50 Best Photography Statistics and History Facts You Need to Know

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50 Best Photography Statistics and History Facts You Need to Know

I love photography and everything about it.  I had so much fun putting together this list of historical facts and photography statistics; perfect for your next trivia night or a school report for your grandkids!  But the main reason I love statistics is that they can teach us about our joys and hobbies.  So after we look at a few historical moments in photography, let’s check out some official numbers and other crazy stats that make up the photography industry.

Here are five of my favorite historical photography firsts!

Photography History

1 – The Very First Photo

The very first photo was taken in 1826 when French scientist Joseph Nicéphore Niépce produced an image out of the upper window of his family’s country home. The photograph, entitled “View from the Window at Le Gras,” was created through a method called heliography.

Niépce used a camera obscura to record the image from a second-story window.  He loaded his camera obscura with a polished pewter plate covered with a thin coating of a photosensitive agent called bitumen, mixed with lavender oil. Various historical records show that it took anywhere from 8 hours to a few days for the image to appear.

The photo Niépce produced is over 200 years old.  You can see it on display at the Ransom Center in Austin, Texas.

The world's very first photograph. A very fuzzy image of a rooftop scene in black and white.
By Castelbianco – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=114925905

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2 – The Very First Photo of a Person

In 1828, Louis Daguerre, a partner of Niépce in photographic invention, inadvertently captured the first image of a person. He was making an image of the Boulevard du Temple in Paris. Of course, we know that moving objects don’t show in long-exposure images. On this occasion, a man stood still throughout the exposure while getting his shoes shined, and Voila!  The first person was photographed!

Look very closely in the bottom left corner area and you’ll see our model posing!

A very old black and white image that incudes a street scene with a very tiny person in the bottom left third having his shoes shined.
By Louis Daguerre – Scanned from The Photography Book, Phaidon Press, London, 1997., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5005681

3 – The Daguerreotype is Born

After Niépce died abruptly in 1833, Louis Daguerre continued experimenting with the chemicals and products used for these very early photographs. Daguerre refined the process and developed a way to capture images in a shorter timeframe and produce them on a silvered copper plate.

The daguerreotype, named for Louis Daguerre, produced an accurate and sharp image.  It quickly became a popular way to capture images of people. Daguerreotypes were expensive, so only the wealthy could afford this new luxury.

Most daguerreotypes were protected under glass because the image was fragile and could easily be scuffed and marred.

Click HERE for Five Cheap Photographer Equipment Tips so you can do some of your own experiments in photography.

4 – The Very First American Portrait

Once a human was captured on film, and the daguerreotype came into existence, portrait photography moved to America. Word of this exciting new technology made its way to America.

Around 1839, an American photographer named Robert Cornelious got a hold of this technology and made the first-ever American portrait of a person. Not only was it a portrait, but it was a self-portrait!

Historians report that Mr. Cornelius set up his camera, removed the lens cap, and jumped into the frame. He sat still for at least one minute before quickly covering the lens. And with this, the very first portrait was born!

Mr. Cornelius then went on to open two of the very earliest portrait studios in the US. His work and research allowed him to reduce the time required to expose an image, allowing people to sit for a shorter time. Pretty handy for family photography, don’tcha think? Can you imagine getting a toddler to sit still for several minutes?

a very old image of the man, Robert Cornelius
Robert Cornelius, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Fun Fact – You don’t see photos of people smiling in those early portraits because of the long exposure times. It’s pretty hard to sit still and hold a smiling face for an extended period.

5 – The Very First Digital Camera

Let’s skip ahead to a more modern piece of history! In 1975, Steven Sasson, an employee of Eastman Kodak, created the very first digital camera. The camera weighed 8 pounds! That’s four times as heavy as any one of the digital cameras on the market today. This camera could capture up to thirty .01 megapixel digital images on a cassette tape. Yikes! Ya gotta start somewhere, right?

It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come in the digital photography field in my lifetime!  We’ve come a long way, baby!

Steve Kelly holding the world's first digital camera, which is bigger than his head
Steven Sasson holding the original digital camera prototype (Credit: Steve Kelly/Kodak)

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Photography Statistics

Photography Market Statistics

  1. According to Ibisworld.com, the market size of the photography industry, measured by revenue, will be $11.5 billion in 2022.
  2. AIbisworld.com also reports that the expected increase in the market size of the photography industry will be 0.6% in 2022. 

Professional Photographers

  1. Foregroundweb.com reports that 67% of famous photographers have a website under their name.
  2. Zippia.com reports over 34,301 Professional Photographers currently employed in the United States.
  3. According to Zippia, New York, NY, and Los Angeles, CA boast the highest number of Professional Photographers.
  4. Women outrank men in photography, claiming 50.2% of all professional photographers. 45.6% of professional photographers are men.  (zippia.com)
  5. Even though there are more women in the field, Zippia reports that even in 2021, women only earned 93% of what men earned in photography.
  6. Zippia.com reports that the average age of an employed professional photographer, either male or female, is 38 years old.
  7. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for a photographer in the US is $18.73 per hour, or $38,950 annually, as of May 2021.
  8. Professional photographers in any genre of photography earn an average annual wage of $44,451.  (zippia.com)
  9. If you can work your way to the top 10% of the highest paid, you can earn as much as $73,000 or more as a professional photographer! (zippia.com)

More Photography Statistics about Professional Photographers

  1. Foregroundweb.com reports this percentage of photographers by genre and job titles:
    • 45% – travel photography
    • 32% – portrait photography
    • 12% – general photography
    • 7% – wedding photography
    • 4% – architecture photography
  2. Charles O’Rear holds the esteemed honor of taking the most viewed photo ever in 1996 in Sonoma, California. The photo is entitled “Bliss.”  You may recognize this image of green hills set against a cloudy blue sky as the default wallpaper for Windows XP. Click HERE to see the copyrighted image.  
  3. According to foregroundweb.com, 93% of photographers DO NOT watermark the images on their websites.  Click HERE to read about the pros and cons of watermarking your photos (and step-by-step instructions to make your own).
  4. Real Estate photography is up and coming!  Photoup.com reports that 72.2% of real estate agents state that high-quality, professional images help them win more listings.
  5. Also noted by photoup.com: 83% of buyers said pictures are significant in helping them choose which homes they will visit.  Professional photos for the win in getting those potential buyers on board with a purchase!
  6. Stock photos, anyone?  Arizton.com reports that “The Stock Images and Videos market was estimated at USD 3.36 billion and is forecasted to reach USD 4.43 billion in 2025, growing at a CAGR of 4.71% during 2020-2026.”
  7. In February 2020, Petapixl reported that an average wedding photographer spends only 4% of their time taking pictures.  The vast majority (55%) of time is spent on photo editing, followed by Business/Admin (18%), Culling (11%), and Communication with clients (7%).

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the left side of a woman's face with the fact that the left side of the face is more photogenic than the right.
Pink background with "Hip Grandma Merch" available on front

Major Companies in Photography

  1. Canon claimed nearly 50% of the global digital camera market in 2021.
  2. Sony claimed 22.1% of the global digital camera market in 2021.
  3. Nikon came in third, taking 13.7% of 2021’s global digital camera market.
  4. According to Photutorial data, people took 1.2 trillion photos worldwide in 2021.  The number will increase to 1.72 trillion in 2022.  By 2025, more than 2 trillion photos will be taken each year.

Social Media and Online Photography

  1. People of the world upload approximately 300 million photos to Facebook daily.
  2. They also upload around 95 million photos to Instagram every day. That’s about 26 images every second.
  3. Mdgadvertising.com reports that Facebook posts containing images receive 352% more engagement than posts with only text. In addition, Facebook posts with images score 20% more engagement than posts with videos.
  4. Foreground.com reports that Instagram is the most widely used social media platform among top photographers (98%!), with more than half of them having more than 100K followers there.
  5. Quicksprout.com states that online content with images scores an average of 94% more views than content without a photo.
  6. Adding a photo to your LinkedIn profile increases your likelihood of receiving a message 36 times. LinkedIn profiles with a photo receive an average of 21 times more views than a profile without a photo.
  7. Mgdadvertising.com states that 60% of consumers say they’re more likely to consider or contact a business in local search results if it contains an image.

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DSLR Cameras and Cell Phone Cameras

It seems clear that mobile phones have replaced our desire for good point-and-shoot cameras.  Go anywhere these days, and you’ll see people capturing their favorite moments with their cameras.  Point and shoot cameras seem to be a thing of the past.  Check out these industry statistics from the world of digital cameras and cell cameras.

  1. Statista reports that the digital camera industry has seen a drop of 87% in its sales from 2010 due to consumers’ use of smartphone cameras.
  2. People use smartphones to take 85% of all photos, also according to Statista.
  3. Various research firms estimate that the official number of photos taken with mobile phones will rise to 93% by 2023. That’s a 4% increase from 2020, when 89% of photos taken worldwide were by cellphone. Yikes!

Product Photography Statistics

Let’s take a peek at some interesting statistics surrounding professional product photography, compliments of Weebly

  1. Professional photography of products can earn a professional product photographer anywhere from $75 to $150 per hour.
  2. After a survey of eCommerce shoppers (click HERE to see all the details), over 75% of online shoppers rely heavily on a picture of a product that they are considering for purchase from an online store.
  3. 22% of the products purchased online get returned because they look different in person than in the photo. (Weebly)
  4. According to Google, when photographing products, the final image should be a minimum of 75% of the product, but no more than 90%. Details matter!

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cell phone taking a picture of 4 women and the statistic that 300 million photos are uploaded to facebook daily

Photography Statistics from Around the World and Some Fun Photography Facts!

  1. The people of the world collectively take more pictures every two minutes than all of the photographs taken in the entire 18th century.
  2. You might find it just as surprising as I did that the left side of our face is considered more photogenic than the right side. Researchers at Wake Forest University conducted a study and concluded that the left side of the human face shows more emotion, which translates to attraction. Interesting, eh?
  3. The most expensive camera on record is the Leica 0-series no. 122. This camera was one of only 25 ever produced in 1923 as a test camera, and only one of three left in original condition. This camera sold for $2.97 million in 2018 at a Leica auction in Vienna. Click HERE to see a picture of this marvel.
  4. The Hasselblad Data Camera (HDC) was chosen to document the surface of the moon in the 1969 moon landing. The camera was strapped to astronaut Neil Armstrong’s chest for the mission and did an amazing job of capturing images. Because of serious weight restrictions for re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere, the camera did not return to earth with the crew. It remains on the moon’s surface to date, making it the camera that resides furthest from the earth! Click HERE to read the fascinating story.

Photography Statistics on Photo Editing

  1. Modern photography is all about achieving good visuals.  Editing images to achieve the best result is a long-standing and accepted practice throughout the history of photography. Even Ansel Adams, one of the most well-known names in photography, frequently retouched his work.
  2. Eksposure.com reports that 48% of US citizens use photo editing apps to edit their photos.
  3. Yahoo reports that viewers will be 21% more likely look at a cellphone image edited with a filter than without.
  4. The majority of digital photographers, 83%, use a PC to process or edit their images. Lightroom and Photoshop are the most popular editing software programs.  Editing is essential when processing your images from SOOC into high-quality post-production images.

Wrapping it all Up!

Thank you for tiptoeing through the statistics with me.  Stats can be tedious, but they also give valuable feedback about what we do in life and how we do it. 

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PIN image of a bunch of cameras with the title of Photography Statistics

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