Camera Invention

The first camera invention to capture a permanent image was created by Joseph Nicephore Niepce, [pronounced Nee-ps].

Artists used a device called a camera obscura to help them draw pictures. It was a box with a pinhole or lens in one side.

As light passed through the hole, an image would project onto paper for the artist to draw.

The image was upside down so 18th century artists used mirrors to project the image right-side up.

The bigger the box , the larger the image that could be drawn. The smaller the pinhole - the more detail that could be copied by the artist.

Drawing with a camera obscura was a tedious task and Niepce found his hands were not steady enough to draw the inverted images.

As with the birth of many inventions, Niepcebegan a project to improve the camera obscura. He looked for another way to capture a permanent image.

Niepce developed a camera invention that used a sheet of pewter coated with asphalt that when exposed to light, hardened permanently to preserve an image.

This first photograph took Niepce eight hours to expose. Imagine standing still for a picture that long today!


Niepce worked hard to improve his invention. He discovered a new method known as heliogravure that led to better quality images.

He used a photosensitive agent made from tar to create sharp, for those days, black and white photographs.


You may have never heard of Niepce before, because for many years he was never credited for his camera invention. Niepce’s son fought to receive recognition for his father.

A photograph taken in 1825 by Niepce was discovered in 2002 as part of a French photograph collection. It was an image of a young boy walking a horse into a stable. It was promoted as the first ever photograph and sold for $392,000 at an auction.

Niepce was a man ahead of his time who had a good idea and pursued it. He experienced plenty of failed attempts but never gave up trying!

The Niepce Crater on the Moon was named after him in recognition of his camera invention.