Color photography

Color photography was explored beginning in the mid 1800s. Early experiments in color could not fix the photograph and prevent the color from fading. The first permanent color photo was taken in 1861 by the physicist James Clerk Maxwell.

One of the early methods of taking color photos was to use three cameras. Each camera would have a color filter in front of the lens. This technique provides the photographer with the three basic channels required to recreate a color image in a darkroom or processing plant. Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii developed another technique, with three color plates taken in quick succession.

Practical application of the technique was held back by the very limited color response of early film; however, in the early 1900s, following the work of photo-chemists such as H. W. Vogel, emulsions with adequate sensitivity to green and red light at last became available.

The first commercially succesful color process, the Autochrome, invented by the French Lumière brothers, reached the market in 1907. It was based on a ‘screen-plate’ filter made of dyed grains of potato starch, and was one of many additive color screen products available between the 1890s and the 1950s. A later example of the additive screen process was the German Agfacolor introduced in 1932. In 1935, American Kodak introduced the first modern (‘integrated tri-pack’) color film which was developed by two musicians Leopold Mannes and Leopold Godowsky (“Man” and “God”) working with the Kodak Research Labs. It was Kodachrome, based on multiple layered silver gelatin emulsions that were each sensitized to one of the three additive colors–red, green, and blue. The cyan, magenta, and yellow dyes were created in those layers by adding color couplers during processing. This was followed in 1936 by Agfa’s Agfacolor Neu. Unlike the Kodachrome tri-pack process, the color couplers in Agfacolor Neu were incorporated into the emulsion layers during manufacture, which greatly simplified the film processing. Most modern color films, except Kodachrome, use such incorporated-coupler techniques, though since the 1970s nearly all have used a technique developed by Kodak to accomplish this, rather than the original Agfa method. Instant color film was introduced by Polaroid in 1963.

Color photography may form images as a positive transparency, intended for use in a slide projector, or as color negatives intended for use in creating positive color enlargements on specially coated paper. The latter is now the most common form of film (non-digital) color photography owing to the introduction of automated photoprinting equipment.