Do you like to take pictures? How does your family capture those special moments that you want to remember forever?

Many of us today use digital cameras. Sometimes they’re part of our smartphones or a regular digital camera. They allow us to capture images and see them immediately on a screen.

Photography hasn’t always been so quick and easy, though. Once upon a time, cameras were quite large (compared to today’s tiny cameras), expensive and a bit complicated. After taking a picture, you couldn’t see what it looked like until you removed film from the camera and had it developed.

Non-digital cameras are sometimes called film cameras. Camera film was invented by George Eastman in the late 1800s. Camera film was made of a plastic substance called celluloid, which captured photographic images.

To get pictures from camera film, the film must be cut into separate pieces, called negatives. The negatives are then used to project the photographic image stored on them onto special photographic paper.

Photographic paper reacts to light to produce the image taken by a camera and stored on film. Since photographic paper reacts to light, pictures using camera film need to be produced (a process called developing) in a room that is completely dark.

These special rooms used to develop film were called darkrooms. Darkrooms used red lighting to allow photographers to control light carefully, so that light-sensitive photographic paper would not become overexposed and ruin the pictures during the developing process.

Because of the popularity of digital photography today, darkrooms are not as popular or necessary as they once were. You can still find them, though, in professional photo studios, colleges and photography schools.

In the 1970s, Polaroid created integral or “instant” film for use in special cameras. This special film allowed a photographer to see a picture develop right before his eyes — without the need for a darkroom or special developing techniques.

In the 1990s, digital cameras became very popular. Unlike traditional cameras, digital cameras do not use any type of film. Instead, they use built-in computers to record images electronically. They save them in memory and can display them instantly on a screen.

Digital photography has revolutionized photography in general. It allows you to see images immediately. There is no need to buy film and pay to have it developed. And, sharing photos with others via email and the Internet are very popular features with everyone who loves to take pictures.


44 Join the Discussion

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  1. I learned a lot about cameras today. I am glad we don’t have to use those big, big cameras they had back in the day (aka old school style).

    • We’re sure glad you liked learning about cameras in Wonderopolis today, McKenzie! Technology is awesome, we agree, but sometimes it’s just as awesome to learn the “old school” ways of doing things so we can appreciate how far we’ve come! :-)

    • We think Mr. P. is still SUPER COOL, don’t you, Mrs. Armfelt’s class? Thanks for WONDERing more about Polaroid cameras after you guys explored today’s Wonder…we’ll all have to do some more WONDERing to find out the exact date these FUN instant cameras were invented!

  2. I had a lot of fun reading this. It told me a lot. We are going to have a questinary about this so I am so so so ready and pumped for the questionary.

    • Happy Monday, Daisy! Thanks so much for sharing that you had fun reading today’s Wonder! We’re SO GLAD you did! :-)

  3. COOL! I love this! I think tomorrow’s wonder is about either patience, grocery store lines, or, I forgot what these lines were called, but, like the lines you get up early for to get like a smartphone, Ipad, or an Ipod touch, or something like that. I was also watching a TV show where the people went into a room where there was red lights, and the people were dipping pictures in a liquid. It was really cool. :) :) :) :) :) 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

    • What a GREAT Wonder you left for us today, Missy! Thank you for sharing about the darkroom experience you watched on TV! We like all the GREAT guesses you have about tomorrow’s Wonder, too! :-)

  4. P.S. The way you do a really happy smiley face is do colons : + a capital d. Example: 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 !

    • We like those REALLY happy smiley faces, Missy…THANKS for sharing how to do them! We also like “winky” faces and smiley faces with sunglasses! :-) 😀 😉 8)

    • Hi, Tyler! We’re so happy you liked today’s Wonder! Different people WONDER about different things, so when we share so many different kinds of AWESOME Wonders, there is always something new to learn in Wonderopolis! :-)

    • We’re glad you had fun learning in Wonderopolis today, Catelynn! We liked learning about darkrooms and cameras today, too! :-)

    • Your comment is AWESOME, Ryan! We’re so happy to hear that you check out the Wonder of the Day® each day! Thanks for letting us know that! :-)

    • We appreciate your comment, Ashton! Thank you for the awesome things you said…we’re glad you thought today’s Wonder was awesome! :-)

  5. Hello again wonderopolis. I love to take photos. I want to be a photographer. I am a huge fan at taking pics well my question is…how can you make it easier to understand idioms because I am going to take the OAA and I would love for it to me easier to understand idioms? :)

    • That’s a really awesome question, Lane E.! The special paper that photographers use to develop photographs is “light sensitive,” meaning any daylight or regular light will “expose” the paper and ruin it, turning it black when it is developed. Photographers use special colors of lights (red or amber) that will not expose the paper like regular light, but still allow the photographer to see in the darkroom! :-)

    • We really liked learning about darkrooms today, Eric, and it sounds like you did, too! Woo, hoo! Thanks for letting us know you thought today’s Wonder was AWESOME! :-)

  6. I love the video wonderopolis!! That’s cool how you take a lot of pictures and you can see everybody!! Good job!!!

    • Thanks for leaving us this COOL comment, Spencer! We’re so glad you enjoyed exploring this Wonder and learning about photography and darkrooms! :-)

  7. I think that darkrooms are awesome!!!!!! I do like taking pictures, TOO! Man, Wonderopolis and I have a whole BUNCH in common. :) 😀

    • We both like to have FUN while we LEARN, too, Joaquin! Thanks for being such an AMAZING Wonder Friend…we appreciate you! :-)

  8. I picked this article because I love taking pictures, but I don’t like to be in them…I check wonderopolis every day. I think it’s a fun way of learning…and I have one question: Why is their a red light?

    • Hi, Macy! Traditional photographers (ones who use darkrooms and chemicals to develop photographs on paper from film) use special “light sensitive” paper to make photographic prints. The paper would be ruined if it was exposed to regular light, but photographers need to have some sort of light to find their way around the darkroom. The special red (and also amber) lights don’t expose the photographic paper like normal lights would, and they allow the photographers just enough light to see what they are doing in the darkroom! :-)

    • We’re not sure where smiley faces first came from, Missy! You have us WONDERing about that now! To make a smiley face with sunglasses, you put the number “8” and an end parenthesis. It looks like this:

      8 + ) = 8)

    • We like those sunglass-wearing smiley faces, Missy! Thanks for sharing them with us and thanks for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do photographers still use darkrooms?
  • Why are darkrooms less popular today?
  • How do digital cameras differ from film cameras?

Wonder Gallery

wife taking pic_shutterstock_6965956Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready for a walk down memory lane? There’s nothing quite as special as spending time with family members looking through old pictures.

Ask your parents or a family member to get out some pictures from when you were a baby. Compare those pictures to more recent pictures to see how much you’ve changed. If possible, find some pictures of your parents as babies. When you were a baby, did you resemble either of your parents?

If your parents have a lot of digital pictures of you on the computer, ask them to print out a bunch of them in different sizes. Cut them out and paste them onto a piece of poster board to create a collage all about YOU!

If you want to see how much you change over the course of a year, ask a friend or family member to help you with a special project. Choose a certain place in your house to take a picture every day. Then, every single day for the next year, have them take a picture of you with a digital camera standing in the same spot.

At the end of a year, use an online photo album or free photo software to view all your images as a slide show. You’ll be amazed at how much you can grow and change in one year’s time!


Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ Using Photography to Help Save the Oceans lesson, children will be challenged to think about how photography can help humans understand the impact they are having on the oceans by looking at the photography of David Doubilet.


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