Family historians often seek to date pictures they have inherited, since knowing when a photograph was taken may help to identify an unknown ancestor or decide the likely age of a known one. Dating photographs is not always an exact science, but a surprising degree of accuracy can often be achieved, and this frequently results from assessing evidence of several different kinds. It is, therefore, worth taking the time to compare all the dating clues that can be gleaned from an old portrait.
Pointers can be found in the type of photograph, the identity of the photographer, and the case or mount with which the picture has been provided. Then there is the image itself, which can provide telling information in the studio background and props., in the composition and technique, and in the clothes worn by the sitter. With some types of clues, the possible time span may be broad, but dating conclusions are often reached via an accumulation of approximations. The greater number of clues we can recognize,, therefore, the more confidently we can draw conclusions about a possible date range.
This book seeks to familiarize readers with possible dating clues from the beginning of studio photography in the 1840's up to the years immediately after the Second World War (and, occasionally, slightly later). A discussion of online resources is also provided.