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Photography: Writing in Light: How Cameras Work


Videos (Made with Cameras) Explaining How Cameras Work

Although many early photographic methods produced black-and-white images, most of our own experiences with photography involve color. The video below, from the George Eastman Museum, explains how color photography works.

Analog (non-digital) photography today still relies on one thing: silver. The video below explains how silver atoms in film react with sunlight to produce an image.

Digital cameras don't use film, but the principles of photography remain the same. Light strikes a light-sensitive surface and produces a reaction. In the digital camera, computer circuits detect the reaction and interpret it. Watch the video below, from the British Broadcasting Corporation, for a more detailed discussion.

What does a lens do? Why do we use them in cameras? The science of the lens is explored in the video below, produced by camera manufacturer Canon.

Camera Ob-what?

The word "camera" actually predates photography. The camera obscura - a piece of technology which has been around since at least the 1500s - was a box or room with a hole (or aperature) in the wall. This aperature produced a single, inverted image of whatever was outside of the box or room. Click here to learn more about the camera obscura.

Abelardo Morell is a contemporary artist who uses a camera obscura as part of his photography. You can find one of his images on the Home page of this LibGuide and explore his work on his website

Build Your Own Camera

Interested in creating your own camera obscura or "pinhole camera"? Check out these instructions from