The first commercially successful photographic process was announced in 1839, the result of over a decade of experimentation by Louis Daguerre and Nicéphore Niépce. Unfortunately, Niépce died before the daguerreotype process was realized, and is best known for his invention of the heliograph, the process by which the “first photograph” was made in 1826.
Daguerreotypes are sharply defined, highly reflective, one-of-a-kind photographs on silver-coated copper plates, usually packaged behind glass and kept in protective cases. The daguerreotype process is demonstrated in the video below from the George Eastman House. Who invented digital photography anyway?