Photographic Societies

The Photographic Society of Scotland and Edinburgh Photographic Society played an important part in encouraging and facilitating the advancement of photography in Scotland.  Almost all of Edinburgh’s  most renowned photographers of the 19th century had links with one or other of these societies.

But there were also several other photographic societies based in Edinburgh in the 19th century.  There were:

1.   Edinburgh Calotype Club

2.   Photographic Society of Scotland

3.   Edinburgh Photographic Exchange Club

4.   Edinburgh Photographic Society

5.   Edinburgh Photographic Club

6.   Leith Amateur Photographic Association

7.   Leith Camera Club

8.   Midlothian Camera Club

9.   Edinburgh University Photographic Society

10. Edinburgh Viewfinders Club

11. Midlothian Photographic Association

Edinburgh Photographic Society also had affiliations with:

12.   The Royal Photographic Society

13.   Scottish Photographic Federation

Please scroll down this page or click on one of the links above.



Edinburgh Calotype Club

Around 1843, several gentlemen from the legal profession in Edinburgh visited Sir David Brewster in St Andrews to learn about the calotype process.  They returned to Edinburgh and formed the Edinburgh Calotype Club. 

The members were a group of enthusiasts who met informally in each other’s houses to discuss their photography.  They produced two albums of their work between about 1845 and 1855.  The Edinburgh Room of the Central Library holds one of the two albums.  The other has not been found.



Photographic Society of Scotland

The Photographic Society of Scotland (PSS) was established in 1856. 

It was one of Britain’s earliest and most prestigious photographic societies.  Initially many had a good mix of amateur and professional photographers, but most of the professionals resigned following a Special Meeting in1858.  

PSS held Open Photographic Exhibitions, annually from 1856, and played a prominent part in the development of photography in Britain. The Society was active until around 1867.  It was wound up in 1873.

For about ten years, and particularly during its first five years it held a full program of lectures and exhibitions and was highly regarded.  Sir David Brewster was President.  The Prince Consort was Patron.  

Some of Britain’s most renowned photographers, both amateur and professional, were PSS Members:

PSS Members

David Octavius Hill


John Moffat


Thomas Keith 


Thomas Rodger 

St Andrews

George Washington Wilson


Antoine Claudet


Julia Margaret Cameron

Isle of Wight

The first PSS Meeting was held in the rooms of photographers Ross & Thomson of Princes Street.  Many of Edinburgh’s professional photographers joined PSS and exhibited their work in PSS Exhibitions.

But within two years most of the professional photographers had resigned following a dispute over the selection of photographs for the 1857 PSS Exhibition, and in particular the decision by the Hanging Committee, almost all amateur photographers, not to display Oscar Gustav Rejlander’s photograph “Two Ways of Life” because of its semi-nude female figures.

The Edinburgh professional photographers who called the PSS Special Meeting, in protest over the Hanging Committee’s decision were:


PSS Professional Photographers

who called the 1858 Special General Meeting

James Ross

(Ross & Thomson)

John Thomson 

(Ross & Thomson)

George Simson RSA

(Simpson & McCraw)

William McCraw

(Simpson & McCraw)

William P Truefitt

(Truefitt Brothers)

David Syme Hay

(G&D Hay)

John Moffat

(John Moffat)

James Henderson

(James Henderson)




Edinburgh Photographic Exchange Club

Edinburgh Photographic Exchange Club was established in 1859:  The founding members were all PSS Members.  They were:

Edinburgh Photogrpahic Exchange Club

Founding Members

Horatio Ross

AF Adam

George Moir

James Duncan

Cosmo Innes

TB Johnston

Rev T Melville Raven

A Young Herries

William Walker

GM Tytler

CGH Kinnear

John Ziegler


Each member was required to contribute 13 Photographs each year.

The Committee had the power to reject prints not considered sufficiently good.   Photos are then distributed amongst the Members.



Edinburgh Photographic Society

Edinburgh Photographic Society (EPS) was established in 1861.  Subscription was more modest than that charged by PSS.  -  only 5/- a year  - a sum that  remained unchanged for thirty years.

The society’s membership reached 200 during the 1870s and over 500 by 1900.  Both amateurs and professionals participated in the society’s lectures, exhibitions and outings.

The following were elected to EPS as Honorary Members on 15 Jan 1862.

EPS Honorary Members - 1862

Wm Henry Fox Talbot

Creator of the negative/positive photographic process.

Sir David Brewster

Early calotype worker.  President of PSS since 1856.

The Earl of Caithness

Who was he?

Prof. Piazzi Smyth

Astronomer Royal for Scotland

Dr. Lyon Playfair

Professor of Chemistry, Edinburgh University

George Shadbolt

Editor of British Journal of Photography

Edinburgh Photographic Society held lectures, exhibitions and social outings.  News of the EPS Annual Picnics spread.   The Chicago Beacon reported:

“EPS organises frequent camera excursions and a grand annual picnic on which occasion the whole of the photographic establishments are closed and amateur and professional employer and employé meet together and have a right good time"   



Edinburgh Photographic Club

Established 1881.  This was a club within Edinburgh Photographic Society.  Membership was by invitation, and was limited to 40 of the more distinguished and experienced Members of EPS.  In later years the number of members was reduced to 30.

The club continued until 1948.  When it was wound up, it presented the EPC Memorial Shield to EPS, to be awarded annually for photographic competitions.



Leith Amateur Photographic Association

Established 1888 at a time when the number of photographic societies in Britain was rapidly beginning to increase.  The Society met on the last Tuesday of each month at 165 Constitution Street.  In later years, it met in the Literary Society’s Rooms, Church Street.



Leith Camera Club

The name by which Leith Amateur Photographic Association was known from around 1930 onwards



Midlothian Camera Club

Established 1889 – re-organized 1893.  The Society met on the first Monday of each month in the Lecture Hall of the Philosophical Institute.

A review of the Midlothian Camera Club 1909 Exhibition appeared in the British Journal of Photography. 



Edinburgh University Photographic Society

Established 1890  The Society met at The Photographic Rooms, 3 Bristo Place.  The Society still exists today (Feb 2001) and is thriving, with 550 Members and 3 darkrooms and its own web page.

A meeting of Edinburgh University Photographic Society was held on 8 December, President, Dr Drinkwater, in the Chair.

[It was Dr Drinkwater who chaired the Viewfinder Club Meeting one month earlier.]

At the meeting on 8 December, it was reported that:

  "Mr Haddow read a Paper on Telephotography and exhibited Dallmeyer's new lens.  Several lantern slides were shown on the screen to illustrate the uses of the lens, and an interesting discussion followed.  The remainder of the evening was devoted to a social meeting and smoking concert."   
[Amateur Photographer:  16 December 1892]



Edinburgh Viewfinders Club

Established 1890.  The Society met on the first Monday of each month at 31 Chambers Street.  The Club appears to have had a limited number of members. 

The second meeting of the season was held on 14 November, Dr Drinkwater in the Chair:

"After some discussion, the rule regarding the presentation by each member of twenty prints was rescinded.

After some other formal business Dr Drinkwater exhibited a number of prints on rough drawing paper for criticism.

The convener intimated that there were three vacancies in the club"     [Amateur Photographer:  14 November 1892]

I have not seen any a syllabus for the Edinburgh Viewfinders Club, but I found this post card to be interesting.

The post card was found in an old edition of the British Journal of Photography.  It is post-marked 13 May 1890, and advises Hugh Brebner of Messrs Tunny, Maitland Street that the business of the Viewfinders' Club Meeting to be held the following Wednesday is "Ayton's Prints"

Post card giving details of a Viewfinders Club Meeting ©



Midlothian Photographic Association

The Midlothian Photographic Association was established in 1907, comprising a group of EPS Members who broke away from EPS from 1907 until 1915, following a dispute over whether or not EPS should become affiliated to the Scottish Photographic Federation.

Archibald H MacLucas played a prominent part in the life of the Association, and in bringing about the reconciliation with Edinburgh Photographic Society several years later.

Please click below to read more about:

Midlothian Photographic Association

Scottish Photographic Federation