Originally, lithography was used for the purpose of producing survey maps. In the mid 1880s the Survey of Land Branch acquired a photo-lithography machine to produce and reproduce maps more efficiently. At the same time, the Branch acquired a qualified photo-lithographic operator. It was not until 1895, however, that photographic techniques slowly began to replace photo-lithography.
The use of photography is first mentioned in the 1895 Annual Report of the Surveyor-General, chiefly in respect of map production and reproduction. Reference to a Photographic Branch within the Survey of Lands Branch of the Lands Department is first made in the 1896 Annual Report of the Surveyor-General (although it does not appear in the Queensland Blue Books until 1904).
According to the 1898 Annual Report of the Surveyor-General, the work of the Photographic Branch became increasingly diverse and included such activities as: the photo-lithography of maps and plans, etc., photo transfers, production of silver prints from plans, heliography, production of negatives and lantern slides, and the production of photographic views (including work undertaken on behalf of other Government departments, such as the Department of Immigration).
Staff in the Photographic Branch originally comprised a photographer and one assistant.