Photography: Concept, History, Types and Characteristics

We explain what photography is, how it originated and what this artistic technique is for. In addition, its characteristics and the types that exist.

Photography consists of using light, projecting it and fixing it in the form of images.

What is photography?

Photography is called a technique and an art form that consist of capture images using light, projecting it and fixing it in the form of images on a sensitive medium (physical or digital).

The whole photograph is based on the same principle as the “camera obscura”, an optical instrument that consists of a totally dark compartment equipped with a small hole at one end, through which light enters and projects images of what happens outside the compartment, albeit inverted, on the darkened background.

In the case of photographic cameras, the principle is exactly the same, except that they are equipped with lenses to sharpen the focus of the projected, mirrors to reinvert the projected image and finally a photosensitive tape (or a similar digital sensor), which captures the image and saves it, to be able to later reveal or visualize it digitally.

The images obtained in this way are also called photographs or photos, and are the the result of decades of refining technology and photosensitive materials, up to the optical quality of modern cameras. In addition, this technology allowed the development and improvement of other similar ones, including cinematography.

Origin of photography

In 1948 Polaroid photography was invented.

Before the photographic camera was invented, there were attempts to capture the visual image, with heliogravures and daguerreotypes, precursor techniques of the 19th century that were moderately successful, but were very expensive and fuzzy.

Photography as such invented in the transition to industrial society, obeying the spirit of the time that yearned for objectivity and rational truthfulness (positivism).

He inherited from the daguerreotype his use of polished silver photosensitive films, developed with mercury vapors. But these were toxic elements and successive scientists and inventors of the nineteenth century were giving better methods and better results, until the appearance of bromide plates in 1871 and then photographic film as such in the first kodak camera in 1888.

Subsequently, the technique will not stop innovating: in 1907 Lumière invented color photographyIn 1931 the first electronic flash was achieved, in 1948 Polaroid photography, and in 1990 photographic digitization.

What is photography for?

Photography fulfills an important documentary or journalistic role in our days, since allows you to capture real images and reproduce them on physical or digital media, thus being able to observe events that occurred in other latitudes and / or in other historical times.

Journalism, science and history today are inseparable from photography, and photo albums or picture frames were available in any 20th century house. In the 21st century, on the other hand, the place to accumulate photographs seems to be digital: the hard drives of computers or even social networks.

On the other hand, geography, astronomy and other applied sciences have seen in photography the opportunity to capture and enlarge the image of extremely distant or infinitely small objects, thus being able to disseminate them massively.

Photography features

Photography consists of converting the light of a certain moment into a physical impression of what is visible through the camera. In that sense, it is fixed (it lacks movement), it is uneditable (except through digital resources) and it is durable in time, although with the passing of the years their materials lose quality and therefore image sharpness.

Types of photography

According to their claims and the nature of the photographed object, we can talk about:

  • Advertising photography. That which serves as advertising or promotion of consumer products, whatever they may be. It is often the target of digital interventions and other types of strategic “fixes”.
  • Fashion photography. The one that accompanies parades and other fashion events, emphasizing the way of dressing or wearing or combing hair.
  • Documentary photography. Also called historical or journalistic, it is done for informational or educational purposes, that is, as part of the transmission of a message.
  • Landscape photography. The one that is taken to show nature in its fullness, such as aerial or underwater shots, usually very open and full of color.
  • Scientific photography. The one that students of nature take through telescopes, microscopes and other tools, to show what can not commonly be observed with the naked eye.
  • Artistic photography. The one that pursues aesthetic purposes: portraits, montages, compositions, etc.

Photography as art

Photography was not always considered as a possible art, since it lacked in its beginnings the diffusion and acceptance of today, and painting was preferred as an artistic medium representation of reality.

However, throughout the twentieth century, novel aesthetic trends developed that influenced the sensibilities of the time and opened the way for photographic art to demonstrate its subjective potential, since it was thought that it did nothing more than show the objects placed in front of the camera.