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Thomas Wedgwood didn’t live long, was ill all his life and didn’t have much of a formal education but he experimented with chemicals and planted a seed of photography as we know it today.
Louis Daguerre, inventor of daguerreotype, pushed the photography (which was a young art at the time) in a right direction by shortening the time of exposure from few hours to few seconds.
Nicéphore Niépce (born Joseph) was the first to successfully experiment with photography and set foundations for future experimenters and photographers. His photographs needed long time of exposure but could be fixed to last in light without darkening.
William Henry Fox Talbot was many things but the thing he is the most famous of is calotype, one of the earlier methods of photography which used paper as material and made negatives that can be copied many times.