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National Camera Day

Smile and say cheese, it's National Camera Day! Today we celebrate cameras and the photographs they capture, which contain beauty and memories from our lives. Prior to the camera's emergence, people relied on written descriptions, drawings, and paintings, and accounts of events were often made long after they took place. Cameras made it possible to reproduce events in the moment, as they were, and photographs were easy to take and make copies of.

The camera obscura came before the camera. Used by the ancient Greek and Chinese, it was similar to a pinhole camera and projected an image that could be traced. The first real photograph was taken in the mid-1810s by Nicéphore Niépce, who used paper coated with silver chloride to make it. This photograph wasn't permanent, however, but Niépce created a more lasting one in the mid-1820s, using a wooden box camera made by Charles and Vincent Chevalier. Niépce began working with Louis Daguerre on a new photographic camera but passed away in 1833 before it was completed. By 1837, Daguerre had created a new, sharp-image photograph, which became known as a daguerreotype.

More efficient cameras made by others followed, that used dry and wet plates and twin reflex lenses—with shortened exposure times and faster shutters—and that were smaller and more portable. In 1885, George Eastman, who had recently founded Kodak, debuted film cameras. Originally made with chemically coated paper, film started being made with celluloid in 1889. Kodak's small "Brownie Box" began being sold on a large scale in 1900 and was popular into the 1960s.

The first 35mm camera became available in the mid-1910s but didn't become widespread with the public until the mid-1930s. In 1935, Kodak's color film hit the market, becoming the first color film to be embraced by the public. The first instant-picture camera, Polaroid Model 95, hit the market in 1948. Rumblings of digital photography started in the late sixties and early seventies but it wasn't ready for use on a mass scale until the late eighties and early nineties. In the mid-2000s, the resolution of digital cameras improved, approaching the quality of the 35mm camera. Today, digital cameras are a crucial component of smartphones. Cameras have come a long way since the time of the camera obscura, and we celebrate them today!

How to Observe National Camera Day

Some ways you could mark the day include:

  • Buy a new camera.
  • Take pictures of nature, people, buildings, and other items. You could share your photographs on social media with the hashtag #NationalCameraDay.
  • Learn how to develop your own film.
  • Make a pinhole camera.
  • Read a book about photography.
  • Look at photographs you've taken over the years. See how your photography has changed, digitize your slides and prints, and share some of your favorite old shots online.

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