The first photo picture – as we know it – was taken in 1825 by a French inventor Joseph Niepce. It depicts a view from the window at Le Gras. There is little merit in this picture other than the fact that it is the first photograph taken and preserved.
Due to the technical issues the exposure had to last for eight hours, so the sun in the picture had time to move from east to west, appearing to shine on both sides of the building in the picture. There is, of course, no composition as photography at the time could not be seen as art but rather as technical innovation.
Like I have stated before, by that time people already knew how to project pictures, they just didn’t know how to preserve and “save” light. Niepce came up with the idea of using a petroleum derivative called “Bitumen of Judea”. Bitumen hardens with exposure to light so the unhardened material was then washed away. The metal plate, which was the media used by Niepce, was then polished rendering a negative image which then was coated with ink producing a print. One of the numerous problems with this method was that the metal plate was heavy, expensive to produce, and took a lot of time to polish.
In 1839 Sir John Herschel came up with a way of making the first glass negative as opposed to metal. The same year he coined the term Photography deriving from the Greek “fos” meaning light and “grafo” – to write. Even though the process became easier and the result was better, it was still a long time until photography was publicly recognized.
At first photography was either used as an aid in the work of an artist or followed the same principles the artists followed. The first publicly recognized portraits were usually portraits of either one person or family portraits to preserve the memories. Finally, after decades of refinements and improvements, the mass use of cameras began with Eastman’s Kodak’s camera. It went on to the market in 1888 with the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest”.
In 1901 the Kodak Brownie was introduced, becoming the first commercial camera in the market available for middle class. The camera took black and white shots only, but still was very popular due to its efficiency and ease of use. Color photography, despite being explored throughout the 19th century, did not become commercially valuable until the middle of the 20th century. The scientists in the beginning of the century could not preserve color for long enough, as they were lost with time passing due to their chemical formulae. Several methods of color photography were patented from 1862 onwards by two French inventors: Louis Ducos de Hauron and Charlec Cros Practical who, however, worked independently.
Finally the first practical color plate reached the market in 1907. The method it used was based on a screen of filters. The screen let filtered red, green and/or blue light through and then was developed to a negative being later reversed to a positive. Applying the same screen later on in the process of the print resulted in a color photo that preserved the color. The technology, even though slightly altered, is the one that is still used in the processing. Red, green and blue are the primary colors for television and computer screens, hence the RGB modes in numerous imaging applications.