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The Evolution of Photography

Updated on September 23, 2015
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

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CC0 License
CC0 License | Source | Source

Photography has evolved in form and scope in seemingly gigantic steps especially since the advent of the digital age.

From when the first photographs took minutes, even hours to record on metal plates using dangerous chemicals and the rated speed of the film was about 3 and color was not even remotely thought of to the instant gratification of seeing your image seconds after the shutter has been snapped and with unbelievable film/digital sensibilities.

First a little bit of history for those who think that recording a picture with a new fancy cell phone is the way to go;

"The first permanent photograph was an image produced in 1826 or 1827 by the French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. The photograph was produced on a polished pewter plate. The light-sensitive material was a thin coating of bitumen, a naturally occurring petroleum tar, which was dissolved in white petroleum, applied to the surface of the plate and allowed to set before use. After a very long exposure in the camera (traditionally said to be eight hours, but possibly several days), the bitumen was sufficiently hardened in proportion to its exposure to light that the unhardened part could be removed with a solvent, leaving a positive image with the light regions represented by hardened bitumen and the dark regions by bare pewter. To see the image plainly, the plate had to be lit and viewed in such a way that the bare metal appeared dark and the bitumen relatively light." Wikipedia

Photographers back in the day where admired for their artistic skills and their ability to capture a piece of life, turn an ugly scene into a beautiful one. They were artists as well as technicians and businessmen.

They truly performed functions that enhanced the art and brought it to the forefront of society. Darkrooms, film, developers, monochromatic, sepia, fixers, tripods, dodging, safe light, ISO, ASA and other photo terms were regularly used in everyday conversations. They were in part, responsible for bringing photography into millions of homes.

One of the things that made photography well liked and in some cases admired was that some true innovators captured images that still are revered today and up to recently there were not that many true photographic works of art.

However, today millions, if not more, people with something as a simple cell phone can record an image and download it instantly to the Internet.

So in essence there are millions of photo amateurs who in a way help keep photography alive and well, by sharing moments and slices of life and keep us entertained or informed at a moments notice..

If by chance they are fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and happen to capture a worthwhile or newsworthy shot, they instantly share their experiences and reminds us of the power of photography But these instant acts can not begin to compare to the work of a professional photojournalist.

Today there are literary millions of images being downloaded and flooding the Internet with casual pictures. But there are also millions of professionals who can now share their art with millions in a matter of minutes, thus making the art more viable and available. This is another of the ways in which photography has evolved.

Photography is an art and those who study it, practice it and are always thinking about it are real photographers. Everyone else is just imitating and trying to do what a professional does. However and unfortunately they often fall short.

It takes more than a piece of technology to make a good photograph. One that inspires, awakens feelings and emotions, transports, gives free reigns to the imagination and makes one think.

Take a photo without having any artistic or creative freedom and without having even read the manual and you end up with exactly what your piece of technology allowed you to do. Can this compare with a true photographer?

I am not being a critic of those that use their throwaway disposal cameras or use their talking machines to capture images every so often. These have their uses and moments. But one should not brand someone who has not spent years practicing the art as being a photographer.

Even an avid amateur who absolutely loves photography, has gotten a good set of photo gear, has read manuals, tried techniques and is truly making a concerted effort to learn everything possible about photography cannot be considered a photographer until he or she has mastered some photographic techniques besides setting the automatic or idiot mode and snapping the shutter.

I'm not getting on technology's back either. Photography has evolved thanks in great part to these technological advances; what once was done in a darkroom is now done on a computer, what once was recorded on film is now captured on a sensor, when once you had to wait for the film to be developed is now seen instantly and transmitted instantly instead of sorting through hundreds or thousands of slides or prints to choose which ones are good and which ones to discard.

Take a picture with your new standard one lens fits all digital camera of a beautiful flower and unless you can blow it up to about 10 times its original size you will need a magnifying glass to truly experience its beauty. Can this compare to a professional nature photographer?

Go on safari to the beauty that is Africa, will the hungry lion let you get in close to take its picture, with your inexpensive digital or film discount store bought one size fits all camera, maybe even pose for you? Or will you be able to use a zoom lens to safely and without disturbing the creature record details and isolate scenes that would otherwise be impossible.

One of the better tech innovations is the ability to examine a photograph on the spot and re-take it if necessary. Nothing is left to chance or luck. So in a sense this is where photography has evolved and probably for the best. Cameras, lenses, flash and other elements have remained pretty much the same, although better.

So these technological advances are good for the art. The need for speed of communication is being met and the need of business is being addressed with the advent of the digital age.

What has not changed is that even if you have the most up to date and technologically advance piece of photographic gear, unless you use what is between your ears, you should be moderate in not yet considering yourself a true photographer.

You need to have the knowledge, the practice, the time spent, the skills and the photography gear that allows you to exercise your artistic talents and creativity and be an artist as well as a photographer by using manual modes, changing lenses, using flash, changing metering modes, setting shutter or aperture priority, changing or adapting the depth, doing macros or using zooms, seeing what is not apparent and so on. Otherwise you are just a slave to the machine, only able to do what the machine lets you do, so then, who controls who?


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CC BY-SA 3.0
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© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      shai77: Thank you

    • shai77 profile image


      6 years ago

      Really great article. It's so fascinating how far photography has come in the digital age alone, when you look back at the whole history it truly is an amazing discovery. Ansel Adams used to say you only need one shot, and would wait as long as it took for it. I often wonder if he'd have the same opinion now with digital. I find that even with one of those disposable cameras, though, people who learn good tips for photo taking and know something about light & angles will do far better than those who just point & shoot. Great hub.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      alancaster149: Thank you

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      You have to admire the likes of Fox-Talbot with his experiments in the days of yore. Then the kit got smaller and before you knew it was down to a Box Brownie. Now you have a camera the size of a compact or a wallet. It doesn't do everything - I haven't heard of a camera that does a T-bone Steak or a decent cup of coffee, that's probably still to come. I like a camera that takes pictures in the half-dark as well, though, but don't these blighters cost?! Now we're back to lugging tripods and big boxes around again to take a half-decent sports picture!

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      bdegiulio: Thanks

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Interesting hub Luis. Did not know that the first photos went back to 1826-1827. Great job, very interesting and useful.


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