21 Photography Facts You Probably Never Knew

We’ve put together 21 fascinating, puzzling, and bizarre facts about photography that you probably never knew. If the next pub quiz you attend asks you what was the most expensive camera ever sold, how big the largest ever photograph was, or how many Hasselblads there are on the moon, you’ll be glad you read this post. (And if you win, you owe us a drink.)

1.

The f-number of the human eye varies from about f/8.3 in brightly lit conditions, to about f/2.1 in dark conditions.

2.

To work out the focal length of the human eye, you would need to take into account the light-reflecting properties on liquids in the eye.

3.

F-numbers are actually written as they are due to human biology, or more specifically, due to the logarithmic nature of human perception. I can sense your eyebrows raising in confusion. The story behind f-numbers actually begins in ancient Greece and has its roots in the brightness of stars. Even more confused? You might want to read this post

4.

Today we snap as many photos every two minutes as humanity as a whole did in the 1800s.

5.

In a survey undertaken last year, 76 per cent of people from Britain were seen to be drunk in photos in which they were tagged. (Perhaps many of those people were celebrating winning a pub quiz on photography.)

6.

Which is your best side? Your left? A study by Kelsey Blackburn and James Schriillo from Wake Forest University found that the left side of peoples’ faces are perceived and rates as more aesthetically pleasing than the right. They theorise that this is due to the fact that we perhaps present a greater intensity of emotion on the left side of our faces. Perhaps this is something you should consider when you take your portrait photographs!

7.

The biggest SLR lens made to date is the Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar T*. It weighs 564lb/256kg and has a focal length of 1700mm. It is designed specifically for use with a Hasselblad 6×6 medium format camera, and was custom-build for an anonymous customer who had a particular interest in wildlife photography.

8.

The most expensive camera ever sold was a rare 1923 Leica camera, which went for $2.8 million at auction in Vienna.

9.

The largest photographs in the world are made by stitching smaller images together. The largest seamless photograph in the world is of a control tower and runways at the US Marin Corps Air Station in El Toro, Orange County, California. It measure 32 feet high and 11 feet wide. It was taken in a decommissioned jet hanger, which was turned into a giant pinhole camera. The ‘film’ was a 32 feet x 111 feet piece of white fabric covered in 20 gallons of light-sensitive emulsion. The fabric was exposed to the outside image for 35 minutes. Print washing the image was done with hire hoses connected to two fire hydrants.

10.

The longest photographic negative in the world is 129 feet and was created by Esteban Pastorino Diaz. The negative is of a panorama of major streets in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The images were captured by the slit camera, which was mounted to the roof of a moving car.

11.

George Eastman, founder of Kodak, had a particular fondness for the letter ‘K’. He reportedly said, “It seems a strong, incisive sort of letter.” He came up with the name ‘Kodak’ for his company along with help from his mother.

12.

Back in 1990, Kodak used cuddly collectible toys to promote their brand in the effort to get kids into photography. They toys were called Kolorkins.

13.

Before the digital age, the US government was taking spy photographs of the Soviet Union. How did they do this? They launched 20 satellites, each containing 60 miles of film along with cameras. After the film was finished, it was shot back through the Earth’s atmosphere in buckets and parachuted over the Pacific Ocean, where they were then snagged with grappling hooks by C-130 Air Force planes.

14.

Cameras and guns share a common history – in the early days of cameras being manufactured, some dry plate cameras were explicitly modelled on Colt revolver mechanisms, and the design of cinema cameras was modelled on machine guns. Closer still, when William Walker and George Eastman of Kodak developed a new paper negative, it used guncotton. This was expanded upon by a French inventor who created a gelatinised guncotton that could be cut into trips, which in turn permitted the first modern smokeless fun powder. Later on, amyl acetate was added to this, as well as nitroglycerine and acetone. So essentially, at the time, cameras and guns both contained the same sort of chemicals in their cartridges.

15.

There are 12 Hasselblad cameras on the surface of the moon. They were left there after the moon landings to allow for the extra weight of the lunar rock samples to be brought back.

16.

Amusing photographs of cats with captions (see icanhascheezeburger.com) quickly became (and remained) viral on the internet. Apparently this is nothing new. One of the first photographers of cats in amusing poses was English photographer Harry Pointer during the 1870s. He began his career taking natural pictures of cats, but soon realised that his photography had more success when the cats were in ridiculous poses. He even added captions to the images, such as ‘Happy New Year’, ‘Five o clock Tea’ and ‘Bring up the dinner Betsy’ as he found this made the images more successful still.

17.

Manhattanhenge (also known as Manhattan Solstice) is a phenomenon whereby the setting sun aligns with Manhattan’s east-west streets. It gives a dramatic effect which has been compared to the same phenomenon at England’s ancient Stonehenge (hence the name). It is a favourite event for people to photograph in New York when it occurs.

18.

During the solar eclipse, tree leaves have been seen to act as pinhole lenses, casting crescent-shaped images of the eclipsed sun on the ground.

19.

If you’re photographing in space you might have some difficulty getting sharp images due to vibrations induced by fans, jet firings, and other machinery.

20.

You can test your camera’s shutter speed using a TV or monitor. Apparently it works for both focal plane and leaf type shutters. This diagram shows you what you should be looking for.

21.

The largest collection of cameras in the world is held by Dilish Parekh of Mumbai, India. He has a collection of 4,425 antique cameras which he has been collecting since 1977.

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