Photography Timeline

The Art of Photography - Timeline of Photography, Film, and Cameras

Woman taking photograph with vintage camera
Tara Moore/ Taxi/ Getty Images

Several important achievements and milestones dating back to the ancient Greeks have contributed to the development of cameras and photography.  Here is a brief time timeline of the various breakthroughs with a description of its importance. 

5th-4th Centuries B.C.

Chinese and Greek philosophers describe the basic principles of optics and the camera.

1664-1666

Isaac Newton discovers that white light is composed of different colors.

1727

Johann Heinrich Schulze discovered that silver nitrate darkened upon exposure to light.

1794

First Panorama opens, the forerunner of the movie house invented by Robert Barker.

1814

Joseph Niepce achieves first photographic image using an early device for projecting real-life imagery called a camera obscura. However, the image required eight hours of light exposure and later faded.

1837

Louis Daguerre's first daguerreotype, an image that was fixed and did not fade and needed under thirty minutes of light exposure.

1840

First American patent issued in photography to Alexander Wolcott for his camera.

1841

William Henry Talbot patents the Calotype process, the first negative-positive process making possible the first multiple copies.

1843

The first advertisement with a photograph is published in Philadelphia.

1851

Frederick Scott Archer invented the Collodion process so that images required only two or three seconds of light exposure.

1859

Panoramic camera, called the Sutton, is patented.

1861

Oliver Wendell Holmes invents stereoscope viewer.

1865

Photographs and photographic negatives are added to protected works under copyright law.

1871

Richard Leach Maddox invented the gelatin dry plate silver bromide process, which means negatives no longer had to be developed immediately.

1880

Eastman Dry Plate Company is founded.

1884

George Eastman invents flexible, paper-based photographic film.

1888

Eastman patents Kodak roll-film camera.

1898

Reverend Hannibal Goodwin patents celluloid photographic film.

1900

First mass-marketed camera, called the Brownie, goes on sale.

1913/1914

First 35mm still camera is developed.

1927

General Electric invents the modern flash bulb.

1932

First light meter with photoelectric cell is introduced.

1935

Eastman Kodak markets Kodachrome film.

1941

Eastman Kodak introduces Kodacolor negative film.

1942

Chester Carlson receives a patent for electric photography (xerography).

1948

Edwin Land launches and markets the Polaroid camera.

1954

Eastman Kodak introduces high-speed Tri-X film.

1960

EG&G develops extreme depth underwater camera for U.S. Navy.

1963

Polaroid introduces the instant color film.

1968

Photograph of the Earth is taken from the moon. The photograph, Earthrise, is considered one of the most influential environmental photographs ever taken.

1973

Polaroid introduces one-step instant photography with the SX-70 camera.

1977

Pioneers George Eastman and Edwin Land are inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

1978

Konica introduces the first point-and-shoot autofocus camera.

1980

Sony demonstrates first consumer camcorder for capturing moving picture.

1984

Canon demonstrates first digital electronic still camera.

1985

Pixar introduces the digital imaging processor.

1990

Eastman Kodak announces Photo Compact Disc as a digital image storage medium.

1999

Kyocera Corporation introduces the VP-210 VisualPhone, the world's first mobile phone with built-in camera for recording videos and still photos.