 feet over Petit-Bicêtre. Sadly, the original photos have been lost since then.

The First Space Photograph

Space photography is something that commercially is not people get into because, of course, you would need to go to space to make that happen.

The First Space Photograph The Blue Marble
Credits: NASA

However, for those wondering when the first space photograph was taken, the famous Blue Marble shot is considered to be the first space photograph in which the Earth is in full view. The picture was taken back in 1972 as the Apollo 17 crew left Earth’s orbit for the moon.

The First Sun Photograph

One would assume that taking a picture of the sun is not an easy task, and for the most part, it is true. You see, pointing the camera directly at the sun can cause a lot of damage, and that is never something one wants.

The First Sun Photograph
Credits: NASA

The first photograph of the sun was taken by French Physicists Louis Fizeau and Leon Foucault on April 2nd, 1845 and the picture was captured using the daguerreotype process, and it took 1/60 seconds to make that happen.

Again, you can get a lot of pictures of the sun in the modern day and age, and a lot clearer, but the history is a lot older than one might think.

The First Lightning Photograph

When you are talking about photographing lighting, things are a lot more complicated than they might seem. You see, lightning is something that is a lot more volatile and often lasts only a few seconds, so taking a picture is very difficult, even with a modern camera.

The First Lightning Photograph

However, for those wondering, the first lightning photograph was taken back in the 1880s. It was done by photographer William Jennings as he decided to prove that lightning is a lot more varied and volatile than just a zig-zag that people used to imagine.

The First Moon Photograph

Moon serves as one of the most important figures in the history, and it should not come as a surprise either. However, when you think about it, the actual moon photograph dates way, way back, and this is something that most people have a hard time understanding in the first place.

For starters, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre is believed to be the first person to take a picture of the moon by using a process he developed, and this was done back in January of 1839. So, yes, the first moon photograph happened a long, long time ago.

Unfortunately, Louis Daguerre’s laboratory got burnt in the March of 1839, and most of his work got destroyed along with the first photograph of the moon.

The First Tornado Photograph

Taking a picture of tornados is a lot riskier than one might think. However, that does not mean that people are going to stop from taking such pictures, as a matter of fact, tornado photography is a lot more common, and there are people known as storm chasers who are known for taking pictures of tornadoes.

The First Tornado Photograph
Credits: Wikipedia

The first known picture of a tornado was taken on April 26th, 1884, in Anderson County, Kansas. Ever since that, it has become something frequently.

The First Photograph From Mars

Humans have been looking for signs of life on Mars for as long as one can remember, and the attempts are continuously going on at the same time.

The First Photograph From Mars Surface
Credits: NASA

However, for those wondering, the first photograph that was ever taken on the surface of Mars happened back in July 1976. It was taken by Viking 1, just minutes after the spacecraft landed successfully on the surface.

The First Photograph Of A Black Hole

We have been trying to study black holes for the longest time, and so far, there is a lot of information on the black hole, but we still do not know what happens to anything that passes through a black hole to begin with.

The First Photograph of the black hole
Credits: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

However, the first picture of a black hole is not as old as you might think. The first picture of the black hole was taken by the Event Horizon telescope the image was taken in the light of submillimeter radio waves, and that confirms that there is a black hole in the heart of the Milky Way.

The First Camera Phone Photo

We all are aware of the fact that camera phones have been around for as long as one can remember, and to be honest, they have improved a lot.

To the point that most people believe that the best camera is the one that you can carry with yourself, and in this case, that is obviously a camera phone, to be honest.

The First Photo Taken By A Camera Phone

The first ever picture that we know was taken by Philippe Kahn on July 11th, 1997. Kahn took a picture of his newborn using his phone, and well, ever since that, camera phones have only become more popular.

The First Photo Of A Solar Eclipse

Photographing a solar eclipse is not easy at all; despite the technology becoming more and more advanced with each passing day, doing it safely still requires a photographer to use extensive equipment, and therefore, things can always go wrong.

The First Photo Of A Solar Eclipse
Credits: Wikipedia

For those who are wondering, the earliest scientifically useful photograph of a complete solar eclipse was taken by Julius Berkowski at the Royal Observatory in Königsberg, Prussia, on July 28th, 1851. This is the first time an accurate photographic image of the solar eclipse was taken.

The First Photo Of Quantum Entanglement

Albert Einstein first described quantum entanglement as “spooky action at a distance,” and well, after years, scientists have finally managed to take a picture of a concept that was first introduced back in 1935.

The First Photo Of Quantum Entanglement
Credits: PA MEDIA

The picture was taken not long ago, in the July of 2019, and is fairly recent, however, despite that, it cannot be overlooked that this remains one of the most important pictures in the history.


We are all aware of the fact that photography has come a long, long way, and it is safe to say that for those who have been trying to learn more, there are more than one way of making sure how to do it properly. This article ensures that you are fully aware of photography and everything that goes in between.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1- Who Is The Father Of Photography?

Answer: While photography is something that was worked on by a number of inventors and scientists on separate occasions, the father of photography would be considered to be the French inventor Nicéphore Niépce as he is the person who managed to capture the first known photograph.

Q2- Why Was Photography Invented?

Answer: Although there is no concrete information as to why photography was invented, it is wildly believed that we wanted more ways to store information rather than just text. Photographs are a great way of storing various information.

Q3- When Did Photography Begin?

Answer: Photography was invented back in 1822, and that is what would normally be considered as the time when it actually became so important to everyone.

Q4- Why Is Photography So Important?

Answer: Simply put, photography is important because it has allowed countless people to live the lives they want and manage to get things done. It is an excellent way of expressing yourself at the same time.

Q5- Who Used First The Word Photography?

Answer: For those wondering, the word “photography” means “Drawing the light.” The word was first coined by the British scientist Sir John Herschel in 1839 from the Greek words phos meaning light, and graphe, meaning drawing or writing.

Q6- How Many Types Of Photography Are There?

Answer: This is something that is completely subjective, but many people believe that there are around 28 types and styles of photography that we see in the modern day and age.

Leave a Comment