All photography was originally monochrome, most of these photographs were black-and-white. Even after color film was readily available, black-and-white photography continued to dominate for decades, due to its lower cost and its "classic" photographic look. It is important to note that some monochromatic pictures are not always pure blacks and whites, but also contain other hues depending on the process. The Cyanotype process produces an image of blue and white for example. The albumen process which was used more then 150 years ago had brown tones.
Many photographers continue to produce some monochrome images. Some full color digital images are processed using a variety of techniques to create black and whites, and some cameras have even been produced to exclusively shoot monochrome.
Color photography was explored beginning in the mid 1800s. Early experiments in color could not fix the photograph and prevent the color from fading. The first permanent color photo was taken in 1861 by the physicist James Clerk Maxwell.
One of the early methods of taking color photos was to use three cameras. Each camera would have a color filter in front of the lens. This technique provides the photographer with the three basic channels required to recreate a color image in a darkroom or processing plant. Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii developed another technique, with three color plates taken in quick succession.
Practical application of the technique was held back by the very limited color response of early film; however, in the early 1900s, following the work of photo-chemists such as H. W. Vogel, emulsions with adequate sensitivity to green and red light at last became available.
The first color plate, Autochrome, invented by the French Lumière brothers, reached the market in 1907. It was based on a 'screen-plate' filter made of dyed dots of potato starch, and was the only color film on the market until German Agfa introduced the similar Agfacolor in 1932. In 1935, American Kodak introduced the first modern ('integrated tri-pack') color film, Kodachrome, based on three colored emulsions. This was followed in 1936 by Agfa's Agfacolor Neue. Unlike the Kodachrome tri-pack process, the color couplers in Agfacolor Neue were integral with the emulsion layers, which greatly simplified the film processing. Most modern color films, except Kodachrome, are based on the Agfacolor Neue technology. Instant color film was introduced by Polaroid in 1963.
Color photography may form images as a positive transparency, intended for use in a slide projector or as color negatives, intended for use in creating positive color enlargements on specially coated paper. The latter is now the most common form of film (non-digital) color photography owing to the introduction of automated photoprinting equipment.