Q:

When were the first color photographs made?

A:

Quick Answer

The first color photograph was that of a tartan ribbon, taken in 1841 by photographer Thomas Sutton, who was commissioned by James Clerk Maxwell. Maxwell experimented with creating colored photographs based on the additive theory, which says that all colors of light can be recreated by mixing the colors red, green and blue in different proportions. The creation of the tartan ribbon photograph essentially proved the additive theory.

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Full Answer

Later investigations into the methods used by Sutton proved that the emulsions he used for the tartan ribbon photograph should not have worked. In particular, the emulsions he used were not capable of recording the full visual spectrum, lacking the ability to pick up the color red and having only a limited ability to record green. In a stroke of luck, however, the limitations of the other emulsions made up for this defect, making the tartan ribbon the first official color photograph.

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