Daguerreotype – The First Commercial Photography Process in History


Commercial Photography, as popular as it is today, has a long-running history. Earlier, photography was part of art. When commercial photography started, photographers started taking photos for great commercial demands rather than for art only. Today’s commercial photography is high-quality photography that can be used for business or commercial purposes.

The First Commercial Photography Process

Louis Jacques Daguerre

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented the first Commercial Photography process, The Daguerreotype, in 1839. Daguerre started his research to capture detailed still images in the mid-1920s.


Joseph Nicephore Niepce was working towards the same goal. Common goals made them form a partnership and study together. They researched together for years while Niepce was successful in inventing the heliograph. After the death of Niepce in 1833, Daguerre continued his research. Daguerre started taking successful photographs in 1837. Later in 1839, the Daguerreotype process was introduced to the world at a meeting in Paris.

How did the Daguerreotype photography process work?

The daguerreotype photography process used a silver-plated sheet of copper, a lens to focus the image, and a mercury-coated silver mirror. Here’s a step-by-step process.

Daguerreotype photography process

  • Step 1: The daguerreotype photography process uses a silver-plated copper plate. The plate is cleaned and polished to look like a mirror.
  • Step 2: It is sensitized with iodine vapors in a closed box.
  • Step 3: The plate is developed with mercury until a clear image forms.
  • Step 4: Wash the plate in Hyposulphite of Soda to process the image
  • Step 5: Cover the daguerreotype portrait with a sheet of protective glass after drying the image, keeping it airproof.

Early daguerreotype required 15-30 minutes of exposure time. However, the time has decreased to 1 minute by the improvements in lenses and the introduction of bromine.

How to identify a Daguerreotype?



Previously manufacturer’s symbol was stamped on daguerreotype photograph plates. Then, the leaves were sold to the photographer. The plates were one of the common ways of recognizing daguerreotypes. One angle of the daguerreotype looks shiny, and the other looks matte.


The most typical size of the daguerreotype photograph is the sixth plate. The measures below do not include the size of the case.
Full-plate : 6 1/2″ x 8 1/2″
Half-plate : 4 1/4″ x 5 1/2 “
Quarter-plate : 3 1/4″ x 4 1/4″
Sixth-plate : 2 3/4″ x 3 1/4″
Ninth-plate : 2″ x 2 1/2 “
Sixteenth-plate : 1 3/8″ x 1 5/8″


In the beginning, daguerreotype photographs had leather-bound wooden cases. The cases were lined with silk. Later the cases went through many customization processes to protect the image better.

Image layer

Another professional way to recognize daguerreotype is the image layers. It did not have a binder layer; rather, the images were formed directly on the surface of the plate.

The Revolution of Commercial Photography

The Beginning

We have already discussed the background of the daguerreotype photography process. The very first photography started in 1837. It was only suitable for people who took photography as a hobby at that time. The daguerreotype emerged in 1850. Commercial photography began as many people started to adopt the daguerreotype process formula.

Fashion Photography

Photography started to become a popular advertising tool early in the 20th century. Edward Steichen is considered to be the founder of modern fashion photography. He took some photographs of gowns designed by Paul Poiret, a French Fashion Designer,, in 1911. More people started to take photography for commercial purposes as brands like Vogue had pursued the idea. Previous Fashion Photography used to be black and white. Later in 1950, colored photography started to take over.

Product Photography

The emergence of digital photography in 1985 changed the whole perspective of general photography. This photography highlights products with a magnificent setup. It gains consumer attention from the commercial perspective. Looking at the emerging trend of e-commerce and online business, the future demand for product photography will continue to rise.

Final note

The daguerreotype photography process made it easy for us to reach the peak of commercial photography. Besides that, daguerreotypes were a convenient way of preserving memories of loved ones. People still collect photographs of daguerreotypes as a hobby.

Tazim Ul Mulk

Tazim Ul Mulk

As a fervent writer and an enthusiast in the beauty of imagery, I wish to show the world the true meaning behind each image.