Dear friends!

If you are reading this, you have probably decided to buy or you have already bought a digital camera and you are about to embark on a journey into a fascinating world of limitless possibilities – that of photography. It has never been as easy as it is today, at the beginning of the 21st century, the age of digital photography. However, you should keep in mind that nothing is more important than what we jokingly call the ‘camera operating device’ – the man behind the camera. That is because not even the most advanced camera can take a good shot all by itself. Only you can bring heart and soul to an otherwise meaningless combination of colours and light registered by the digital sensor or film in your camera. Our main goal when writing this book was not only to teach you about the specifics of digital cameras, but also to teach you how to create enchanting images whose spell is so powerful that people will find it hard to tear their eyes away from your photographs and will keep asking how you managed to achieve that effect.

Although photography was invented around 200 years ago, some photographic methods of capturing an image date back to antiquity. The photographic principle of projection has been known since the time of Aristotle – 4th century BC. In order to obtain such projected images people used a ‘camera obscura’ – a device projecting reality onto the back wall of a dark box.
Camera obscura was often used as an aid by artists in the Middle Ages. In order to draw a more realistic picture, an artist would go into a specially designed dark room with a pinhole on one of the walls. Reality was projected upside down onto the opposite wall. All the artist had to do was to place a canvas there and sketch the outlines..
However, since this whole process required considerable effort, with time ‘the dark room’ shrunk in size to the dimensions of a portable box. The bottom of the box was fitted with a mirror at an angle of 45 degrees which reflected light beams to the upper part of the box. The camera was now portable and easy to carry around. However, artists still wasted considerable amounts of time reproducing detail.

As far back as the Middle Ages people had figured out that if they were able to discover a material which is sensitive to light, it could replace the drawing canvas and produce a ready image. There has been some evidence that certain attempts were made in that direction. The resulting images, however, have not been preserved as the method to fix the image once it has been exposed to daylight had not been discovered yet. It was only at the beginning of the 19th century that several scientists managed to create independently of one another methods of achieving a lasting image.

One of the pioneers of photography was the French scientist Joseph Niépce. He began work on his own photographic process as early as the end of the 18th century conducting experiments with silver chloride and asphalt mixtures but the images he obtained were not permanent. His first preserved photograph dates back to 1826 and is the view from his bedroom window. Of course, the light sensitivity of the materials was low and it took hours to expose the image.
Although Niépce was the true inventor of the photographic process, his disciple and later his business associate – Louis Daguerre gained wider recognition. He helped photography become publicly available by using silver iodide as the active substance and copper or brass as substrate sheets. One of the most famous first daguerreotypes (as is the name of this process) is a still life of Daguerre’s studio. In order to produce this image, he needed several hours of exposure time.
That is the reason why on all cityscapes captured using this technique we see only empty boulevards. The first ever photograph to feature people was taken by Daguerre in 1939 – a view of Boulevard du Temple. The bright sunlight allowed exposure time to be shortened from several hours to approximately 10 minutes. Although this time was still too long to make it possible to capture the people moving on the boulevard, it was sufficient to capture two people visible in the bottom left corner. A shoe-shiner and his client.

A photographer in the 19th century was very much like a magician. He needed to understand physics in order to design his camera as well as chemistry so that he could prepare his own chemicals. With time emulsions became more and more sensitive and only a couple of decades later it was now possible to take photographs in mere ten to fifteen seconds. The first photographic portraits of people date back to the middle of the 19th century. A photographer would secure the camera in a stable position and would instruct the people to stand still; he would then carefully take the cap off the lens and count to 5 or 10. These are the photos of our ancestors we are familiar with, the ones where they seem unnaturally stiff. Over the next years the sensitivity of the emulsions increased even further, leading to shorter exposure times and a more readily available process which in turn made photography ever more popular.

Here are some key photographic cameras from before the digital era which played an important role in the development of photography:

This is the first commercially available daguerreotype camera produced by La Maison Susse Frères with a Charles Chevalier lens. It was because of this camera that daguerreotypes became immensely popular first in France and later around the world. The daguerreotype was the most commonly used photographic method until 1860. It was then replaced by cheaper and faster processes.
A studio camera operating with a glass substrate. It is a thin glass plate with a layer of silver salt emulsion on one of its sides. This technology became obsolete by the beginning of the 20th century due to the emergence of the lighter and more flexible celluloid plates and photographic films. However, it was still used to create quality images by the middle of the 20th century.
At the end of the 19th century George Eastman created the first mainstream camera which came pre-loaded with a 100 frame film roll. It was accessible and easy to use. Users would send it to the Kodak laboratory where the shot material was developed and a new film loaded in. At the beginning of the 20th century Kodak launched the new Brownie model which cost only 1 dollar and photography became part of every household.

It was no longer necessary to possess knowledge of physics and chemistry in order to practice the art of photography. Thus, cameras infiltrated into the everyday lives of ordinary people who were interested in capturing life around them. They took photos of their families, neighbours and events on the streets. Kodak used children to advertise their cameras in order to establish them as a convenient product for mass use. The slogan of the brand was ‘You press the button, we do the rest’.

The first camera to use 35mm film and a frame size of 24x36mm was designed by Oskar Barnack under the Leica brand in 1925. This type of film was popular in cinema and, to be honest, several other manufacturers had used it for their photographic cameras 15-20 years earlier, but were not commercially successful on the market.
The first single-lens reflex camera (SLR) using a pentaprism and a focusing system with an optical viewfinder was Contax-S in 1949. The opportunity to see through the lens itself without parallax and to focus more precisely was a considerable and valuable advantage for reportage and sports photographers where speed has always been paramount.
The first SLR camera with a motor drive and a modern AF system was Minolta-7000 in 1985. The autofocus system was a key innovation in the history of photography. All contemporary digital single-lens reflex cameras use advanced versions of this system even to this day.

We will not explore the history of digital cameras in much detail here as from the point of view of photography their principle of operation remains the same. The same could be said about the main parameters used for setting the camera – sensitivity (ISO), exposure time (shutter speed) and light power of the lens (aperture). We will discuss the specifics of each one in the following chapters ‘Selecting the right equipment’ and ‘Camera settings’. It is important to mention, however, some important historical and technical facts relating to the technology of creating an image through electricity.

The end of the 19th century saw the birth of image transmission through electricity when the Italian physicist and inventor Giovanni Caselli created the pantelegraph – the forerunner of the fax machine used for transmission of still images. It was his idea to convert visual images into a stream of electric impulses and transmit them long distance.
The Scottish inventor John Baird was the first to demonstrate transmission of monochrome images in 1926 with image resolution of 30 rows, which was sufficient to recreate a recognisable human face. In 1927 he also invented the first video recording system using audio recording technology. His image recordings were reproduced in the 21st century using modern digital technology..
The evolution of digital cameras goes back to the 80s of the 20th century. Their design was built on film cameras and the shooting process and operation principles remained the same. The only difference was the change from film roll to electronic sensor and the development process had to be replaced by electronic hardware and software.