The history of photography began with the discovery of two critical principles: The first is camera obscura image projection, the second is the discovery that some substances are visibly altered by exposure to light. There are no artifacts or descriptions that indicate any attempt to capture images with light sensitive materials prior to the 18th century.
Around 1717, Johann Heinrich Schulze captured cut-out letters on a bottle of a light-sensitive slurry, but he apparently never thought of making the results durable. Around 1800, Thomas Wedgwood made the first reliably documented, although unsuccessful attempt at capturing camera images in permanent form. His experiments did produce detailed photograms, but Wedgwood and his associate Humphry Davy found no way to fix these images.
In 1826, Nicéphore Niépce first managed to fix an image that was captured with a camera, but at least eight hours or even several days of exposure in the camera were required and the earliest results were very crude. Niépce's associate Louis Daguerre went on to develop the daguerreotype process, the first publicly announced and commercially viable photographic process. The daguerreotype required only minutes of exposure in the camera, and produced clear, finely detailed results. On August 2, 1839 Daguerre demonstrate the details of the process to the Chamber of Peers in Paris. On August 19 the technical details were public in a meeting of the Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Fine Arts in the Palace of Institute. (for granting the rights of the inventions to the public, Daguerre and Niepce were awarded generous annuities for life). When the metal based daguerreotype process was demonstrated formally to the public, the competitor approach of paper-based calotype negative and salt print processes invented by William Henry Fox Talbot was already demonstrated in London. (but with less publicity). Subsequent innovations made photography easier and more versatile. New materials reduced the required camera exposure time from minutes to seconds, and eventually to a small fraction of a second; new photographic media were more economical, sensitive or convenient. Since the 1850s, the collodion process with its glass-based photographic plates combined the high quality known from the Daguerreotype with the multiple print options known from the calotype and was commonly used for decades. Roll films popularized casual use by amateurs. In the mid-20th century, developments made it possible for amateurs to take pictures in natural color as well as in black-and-white.
The commercial introduction of computer-based electronic digital cameras in the 1990s soon revolutionized photography. During the first decade of the 21st century, traditional film-based photochemical methods were increasingly marginalized as the practical advantages of the new technology became widely appreciated and the image quality of moderately priced digital cameras was continually improved. Especially since cameras became a standard feature on smartphones, taking pictures (and instantly publishing them online) has become a ubiquitous everyday practice around the world.
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