How photography changed history – one click at a time

It’s amazing to think just how much photography has developed over a relatively short period of time. When we next fret over whether we’ve got quite enough lenses or whether our DSLR can really do with upgrading, let’s take a look at how far photography has come and celebrate some of the most influential figures in the industry!

A photography history timeline

1814 – French inventor Joseph Niépce captures the first-known photographic image using the camera obscura with an exposure time of eight hours.

1839 – A French artist and former colleague of Niépce’s, Louis Daguerre, develops the ‘Daguerreotype’ which reduces exposure time to around 30 minutes.

1841 – Englishman William Henry Fox Talbot develops the ‘calotype’ process, reducing exposure time to around one minute.

1968 Earthrise, the first ever photograph of the Earth is taken by astronaut Bill Anders.

1980 – Sony retail the first camcorder for recording video images.

1984 – Canon display the first DSLR.

1999 – The VP-210 VisualPhone is released. The first mobile phone with a built-in camera.

Earthrise, taken from the Moon during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968

Earthrise, one of the most iconic photographs ever taken. Image: NASA/Bill Anders.

How has photography changed over time?

As with all advances in technology, a lot has changed over since the very first photographers experimented with capturing still images. Just think, two centuries ago we would need eight hours of exposure to get one grainy image and now we carry around the power of instant video in our pockets.

The first 100 years of photography was a whirlwind of development as enthusiasts from across the world tried different techniques to get the very best images. From the camera obscura came processes such as the calotype and the collodion as exposure time was reduced to just a few seconds.

The next 100 years saw several landmarks as the barriers to what was actually possible in the world of photography were broken. Equipment such as drones, DSLR’s and GoPro’s, previously used by professional photographers soon became commonplace in the kit bags of amateurs. Now, some high-end cameras are built with jaw-dropping 12k resolution – all the more incredible when you consider that someone with 20/20 vision can see in 8k resolution!

Who are the most influential photographers of all time?

The 20th century has seen photographers break new ground and produce iconic images that will last a lifetime. Some of the biggest and most influential photographers include:

1) Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams was a landscape photographer and conservationist whose work became the pinnacle of North American photography. He rose to fame building up a portfolio of incredible images from National Parks across the west coast, most notably Yosemite. Adams was most well known for his black-and-white landscapes which he believed was much more expressive than colour shots.

2) Richard Avedon

Fashion and portrait photographer Richard Avedon was as big a name as his superstar subjects. Avedon worked with some of the most biggest cultural icons in the 20th century, including The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe and Martin Luther King. With daring and ground-breaking portraits, Avedon’s work became so well-known that the leading role in the Fred Astaire film Funny Face was based on his life.

3) David Bailey

East-ender David Bailey worked for British Vogue during the height of the swinging 60’s shooting some of the biggest stars in fashion and music. Bailey’s working-class upbringing was a marked contrast to other British photographers of the time and allowed him to empathise with his subjects and portray them in a different light. Stardust, the 2014 exhibition showcased 50 years of Bailey’s work and enjoyed a three-month stint at the National Portrait Gallery.

What are the 3 main types of photography?

Photography is a broad church of different disciplines and styles – each one worthy of their own artistic merit. Three of the main types of photography are:

Portrait photography

Far from just snapping a shot of someone smiling, great portrait photography tells the story of the subject. Think about the lighting, the features of your subject and even how their positioned to create the narrative.

Wedding photography

Wedding photography is one of the most popular types of photography

One of the most common lines of work for any photographer, wedding photography also has to be one of the most rewarding. Telling the story of the happy couple as well as creating lasting memories of the big day, there’s no surprise that this is usually one of the only times that many people will hire a professional photographer.

Fashion photography

The glamour of the fashion industry is enough to capture the imagination of any aspiring photographer. Fashion photography is wide-ranging and may require you to highlight the clothing or the model or produce work for print or online. This can be a tough industry to crack, so you’ll need plenty of imagination.


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