History of photography, at the first glance begins in 19th century but without some simple machines like camera obscura and pinhole camera, and some basic knowledge about optics, there would be no photography. So we must say that history of photography begins somewhere in 5th century BC.
Photography, as we use it today, is a sophisticated technology but its invention began in 5th century BC when people noticed that when light of the sun eclipse passes between the leaves of a tree, it makes an image of an eclipsed sun on the ground.
Camera obscura is an old device which was used for experiments in optics, astronomy and in art. Its effect became noticeable in 5th century BC. In time it became necessary part of photographic camera.
At the beginning of photography, images were made on plates (first metal then glass). In time, films made from synthetic materials became cheaper and easier to use and slowly replaced plates. Read more about history of photographic film.
Daguerreotype was the first successful and commercial type of photography. Although relatively a complex method, it spread throughout the world and remained popular until simpler methods appeared and replaced it.
First digital cameras appeared in 1970 and were heavy and unpractical. They improved in time and are now used by everybody, from amateurs on their mobile phones to professionals who make living using them. Read more about history and benefits of digital photography.