A Brief History of the Camera Flash, From Explosive Powder to LED Lights


Since the first days of photography, a little extra light was needed to get a proper exposure – check out these different strategies used to illuminate the subject, if only for a brief second.


The first known photograph was captured in 1826 when light reacted with a particular type of asphalt known as Bitumen of Judea. Since that first natural light photo, photographers have introduced artificial flash lighting to photos through all kinds of different ways. In this post, we’re taking a look at a brief history of the camera flash — from its humble beginnings with explosive powder and burning metal up through the latest LED lights — to see how far it has come.

Flash Powder

If you have watched any movies depicting life in the nineteenth century, you may have witnessed a photographer holding a tray that suddenly produces a bright flash and a loud bang. In some slapstick comedies, a cloud of smoke might then dissipate showing the photographer standing with a blackened face. This technique utilized what we now call flash powder.

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