History of Photography: a Form of Expression that Transformed Painting

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Photography is a word derived from the Greek words, photo meaning “light” and graph meaning “to draw”. The scientist Sir John F.W. Herschel first used the word in 1839. It is a technique of making pictures by using light or rays falling on a sensitive material. A photo is a permanent record of photons of light falling either on a chemical quoted film or on an electronic sensor. The wavelengths of the red, green, and blue colours in the photon give the sensor component its colour. The photograph is just a two-dimensional display of the sensors. A photograph or photo is an image produced by light dropping on a light-sensitive part of the film. A light-sensitive device known as a camera, having a lens to focus the visible wavelengths of light from the scene produces a photo of an object that the human eye can see. Photography is the process and practice of making pictures. An object captured on a smooth surface reproduces a photograph. This smooth surface can be a paper, photo film, or digital sensor.

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Notably, some images cause a passionate response deeper than merely observing a recorded point in time. Surely, some photos cause more response than some modern art pieces. There are two types of photos - the first category is the “time capture” photograph, an image formed with the only purpose of capturing a specific event on time. A study conducted by Naomi explains that “In the early part of its history, photography was sometimes belittled as a mechanical art because of its dependence on technology. However, photography is not the automatic process that is implied by the use of a camera”. The second type of photo brings a deeper meaning, which can change the observer’s attitude and cause a response. There are many ways for the expression of feelings, and one of them is photography. Photography has a unique world, perfect with its style. For more than one hundred years, people have been using cameras to capture a portion of their lives. A few decades ago, Ibn-Alhaytham invented the first camera - a very simple pinhole camera. The subsequent images taken by this camera were upside down, however, these images were not exact images.

Throughout the years, camerawork has been developing fast. Its use has now become very common all over the world. There are hundreds of professions and fields in photography and it has also become a growing hobby and over time, it gained popularity. A study conducted by Karaaziz explains that “Widespread use of photography through the end of the 19th century brings nutrition to the modern art trends and its placement in the artists’ agenda as an apparatus along with itself.

The stages of the art history are evident in the universal, national museums of the 19th century during the period before the foundation of photography archives”. The most important advantage of photography is its use in journalism. Photography affects journalism in three important ways. Newspapers, social media, and TV news usually use photographs to make the news more attractive and convincing to the viewers. Photographs make news more believable and they have an effective way of highlighting the importance of vision. If there is a good photo in newspapers relevant to the news, it can increase the interest of the readers.

Carol Squiers, brings together eighty-four workings by contemporary photographic artists and says that it is not fairly right to call them photographers. Many of the parts of a photograph are not concrete, and it is possible to check how many of the experts consider it as a photograph. Furthermore, the visitors to an exhibition are better prepared to read wall text or ask a staff member about it because the images need their titles and it requires some sort of explanation to analyse them. The most important elements of design in photography are line, shape, form, texture, pattern, colour, and space. Each of these elements helps the photographers to design the photograph in such a way that it highlights one or the other significant feature in the work. A study conducted by Chatterji explains states that “Photographers make artistic choices while creating, editing, and producing images. These choices take into account the elements of photography, clear attributes; the composition of the image; the subject or content; the photographer’s style genre and the meaning that the photographer intends to communicate”. Photographs turn the world into a set of collecting objects that someone can own. Social media is playing a big part in revealing the world events before a large number of viewers. Whenever there is a big incident in the world, there are generally people with cameras ready to take photos and post them on several social networks.

Speaking about photography, “sharpness” is a characteristic of a good picture which refers to a photo’s complete clarity in terms of both focus and dissimilarity. When the theme of an image is sharp, the image looks clear and realistic. Images, which lack sharpness, appear blurry and they luck in detail. Experienced photographers are capable of using sharpness to allow a sensation of passion or movement within an image. Image sharpness extremely relies on attaining exact focus on the desired subject. It is especially challenging to maintain sharpness during shooting scenes, which needs a slight depth of field, or shooting in dim light surroundings, which require big apertures. For composition, attention to focus forefront and background can be essential to create a great image.

The human eye can differentiate between distinct elements and control the depth in a scene. However, camera levels the background and foreground which shows a 2D version in the form of a 3D reality. Flattening the space makes foreground and background elements more confusing in a photograph. Therefore, it is essential to concentrate on the foreground and background to enhance the quality of the final image to make it a masterpiece of art. Perspective in photography is the feeling of depth or three-dimensional relationships between items in the photo, along with their proportions regarding the lookout. It is one of the complicated parts of photography, which if a photographer is unaware of, can create undesirable distortions or flat images. Photographers can create great compositions using the idea of perspective by efficiently changing a 3D scene to a 2D version. It also narrates the location of the human eye in relation to the items in an image. A study conducted by Dijck explains that “Functions of photography as a tool for identity formation and as a means for communication were duly acknowledged, but were always rated secondary to its prime purpose of memory. Recent research by anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists seems to suggest the increased deployment of the digital camera”. Light is an important source that produces expected results. Four technical aspects of light affect each photograph and are essentially relevant to the artistic uses for a soft box.

These aspects are the amount and quality of light, colour, temperature and the additive nature of light. Occasionally, we overlook all the factors that go into illuminating a portrait. Photographers should focus scientifically on the path of light. Attaining skill in the use of light means bearing in mind all four factors with each photograph taken. Symmetrical photos look beautiful, and they have a pleasant effect on the eyes. Vertical symmetry is the best type of symmetry and such a photograph will look visually attractive in architectural photography. It highlights the size, form, and the plan of the structures. Scene capturing photography uses plane configurations, especially when taking water scenes, which can be mixed-up with reflective symmetry. Horizontal symmetry does not essentially have the features of the reflective image. This kind of symmetry typically contains figures that go round and round with the same designs and often relates to waves but it can also be used to picture streams, vaults, wheels, etc. Reflective symmetry is all about reflections and photographers can find reflections in water bodies, shining surfaces, and houses, and they need to be on the same level for the focus to take exciting reflective photographs.

Depth of field is the characteristic in which the extent of the distance between the near and far bodies gives a sharp focus in an image. Great depth of field means that a big area both in front and ahead for the subject to look sharp. Suitable selection of the distance of field for one location will not be acceptable for another situation. It is all a problem of one’s feeling when trying to control the suitable use of DOF to improve the result of the photograph. A large amount of light falling on the camera demands a short shutter speed and a small hole requires a long shutter speed for the same quantity of light. An article written by Archambault explains that “Photography has been a medium of limitless possibilities since it was originally invented in the early 1800s. The use of cameras has allowed us to capture historical moments and reshape the way we see ourselves and the world around us”. Furthermore, the shades can create a scene more vivid if someone is familiar with using them. Shades are a good technique to improve tonal comparison to an appearance because dim lights provide a beautiful contrast with the lighter zones in a photograph. It is especially important to use shadows for contrast in creating black and white photographs. Light and shadows are useful while creating the images and attention is necessary for position adjustment and best configuration. Shadows also expose the touch of the background. When the Sun is at a lesser angle to the horizon, it casts shades across the land, sketching facts and adding details.

The use of contrast helps to create attractive images. Contrast is a device that photographers use to draw observers’ attention to their theme. There are two types of contrast, one is tonal contrast, and the other is colour contrast. Tonal Contrast refers to the change in tones from the brightest tone to the dimmest one and colour contrast refers to the technique of mixing up of colours. Tones are usually high, average or low and a high tone photograph mostly includes white and black with little or no medium grey tones. An average tone image has features such as a blend of white, black and various medium tones of grey colour. A low tone image has no shadows and almost all the tones are very similar to one another. Colours with different features such as blue and yellow contrast intensely when placed together. An article by Tolmachev says that “Several methods of colour photography were patented from 1862 by two French inventors: Louis Ducos du Hauronand Charles Cros, working independently”.

In conclusion, photography is an art, which is a true form of expression when compared to painting, sculpture and other forms of media. Photos are more clear portraits the same as paintings but there is a perfect accuracy in the formation of photos due to the use of camera machine. People now recognise photography as a genuine art form. Photographers like other artists display their facts of art through the pictures. Now photographs are more open than before and through the signs of progress in digital skill, making photos are easier and more practical than ever before.

Photographers draw scenes that are ahead, but other art forms such as painting is an additive procedure. They observe how light and darkness act together in capturing a magical image. In painting art, the artist adds elements for proper arrangement but photography is the real depiction of a scene. Painters have no restrictions on what things look like. They can o paint what they perceive by using their sense of sight. Cautiously keeping in view the focal length, and considering other factors in mind, photographers, on the other hand, have good control over the theme for making real-life pictures.


  1. Bate, D. (2016). Photography: The Key Concepts (Second Edition). [S.l.]: BLOOMSBURY VISUAL ARTS.
  2. Archambault, M. (2015, May 23). 20 First Photos from the History of Photography. Retrieved December 15, 2019, from
  3. Barbiaux, J. (n.d.). Key characteristics of a great photography. Retrieved December 26, 2019, from
  4. Chatterji, T. (2010). elements of photography. Retrieved December 15, 2019, from
  5. Dijck, J. V. (2008 ). Digital Photography: Communication, Identity, Memory. Visual Communication, 57-76.
  6. Karaaziz, S. P. (2014). Photography and Art History: The History of Art Born from Photography. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 210-214.
  7. Naomi Rosenblum, H. E. (2019, October 4). History of photography. Retrieved December 15, 2019, from
  8. Tolmachev, I. (2019, December 26). A Brief History of Photography: The Beginning. Retrieved December 29, 2019, from
  9. Marien, M. (2002). Photography: A Cultural History

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