Julia Margaret Prattle was born in Calcutta, India, in 1815. Her father, James Prattle, was employed by the East India Company. Educated in France and England, she married the lawyer, Charles Hay Cameron, in 1838 and over the next few years she had six children.
The couple returned to England in 1848 and settled on Isle of Wight. In 1863 Cameron acquired her first camera. She soon became obsessed with this new activity and photographed her family, friends and servants. This included portraits of famous Victorian figures, Alfred Tennyson, Charles Darwin, Ellen Terry, George Frederick Watts, John Herschel, Thomas Carlyle and John Henry Newman.
In 1875 Cameron moved to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where her four sons were now living. Julia Margaret Cameron took a large number of photographs of local people before dying in Ceylon in 1879. At an auction in London in 1974 a portrait by Cameron sold for £1,200. At the time it was the highest sum ever paid for a photograph.