Photographs: Exploring the Many Ways We Capture Life on Film

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 16, 2022
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For the technique, see Photography. A photograph or photo is an image created by light falling on a light-sensitive surface, usually photographic film or an electronic medium such as a CCD or a CMOS chip.

Most photographs are created using a camera, which uses a lens to focus the scene’s visible wavelengths of light into a reproduction of what the human eye would see. The process and practice of creating photographs is called photography.

The word “photograph” was coined in 1839 by Sir John Herschel and is based on the Greek φῶς (phos), meaning “light”, and γραφή (graphê), meaning “drawing, writing”, together meaning “drawing with light”.

What is a photo

Unpacking the Meaning of a Photograph

A photograph is not just a simple picture taken by a camera or smartphone. It is a form of art that captures a moment in time, producing a drawing of light that is recorded on a photosensitive surface. The word “photograph” comes from the Greek words “phōs” meaning light and “graphē” meaning drawing.

The Roots of Photography

The roots of photography can be traced back to the 1800s when the first photographic images were created using photographic film. Today, with the advent of digital technology, photographs can be created using electronic image sensors such as CCD or CMOS chips.

The Contemporary Themes and Concepts of Photography

Photography has evolved from being just a simple recording of an image to a complex art form that explores various themes and concepts. Some of the contemporary themes and concepts of photography include:

  • Portraiture: capturing the essence of a person through their image
  • Landscape: capturing the beauty of nature and the environment
  • Still life: capturing the beauty of inanimate objects
  • Abstract: exploring the use of color, shape, and form to create a unique image

The Role of Technology in Photography

Technology has played a significant role in the evolution of photography. With the introduction of computer programs and digital cameras, photographers can now manipulate and enhance their images to create unique and stunning works of art.

Exploring the Fascinating World of Photography Types and Styles

When it comes to photography, there are different types of photographs that you can take. Here are some of the primary types of photographs that you can consider:

  • Nature Photography: This type of photography involves capturing the beauty of nature, including landscapes, mountains, and wildlife.
  • Portrait Photography: This type of photography involves capturing the essence of a person or a group of people. It can be done in a studio or outdoors, and it can be formal or casual.
  • Fine Art Photography: This type of photography is all about creating something unique and powerful. It depends on the photographer’s creativity and vision, and it can include a wide range of styles and genres.

The Different Styles and Genres of Photography

Photography is a mix of different styles and genres. Here are some of the most popular and famous styles and genres of photography:

  • Landscape Photography: This type of photography is all about capturing the beauty of nature, including mountains, forests, and oceans. It requires a specific setup and a keen eye for detail.
  • Street Photography: This type of photography involves capturing the everyday life of people in public places. It requires a lot of practice and a good understanding of the features of your camera.
  • Black and White Photography: This type of photography is all about using light and shadow to create a powerful and unique image. It offers a wide range of shapes and lines that can transform a simple scene into something incredible.

The Evolution of Photography: From Niépce to Luc

In the early 19th century, a Frenchman named Joseph Nicéphore Niépce became interested in finding a way to produce permanent images. He experimented with various methods, including lithographic engraving and oiled drawings, but none were successful. Finally, in February 1826, he produced the first photograph using a method he called heliography. He placed a pewter plate coated with a light-sensitive solution in a camera and exposed it to light for several hours. The areas exposed to light became dark, leaving the upper sides of the plate untouched. Niépce then washed the plate with a solvent, leaving a unique, accurate image of the view in front of the camera.

The Daguerreotype: The First Popular Form of Photography

Niépce’s process was refined by his partner, Louis Daguerre, resulting in the daguerreotype, the first practical form of photography. Daguerre’s method involved exposing a silver-plated copper plate to light, which created a detailed image that was then developed with mercury vapor. The daguerreotype became popular in the 1840s and 1850s, and many masters of the art emerged during this time.

The Wet Plate Collodion Process: A Significant Advancement

In the mid-19th century, a new process called the wet plate collodion process was developed. This method involved coating a glass plate with a light-sensitive solution, exposing it to light, and then developing the image. The wet plate collodion process significantly improved the ability to produce photographs on a larger scale and was used to document the American Civil War.

The Digital Revolution

In the late 20th century, digital photography emerged as a new method of producing photographs. This involved using a digital camera to capture an image, which could then be viewed and edited on a computer. The ability to instantly view and edit photographs has significantly changed the way we take and share pictures.


So, that’s what a photo is. A picture taken with a camera, or a phone these days, that captures a moment in time and forms art. 

You can learn more about photography now that you know the basics, and you can always look at some of the great photographers who have inspired us with their work. So don’t be shy and give it a try!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.