The first photograph Taken in 1826 by Joseph Niepce, this photograph was made on a pewter plate with bitumen of judea as the emulsion. The exposure was so long, both sides of the courtyard were illuminated.
The first photograph This view of the original plate was very heavily retouched to show as much detail as possible.
The first photograph This is the original plate as it was found in the 1950’s. It shows some deterioration, but is essentially in the same condition as when it was made.
The Daguerreotype Introduced in 1839 by Louis Daguerre, the daguerreotype was an improvement, offering more detail. This daguerreotype is from the early 1840’s
The Daguerreotype By 1850, Daguerre’s first process had been vastly improved by a number of people. This plate is from the early 1850’s and shows significant gains in tonal quality and resolution.
The Daguerreotype With a never-say-die attitude, a handful of modern photographers use Daguerre’s process but with numerous and obvious improvements. Note the depth of detail here compared to the earlier daguerreotypes.
The Wet-Plate Process The wet-plate process that came into use in the 1850’s offered the photographer improved resolution and tonal structure, but at the cost of convenience- the plate had to be exposed and processed while the emulsion was still moist.
The Wet-Plate Process This meant that the photographer had to bring a darkroom along. This was usually a small tent or horse-drawn van.
The Wet-Plate Process After the negative was processed and dried, it was usually contact printed on paper. The most common printing was done on albumen paper.
The Wet-Plate Process As in many early processes, the photographer had to apply the emulsion to either the plate or the paper. In this enlargement of an original wet-plate print, both subtle and obvious brush strokes can be seen throughout the image.
The Dry-Plate Process Developed in 1878 and usually credited to Charles Bennett, the dry-plate process offered significant gains in exposure speed, detail and tonal structure, closely resembling more modern black and white materials.
The Dry-Plate Process But the most significant gain was in convenience- the photographer no longer had to bring the darkroom along. Exposures could be made in the field and processed later.
The Dry-Plate Process This also gave rise to a whole new industry- companies began making pre-coated plates and shipping them to retail stores where the photographer could buy them. Among these were the Eastman Dry Plate Company, the forerunner of Kodak; Britannia Works, the forerunner of Ilford, and Agfa.
The Carte de Visite The carte de visite, small, inexpensive photo cards that became the rage in the 1860’s helped increase the demand for and popularity of photography with the “average person.” They were used for everything from calling cards (right) to advertising (above).
The Albumen print The albumen print was the dominant printing method from about 1850 into the early 1900’s. the process used egg whites to bind the light senstive material to the paper.
The Palladium print Palladium prints have a characteristic slightly warm tone. The process dates to the 1870’s and, while more expensive than albumen print was far less expensive than the platinum print.
The Platinum print Platinum prints are slightly soft in both contrast and tonal gradation, but are full range and known for their subtlety. The current process dates from the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s, although there are mentions of platinum as far back as the 1850’s.
… and all of these early processes have contributed to the development of photography as now have it.