When I began what would eventually be my career in photography in high school, I was shooting 35mm black and white film and developing plus printing it myself in our school’s darkroom. It was my happy place!
Eventually the world of color called to me and I wanted to create with it as well. This week I was thinking about a world without color photography and it caused me to wonder, how did we get color photos?
On Twitter, I used the poll
feature to ask if anyone knew when the first color photograph was taken - thinking that it was in 1861 by a Mr. Maxwell.
But it isn’t that simple or straightforward. When is anything, right? This is why proper research is key! But top tip: don’t rely on Wikipedia as your first or only source!
It was in the 1850s that Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell theorized that every shade of the rainbow could be created through different combinations of red, green, and blue light.
Then in 1861 Maxwell and Thomas Sutton created a color photograph of a tartan ribbon - using Maxwell’s method of taking of three separate exposures through red, green and blue filters
- which they presented at The Royal Institution. If you’ve heard of RGB in paint mixing or videography, or maybe you learned about it in school, you’ll know it’s not just important to photography. [sources: one, two, three. this is also worth a read
I was not surprised to know a Scot was influential in inventing something we still use today. Many of them have been. And if you’ve been a subscriber since the beginning, you remember when I dedicated an issue to my love of Scotland
. In honor of Maxwell, here’s one of my photos from Scotland that I don’t think would have the same appeal if it was in B&W