What Was The First Commercial Photography Process

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In the last few decades, photography has massively evolved as a skill, as well as an art form. 

From the olden day’s huge cameras to today’s compact embedded ones within our sleek smartphones, capturing moments has come a long way. 

In fact, in today’s digital age, photography is not just about capturing moments, but is also a sought-after and rewarding career option. 

 How did this change happen in such a short span of time? 

If you are into photography, you have probably wondered about what was the first commercial photography process that eventually brought it into the mainstream.

A camera did not always come embedded inside a cell phone, after all.

This article talks about the first commercial photography process, how it began and how it became popular.  

Read on to know more.  

The Daguerreotype 

The Frenchman Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre accidentally invented the correct technique of developing photographs, while experimenting with the tedious process of capturing photographs.

The process of capturing images required Daguerre to use iodine vapour to produce an image on a silver plate. However, the result was not visible to the naked human eye. 

Exhausted with experimenting, he put the silver plates inside a cupboard after some exposure in the light. Later, when he took the silver plates out, he found developed images on them.

He therefore concluded that the silver plates needed to be kept in the dark, after exposure, to produce a visible image. 

This process came to be known as the daguerreotype process of producing images.

Other Experimenters And Rewards

Daguerre was not the sole experimenter when it came to capturing images. Many inventors were simultaneously conducting trials at this time, to develop the process of capturing images. 

A contributor to the experiment and Daguerre’s rival, William Henry Fox Talbot, was also experimenting in the 1830s. 

Both the inventors did not make their work public till 1839.

Up until then, Daguerre tried attracting private investors towards his discovery, but was met with little success.

Later, he explained his invention to the French Academy of Sciences and the Academie des Beaux Arts, under strict confidentiality.

Talbot, on the other hand, used a different method to produce images and was completely unaware of Daguerre’s invention. 

He coated paper with salt and silver nitrate to produce Calotypes, which were useful in producing photo negatives later. 

He tried to claim the patent to the invention, when Daguerre’s experiment was made public. However, he soon learned that his process of recording images was different from that of his rival’s. 

Daguerre earned a lifetime pension from the French government and the gift of the daguerreotype was made available globally. 

It was mass produced, became popular and was sent all around the world.  

Development Of The Daguerreotype And Simultaneous Experiments 

When the question of ’What was the first commercial photography process?’ comes to mind, we naturally imagine it to not be child’s play. 

The process of producing images was cumbersome,expensive and had certain risks involved. It was therefore restricted to only those who could afford it. 

Daguerreotypes initially produced lateral images, alongside other shortcomings. The process of capturing images was only perfected gradually. 

Daguerre partnered with various inventors and experimenters to better his invention.  

Meanwhile, experimenters like Fredric Scott Archer and Gustave Le Gray invented other processes to capture images. 

The Collodion process combined the key elements from the Daguerreotypes and the Calotypes. It allowed photos to be printed on glass plates. 

A number of other experimenters were simultaneously developing their own techniques in the 1800’s.

Most of them were unaware about the others’ invention and progress until 1839, when Daguerre made his invention public. 

Commercial Photography

Advertising and commercial photography started in around 1850. Until then, the producers were only experimenting. 

With continued experimenting, innovations got better and better. 

However, it was still difficult to manage the large and heavy cameras. Ease in handling cameras was not achieved until its size became smaller. 

In the twentieth century, Eastman Kodak Company introduced cameras that were more compact. They were also mass produced and made accessible. 

Eventually, photography became associated with the advertising industry.  

Accessibility and affordability led to the popularization of cameras. They were now being used more and more for commercial purposes. 

Any beginner in commercial photography should consider investing in an affordable and compact camera

Different Niches And Devices In Commercial Photography 

The popularity of cameras and their affordability resulted in more people increasingly recording various things.

Currently, commercial photography is a specialization which includes various niches. Some of the popular niches include fashion photography, food photography, portraiture, environmental photography and architectural photography. 

Now, both big and small businesses depend on commercial photography to function, grow and promote their brand, products and services.

Also, commercial photography does not require extraordinary cameras anymore. In fact, many commercial photographers use their smartphone cameras to capture images. 

This technological advancement has proved to be a great boon for the advertising industry. 

It no longer keeps the art of photography accessible, exclusively for the higher classes. 

Accessibility of devices has since time, been a major factor that has directly impacted commercial photography. 


Commercial photography was not introduced soon after the invention of the first camera. However, when it was introduced, it took the advertising world by storm.

No corporation, big or small, can imagine promoting and growing their business without commercial photography. 

Commercial photography has come a long way as it serves as an employment opportunity to many people today. 

Every photography enthusiast should think about what was the first commercial photography process and know how it evolved over time. 

Every artist needs to know their medium and the fundamentals of art, before being able to create something perfect. 

Likewise, as a commercial photographer, you should be aware of the important history of commercial photography. 

After reading this article, you should be equipped with all the necessary knowledge you need about the first commercial photography process. Now you will understand your equipment and your art better.

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Marco Downs

Marco Downs

Marco Downs is our second founder and he is the creative head of this website. Marco stumbled upon photography only in college when he joined the photography club. His parents could never afford a camera for him as a child and it was in college that he saved up and bought his first camera. He now writes in-depth buyer guides and informational articles to assist the buyers. 
Marco Downs

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