Louis Daguerre's Daguerreotype Photography Process

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, shortened to Louis Daguerre was a French artist, painter, photographer, and developer of the diorama theatre and the Daguerreotype photography. For his contribution, he is seldom called the Father of Photography.

Louis Daguerre was inspired by camera obscuras while developing daguerreotype photography. Daguerreotype photography engendered the first permanent photographic image - the view from the Boulevard Temple.

A Daguerreotype picture requires extensive laboring and hence divided into five steps; all of equal importance.

The Daguerreotype Process

A daguerreotype image can only be produced onto a silver sheet, however, they were quite expensive. The sheet must be thoroughly polished to produce a better image quality. Thus, Louis Daguerre used silver-plated copper sheets with a mirror finish.

STEP 1: Polishing

The resultant sheets are treated with halogen fumes. Louis Daguerre used iodine fumes, though later periods saw an extensive use of bromine.

STEP 2: Sensitizing

The sheets are then placed in the daguerreotype camera in a light-tight plate holder. The lens cap is opened towards the subject. Depending on the plate’s sensitivity, lens’s light-concentrating ability, and the room’s brightness, the ‘invisible’ image is produced within seconds to a few minutes.

STEP 3: Exposing

The picture was then developed using warm mercury vapors. Despite mercury fumes being harmful, photographers continued to make extensive use of daguerreotype photography since it provided a positive image with incredibly fine detail.

STEP 4: Developing

To ensure that the captured photo remained intact, Louis Daguerre treated the picture with a solution of common salt (although he soon switched to sodium thiosulfate).

STEP 5: Fixing