Identifying Photograph Types

The first step in dating 19th century photographs is identifying which technology was used to create the picture. This is straightforward detective work for most images, but very early photographs can be misleading.

Identifying 19th Century Photograph Types

Numerous types of photographs appeared and then went out of favor throughout th 1800s. So, the first step in narrowing the possible date for your old photograph is to be able to identify 19th century photographs to determine what type you have. The information provided here can turn you into a proficient photo detective.

The vast majority of antique photographs taken in the 19th century were one of the following types. CLICK ON EACH type to see detailed characteristics.


Learn How to Date Old Photographs

The new 19th Century Card Photos KwikGuide gives you an easy-to-use resource to pin-point your vintage photos to usually within two to six years.

Book Cover
Photo Type Appeared Most Popular Waned
Daguerreotype 1839 1842 - 1856 1857 - 1860
Ambrotype 1854 1855 - 1861 1862 - 1865
Tintype 1856 1860 - 1870 1872 - 1878*
Carte de Visite 1859 1860 - 1880 1880 - 1889
Cabinet Card 1866 1875 - 1900 1901 - 1903

* Tintypes were actually available well into the 20th century, but generally as a novelty produced at carnivals and other venues such as beach resorts.

Photograph Characteristics

The following chart lists the first characteristics you should look for when trying to identify and date old photographs. Detailed analysis is covered on dedicated pages for each type.