History of Wedding Photography
Wedding Photography in the 19th Century
By Natalie T.
December 26, 2011
Wedding photographs are an agonizing process already, but did you know that back in the days of early photography, people had to hold a pose over a minute? Early daguerreotypes, a photographic process that captures an image onto a silver coated copper plate, took sixty to ninety seconds to capture an image and the sitters had to stay very still for a crisp image. Due the amount of equipment needed, these photographs were often taken in studios where the photographer could rig up vises to hold one's limbs in place. Imagine wearing a big pouffy dress and trying not to blink!
While the French inventor and chemist French inventor Nicéphore Niépce created the first photograph in 1822, the exposure process took up to eight hours! As you can probably guess, this was not a good method for photographing people. Commercial photography began to take off in 1839, with the French artist and chemist Louis J.M. Daguerre's invention of the daguerreotype. That consisted of an image being exposed onto a polished silver sheet via a chemical process, and it dramatically reduced the time it took to make a print. The daguerreotype was relatively fast and efficient way to create and image compared to other methods, so it help propel photography into commercial viability. Well-off and adventurous couples embraced the idea of creating photographic memories of their big day, but back then, wedding couples didn't receive much more than a daguerreotype portrait on a small metal sheet, which was then framed.
Until the second part of the 1800s, most people didn't pose for a formal wedding photo during the wedding. Instead, they posed for a photo in their best clothes before or after a wedding. Remember, Queen Victoria was the woman who introduced the idea of the white wedding dress in 1840 and it took a while to catch on. In the 1860s, more couples started posing in their wedding clothes or sometimes hired a photographer to come to the wedding venue. Due to the nature of the bulky equipment and lighting issues, wedding photography was largely a studio practice for most of the late 19th century. In the 1880s, a New Yorker named George Eastman streamlined the process so that photographers could work on location without carrying tons of plates and chemicals, so on-location, studio-type style images began to characterize wedding photography.
Wedding albums started becoming more commonplace towards the 1880s, and the photographer would sometimes include the wedding party in the photographs. Often the wedding gifts would be laid out and recorded in the photographs as well.