The History Of Photography In 27 Groundbreaking Firsts

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First Photograph Ever (1826 Or 1827)

History’s first photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. The photograph shows the view from his window in Saône-et-Loire, Bourgogne, France. It might not look like much, but it took eight hours to accomplish.Wikimedia Commons

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First Photograph Ever [Enhanced] (1826 Or 1827)

An enhanced version of Niépce’s photograph, made in 1952 by Helmut Gersheim, who turned the thin little shadows that Niépce had captured into something a bit easier to make out.Wikimedia Commons

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First Photograph From A Negative (1835)

Niépce’s photograph didn’t look like much, but in 1835 in Wiltshire, England, Henry Fox Talbot had turned the idea into something a bit more practical. For the first time, he took a photo with a negative. Instead of imprinting one faint image onto metal, he could now use his negative to make as many copies as he wanted.Wikimedia Commons

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First Photograph Of People (1838)

Louis Daguerre took the first photograph ever to feature a human being. The photo is a street scene in Paris, but if you look closely at the bottom left, you can see two people, one presumably having his footwear polished by the other. Because they were still during the several-minutes exposure time, they were captured while all the moving traffic and people were not.Wikimedia Commons

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First Selfie (1839)

The first portrait ever taken just happens to have been a selfie. In 1839 in Philadelphia, Robert Cornelius became the first person patient enough to stay completely still in front of a camera for the 15 minutes it required to take a daguerreotype. All at once, this became the first clear photo of a person, the first portrait, and the first selfie in the history of photography.Wikimedia Commons

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First Portrait Of A Woman (1839 Or 1840)

Soon after Cornelius’ achievement, John Draper became the first person to take a portrait of somebody else. This milestone, which occurred in New York City, marked the first time anybody ever took a portrait without pointing the camera directly at their own face — or, at least, the first time it came out as something you could actually see. Draper pointed his camera at his sister, Dorothy, creating the history of photography’s first portrait of a woman.Wikimedia Commons

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First Detailed Photograph Of The Moon (1840)

While in New York, Draper also took the first clear photograph of space, namely the Moon.Wikimedia Commons

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First Hoax Photograph (1840)

Hippolyte Bayard made history as the first person to prove that, sometimes, photographs do lie. Bayard spent three years developing what he called the “direct positive process” of photography. He thought he’d make history when he unveiled it to the world — but instead, fellow Frenchman Louis Daguerre beat him to the punch and announced his daguerreotype method to the world. Bayard believed there’d been a conspiracy against him, and took this hoax photograph to try convince the world that, because of what they’d done to him, he’d drowned himself.Wikimedia Commons

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First Presidential Portrait (1843)

The first American president to be photographed was John Quincy Adams, captured by Philip Haas in Washington, D.C.Wikimedia Commons

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First Photograph Of People Drinking (1844)

David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson started Scotland’s first photography studio and developed a reputation for making the first “action” photographs of everyday life. This photo, taken in Edinburgh, is the first to ever show people sharing a drink.Wikimedia Commons

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First Photograph Of The Sun (1845)

The first photograph of the Sun was taken by Léon Foucault and Hippolyte Fizeau in Paris.Wikimedia Commons

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First News Photograph (1848)

Nobody knows who took this photo — the first in the history of photography ever used to illustrate a news story. Nevertheless, the photograph shows the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt in Paris, shortly after a battle between government forces and demonstrating workers. The road is full of barricades that were used in a battle that left thousands dead.Wikimedia Commons

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First Color Photograph (1851)

In 1851, Levi Hill of New York boasted to the world that he had taken the first ever color photograph by using his own process to create what he called “hillotypes.” However, Hill was so protective of his methods that nobody believed he’d actually pulled it off. They called him a fraud, saying that he’d just painted over a black-and-white photograph. It took until 2010 before researchers were able to test his photos. He had touched them up a bit, but it turned out that Hill had been telling the truth — he really had taken the first photo with some color.Wikimedia Commons

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First Aerial Photograph (1860)

James Wallace Black titled the first aerial image in the history of photography “Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It” — a view he captured by taking this photograph of his hometown from a hot air balloon. It’s widely accepted that French photographer Gaspar Felix Tournachon actually took the first aerial photograph a couple of years before Black. Nadar’s photos, though, have been lost to time.Wikimedia Commons

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First Full-Color Photograph (1861)

James Clerk Maxwell and Thomas Sutton created the first full-color photograph (depicting a tartan ribbon) in 1861 in London. Unlike Levi Hill’s photograph, no part of this picture was touched-up by hand.Wikimedia Commons

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First Full-Color Landscape Photograph (1877)

Early color photography wasn’t easy. It took another 16 years after Maxwell and Sutton before anyone took a full-color photo of a landscape. The man who pulled it off was Louis Ducos du Hauron with this image of Agen, France.Wikimedia Commons

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First Photograph Of Motion (1878)

Eadweard Muybridge used a dozen cameras all triggered one after another with a set of strings to take the first frame-by-frame photographs of motion. When viewed one after the other in sequence, Muybridge’s photographs, taken in Palo Alto, California, would help inform the development of the first moving pictures.Wikimedia Commons

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First Photograph Of A Tornado (1884)

A.A. Adams was just 14 miles away from the cyclone in Garnett, Kan. when he took history’s first photograph of a tornado./Kansas Tourism/Flickr

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First Underwater Portrait (1899)

Louis Boutan of France took the first underwater portrait in 1899. His subject, Emil Racovitza, had to hold this pose for 30 minutes straight in order to get the photo, taken in Banyuls-sur-Mer, France.Wikimedia Commons

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First Photograph Of A Fatal Plane Crash (1908)

The Wright Brothers kept cameras on hand for all of their experiments with flight. And when the first fatal plane crash occurred, in Fort Myer, Va., cameras were on hand to take photographs of it all.Wikimedia Commons

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First Photograph From Space (1946)

This photograph was taken from an American V-2 rocket that was 65 miles above the Earth — five times higher than any photograph before it.Wikimedia Commons

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First Digital Photograph (1957)

Russell Kirsch, an engineer at the National Bureau of Standards in Maryland, scanned the first-ever digital image in the history of photography in 1957. The photograph shows his son, Walden.Wikimedia Commons

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First Photograph Of The Earth From The Moon (1966)

NASA’s Lunar Orbiter 1 took the first ever photo of the Earth as seen from the Moon. It’s been called an “Earthrise”: the moment when the Earth appears to rise up in the sky over the Moon. (This photo is a restored and enhanced version from 2008.)Wikimedia Commons

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First Photoshopped Photograph (1987)

John Knoll, an employee at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic, became the first person to process a photograph through Photoshop when he digitized this photo of his wife Jennifer, taken in Bora Bora, French Polynesia, into the program. Knoll, one of Photoshop’s inventors, used this photo for the first demos of what the program could do, changing the landscape and making clones of his wife to impress potential clients.John Knoll

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First Photograph Posted On The Internet (1992)

This image — in all its Photoshopped glory — was the first photograph ever uploaded to the internet. The women pictured here are Les Horribles Cernettes, a musical comedy group made up of people who worked at the CERN Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, where Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.Wikimedia Commons

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First Camera Phone Photograph (1997)

In Santa Cruz, Calif., French technology pioneer Phillipe Kahn became the first person to take and send a photo with his cell phone. He combined a digital camera with a phone to make a crude, early camera phone, then used it to instantly send photos of his newborn daughter in real time.Wikimedia Commons

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First Instagram Photograph (2010)

The first photograph ever uploaded to Instagram depicted a dog at a Mexican Taco Stand an was taken by company co-founder Kevin Systrom.

“Had I known it would have been the first photo posted on Instagram,” Systrom later said, “I think I would have tried a little harder.”

Kevin Systrom/Instagram

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