Photography

Exploring photography

What is photography?

Photography is image-making that makes use of light to produce a picture. In some cases, electromagnetic radiation outside the field of visible light is also used to create images, usually for scientific or astronomical purposes. In most cases, the light will be captured via a lens which is then recorded digitally or reacts with a light-reactive membrane, known as film. Photography can be used to create stills or moving images. Prior to the invention of modern photography, people would paint or sketch images to record them. Although such practices continue to this day, taking photographic images is now much more common for anything from recording evidence of crimes to portraiture.

 How did photography develop?

People have long known that they can project images onto surfaces by using pinholes. An early Arabian physicist, Ibn al-Haytham, is accredited with first developing pinhole cameras as well as the camera obscura – or dark chamber – which meant it was possible to view live images indirectly for the first time. However, it was not until the invention of photo-sensitive plates that such images could first be recorded permanently as stills. Various substances were used to do this in the early nineteenth century, such as vaporised iodine or mercury. The first attempts at photographic film came about in the 1870s. Commercial films were first released by the Kodak company in the 1880s.

What types of photography are there?

Photography covers many distinct areas. Much of it is purely amateur, the sort of holiday snaps and informal shots of family and friends we all enjoy. It is also an art form in its own right. Videos and stills are now commonplace in galleries as art installations. Commercial photography is another important area, and this includes things like photojournalism, wildlife photography, advertising and pornography, to name but a few. In science, photos are used to help predict weather patterns, to observe the universe and in spectroscopy, a practice that has numerous applications, such as looking for toxins in blood samples.

How did digitisation revolutionise photography?

For most of the twentieth century, all photographers had at their disposal was cameras and film to make new images. With the advent of magnetic videotape in the 1980s, so the technology – and the use of it - began to change, however. Soon the first digital SLR cameras were being made which created files of images rather than pictures that needed to be developed from films. Eventually, such digital cameras became so light, portable and convenient to use that they were installed into smartphones. Nowadays, virtually everyone has a highly sophisticated camera in their pocket they can use to shoot stills and videos and to share them instantly.

How can you get into photography?

Simply by taking a few snaps and editing them with some software will improve the quality of your pictures. If you want to learn more, then there will be a local photography club you can sign up to. They exist in nearly every town and city and provide a place where you can share your passion with others. There are also plenty of photography courses you can take, some of which run entirely online.

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