White House photographer Cecil Stoughton's photographic coverage evolved from making the typical ceremonial images to documentary-style pictures of the First Family, like this one of John F. Kennedy and his daughter, Caroline, aboard a yacht in Hyannis Port, Mass., in August 1963.
Photographic coverage of the Presidents in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was largely the domain of the working press. It wasn't until John F. Kennedy appointed an official White House photographer that the presidency was officially documented in pictures destined for the National Archives.
Some of the earliest presidents to be immortalized in daguerreotypes were James K. Polk (left), Andrew Jackson (middle), and James Buchanan. Library of Congress.
Kennedy's photographer, Cecil Stoughton, had been hanging around outside the Oval Office when Caroline and John-John dropped by. When Stoughton heard the President clapping his hands and chanting to the kids he decided, "I'd better get this."
Stoughton's images of the trip to Texas by John F. Kennedy provide key beats in the story on the fateful day of the assassination. Later, Stoughton made perhaps the most famous, and most important, image ever taken by a presidential photographer: LBJ being sworn in on Air Force One, Nov. 22, 1963.
Lyndon B. Johnson's photographer Yoichi Okamoto disappeared behind the President to make this image. Okamoto would have been below the eye line of almost all of the reporters in the room.
With a feel like some kind of presidential album cover, Yoichi Okamoto's uncanny portrait of President Johnson and his family stands out because he did so few like this.
President Johnson listens to a tape recording from his son-in-law Capt. Charles Robb at the White House on July 31, 1968. Robb was a U.S. Marine Corps company commander in Vietnam, and like many servicemen, he sent audio recordings made in camp describing his experiences. Snapped by Yoichi Okamoto's deputy, Jack Kightlinger, it shows the depth of the President's involvement in the war.
The King meets the 37th President of the United States, Oval Office, 1970. This is perhaps presidential photographer Ollie Atkins' most famous photograph from his time at the White House.
"Shortly before resigning, President Nixon suggested I shoot a family picture," said photographer Ollie Atkins. "He urged everyone to smile, but Julie had trouble smiling through her tears." Atkins presented the image tightly cropped, showing only Julie Nixon and the President; the actual image might be more revealing, suggesting a rather awkward and poignant moment for the President and his family.
Because of the Nixons' sudden departure, the White House was not yet ready and the Fords continued to live in their modest Alexandria home for several days. David Hume Kennerly's coverage of the Fords revealed a family most Americans had no trouble recognizing, right down to this breakfast table scene.
President Ford, in his pajamas, meets with staff members Steve Todd (military aide) and Terry O'Donnell in the President's suite in the Akasaka Palace Guest House, Tokyo, Japan, on November 19, 1974.
David Hume Kennerly made this picture the day before the Carters moved into the White House. Taking a last tour of the West Wing, Betty Ford told him she'd always wanted to dance on the Cabinet Room table. A former Martha Graham dancer, she slipped off her shoes, hopped on the table and struck a pose.
During the Reagan Administration, current chief photographer Pete Souza was a young staff photographer when he snapped President and Mrs. Reagan after a ride at Camp David in 1984.
Presidential photographers aren't exclusively on the lookout for history; they'll happily capture any moment that further defines the personality of the President. In August 1986 Pete Souza made a picture of this quintessentially Reagan moment, tossing a paper airplane from the balcony of his Los Angeles hotel.
David Valdez REALLY got to know the whole George H.W. Bush family. "There they were with George Bush, and they were all having that private moment one morning and I was fortunate enough to be there," he said, as the Bush clan gathered around Poppy's bed.
President Clinton's photographer Bob McNeely elected to shoot primarily in black and white because "black and white captures the humanity of people in a way that color can't. Color becomes distracting." This picture of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, taken early in the administration, may not have had the same gravity in color.
George W. Bush's chief photographer, Eric Draper, caught Barbara Bush photographing the Presidents Bush on Jan. 28, 2001. "One thing I learned right off the bat," Draper said, "is that when you say, 'Mr. President,' they both turn around."
A few weeks after inauguration, President Obama, the First Lady, friends and Members of Congress donned 3-D glasses while watching a commercial during Super Bowl XLIII in the family theater of the White House.
President-elect Barack Obama just prior to taking the oath of office. "Backstage at the U.S. Capitol, he took one last look at his appearance in the mirror," Pete Souza said, then walked into history.
Considered by many to be one of his most iconic images, Pete Souza captured a private moment between President Obama and the First Lady on a freight elevator in Washington's convention center on Inaugural night 2009.
Each chair in the Cabinet Room, where Pete Souza took this picture, is marked with a plaque engraved with each member's name, position, and date when he or she began to serve. The members get to keep the chairs when they leave.
Three Commanders-in-Chief meet at the White House.
Air Force One is the ultimate backdrop for the drama of the Presidency, and Souza has put it to spectacular use. Here, President Obama, waving in departure, is dwarfed by the huge aircraft.
Pete Souza made this photo, which President Obama has said is one of his favorites, when White House staffer Carlton Philadelphia brought his family in to meet the President. At one point, his son declared that he'd been told that he and the President had the same haircut. The Chief Executive bent over so the child could get a better look, "and he helpfully pointed out all the gray hairs," the President explained.
Air Force One is seen at sunset as the press pool gathers under the wing, in Houston.
President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One.
The windows of Air Force One frame both the President and the Air Force officers seeing him off from Andrews Air Force Base, as Mr. Obama heads to a summit of North American leaders in Mexico in August 2009.
Tables turned: President Obama plays photographer backstage prior to making remarks about mortgage payment relief in Mesa, Ariz.
President Obama plays with a football in the Oval Office, April 23, 2009.
President Obama with a painting of John F. Kennedy in the White House.
The work of these cameramen is captured in the National Geographic book, "The President's Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office."