John Muir Wood came from a family of Edinburgh piano makers and music publishers. He was sent abroad in 1826 to Paris and Vienna to study the piano. Returning to Edinburgh in 1828 as a music teacher, he entered the family business with his brother. His knowledge of photography may date from his friendship in the 1840s with the eye surgeon Dr Jasper MacAldin who shared his knowledge of optics and chemistry. Throughout his amateur career Wood produced many portraits as well as landscape photographs of the places he visited in Britain and Europe.