The Invention of Photography


Ancient Times

1400 - 1600

Camera obscuras used to form images on walls in darkened rooms; image formation via a pinhole

16th Century

1600 - 1700

Brightness and clarity of camera obscuras improved by enlarging the hole inserting a telescope lens

17th Century

1700 - 1727

Camera obscuras in frequent use by artists and made portable in the form of sedan chairs


1727 - 1800

Professor J. Schulze mixes chalk, nitric acid, and silver in a flask; notices darkening on side of flask exposed to sunlight. Accidental creation of the first photo-sensitive compound.

18th Century

1800 - 1816

Thomas Wedgwood makes "sun pictures" by placing opaque objects on leather treated with silver nitrate; resulting images deteriorated rapidly, however, if displayed under light stronger than from candles.


1816 - 1826

Nicéphore Niépce combines the camera obscura with photosensitive paper


1826 - 1834

Niépce creates a permanent image.


1834 - 1837

Henry Fox Talbot creates permanent (negative) images using paper soaked in silver chloride and fixed with a salt solution. Talbot created positive images by contact printing onto another sheet of paper.