Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

How long did it take to take a picture in the late 1800's?

Ok. Why don't people smile in photos dating from the Civil War? I was under the impression that it was due to the amount of time needed to take the picture.

2 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    By the Civil War, the wet plate process had reduced exposure times into the range of around 3 seconds. This was still long enough that any movement would blur the picture. Portrait studios often used special chairs to hold the subject in place, this produced the stiff backed pose often seen in the periods pictures. I suspect, however, that the lack of smiling was a cultural phenomenon. Earlier processes had required exposure times of many minutes; since no chair can hold one's mouth in a certain position a neutral expression that could be easily held for a long time would have been an advantage. This may have set up the idea that this expression was the appropriate one for a portrait. Many people may have still held this idea by the time of the Civil War, however I don't think that that the exposure time was necessarily still a factor. Note that painted portraiture of the time also frequently depicted it's subjects with a serious expression.

    By the late 1800's exposure times were well under a second, in 1888 Kodak came out with a camera designed to be used to take snapshots. Kodak had originally produced the film used in this camera in 1883.

  • Wendy
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    I think igniting black powder on stage would be extremely unwise from both a safety and an insurance point of view. You would be better off mocking up a stage prop and live with that. Nail a board across the top of a hunk of broom handle to form a T. Tape a small electronic strobe or light bulb to the powder bed and run a wire trigger down the broom handle. From a couple a feet away it should look good enough- no smoke poof, but much much safer. Good luck.

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