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How Was the First Photo Taken?

By Shelby Burr

Who’s ready for a history lesson around cameras and how the first photo in the world was taken?

You?! Good! We’ll get straight to the point.
The history around the first photo ever taken is incredible. I mean, think about it. If all technology was taken away from you right now...and possibly electricity, how would you capture a photo? How would you capture a moment in time and take a photo? Crazy, right?!

Back Story

There once was a man named Joseph Nicephore Niepce who changed the world as we know it. Back in 1826, Niepce captured the first photo ever using a technique called heliography. Heliography is a photographic process invented by Niepce himself around 1822. The name itself means “sun writing.” So, how in the world does heliography work?

After much experimentation, Niepce discovered a method of automatically fixing by the the action of light the image formed in the camera obscura. This then outlines his intention to use his heliographic method of photogravure or photolithography which makes plates for multiple printed reproductions. Niepce knew that the acid-resistant used in etching hardened with exposure to light. 

All that to say, this clever bloke coated plates of glass, zinc, copper, and silver-surfaced copper, pewter and lithographic stone, and found that it would resist and form a chemical reaction. The uncoated areas would create the shadows and were treated through acid etching. The coated areas were then exposed and solvent-treated, so it would create the “light” in the image. And there you have it. 

So, now that you know...would you have thought to do the same? Maybe you’re a mad scientist, or a photography it might be likely! Now, let’s marvel over what the first photo was that Niepce took!


Titled “View from the Window at Le Gras” this simple image captures so much. This is what Niepce saw! This moment in time back in 1826, can you believe it? You’re seeing a still shot from almost 200 years ago. Incredible!

We have a lot to thank Joseph Nicephore Niepce for. Without this great invention / discovery, we would not have our cameras on our phones, we would not have all of our VHS tapes we grew up watching, film even! We wouldn’t have a way to capture such important moments and relive those beautiful moments again and again. 

As you go through your photos of family and friends, whether that be from scrapbooks, old bins of photos, or off of your phone - makes sure you give a little thanks. These images are so special and capture relatives, feelings, moments in time that we can’t get back. Savor them, cherish them, protect them at all costs!

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