Photography and How it Works


I have plenty of photos squirrelled away or on display in my bedroom. From moments I can remember, or even those that I don’t. Some of them I was too young to remember and some of them I wasn’t even there for. No matter what the situation, it is always nice to have a photo to remember things by. But this hasn’t always been a thing that people could use or rely on to preserve the memories of their favourite moments. So how was it that these cameras were developed and how is it that they actually work to capture the image of a moment?

So it’s probably prudent to start with the question of how photography works. Camera’s work in a pretty similar way to the way that our eyes work when it comes to receiving the information on the surrounding environment. Light moves in straight lines but bounces off of objects and back in the opposite direction as well as in many other directions. Because of this, early cameras were just dark rooms with holes in the side. Light passes through the hole, projecting the image that the light carries onto the opposite wall upside down. When a material sensitive to light was placed where the light would project the image, the light left an imprint of the image on the material, hence creating early photography. These photographs however took a lot longer than the quick flash that we are used to now. The original photographs could take up to eight hours to develop, while more modern photographs take mere minutes, maybe much less than that. This is with help from the camera lens, which directs all of the light to a single point which creates a sharp image.

The idea of photography as we know it today began in the 19th century in France with Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. He used a camera obscura and a pewter plate coated in bitumen. When the plate was exposed to the light from the camera, the photograph developed and instead of fading away as many photographs had done before, the image actually remained on the plate for longer than other images had. This success led to the development and experimentation of other, forcing the progress of photography to develop at a rapid pace. Daguerreotypes, emulsion plates, and wet plates were invented around the same time as this discovery was made, likely prompted by Niepce’s original findings with the bitumen coated plate. Photographers were experimenting with different kinds of plates, chemicals and techniques.

Now the process of saving and savouring out memories is an instantaneous thing, one that we barely put any thought into. To know that what now takes us mere moments would have once taken someone hours to do is slightly mind-blowing. It makes you wonder what other things that we take for granted now used to take a tremendously greater amount of effort than we put in to it now. It is nice to know, however, that we can save the memories of our greatest times.


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