Future Tech; A Look At What’s Ahead For Photography In 2007…And Beyond
In this issue we asked our contributors to give us their thoughts on what the
future holds, be it gear, technology, or trends in photography. We received
a wide range of opinions, from those proclaiming that film is finally dead to
those who see diversity in image making as important. There's no doubt
that many people still use and enjoy working with film. But there's no
question that at least from the hardware side of our world, that digital has
dominated, and will continue to do so in the future. We haven't seen a
new film 35mm SLR in almost two years now, while we have seen digital SLRs proliferate.
But we have seen new 35mm rangefinders and many manual focus lenses for older
cameras as well being introduced. Film and paper coating plants continue to
close, though Kodak did recently announce a whole new line of pro color negative
The opinions that follow are from those folks who do know their stuff, and who work every day with gear and materials and who have an insider's view on what's happening down the road. I encourage you to read their opinions both literally and between the lines. They are often tipped off about future trends but keep a lid on it until the designers or manufacturers deem it timely to unveil their plans.
That said, here's my two cents:
In Camera Image Editing
As more and more companies jump into the digital SLR race we'll see heated competition in features and extras, especially in terms of in camera processing of images. Rather than have you download and then correct images in a raw converter or other software, camera makers will be utilizing their increasingly powerful on-board processing engines to offer many image fixes and enhancements. Already we have seen the ability to make smaller image file size copies, which may eliminate the need for shooting raw+JPEG in camera, as well as white balance, redeye correction, color cast, and even highlight/shadow curve corrections. As LCD screens become larger, and hopefully more readable, even more image-enhancement features will be added. This means that anything you can do in the camera prior to exposure would now be enabled post-exposure, in the camera as well.
This will further unleash the power of the raw file format, which is ultimately malleable in terms of exposure compensation, color control, sharpening, and even switching between monochrome and full color images. The camera will become the capture and processing device of the future. Add to this the ability to send and perhaps at one point receive images and the digital SLR of the future will become a true multimedia image device, with perhaps more raw and motion video functions in the future.
One more thing: To enhance the traveling experience further, secure download "vaults" will become smaller and higher in capacity, with huge-gig devices soon fitting on your keychain.
The Portrait & Wedding Market
While I'm assuming that my fellow writers will be prognosticating about digital chips, lenses, and the future of hardware and software, I'll try to foresee what the future holds for the professional portrait and wedding photographer. I do this at my own peril, for I fully understand that some of my brethren are not totally in agreement with me.
About three or four years ago I wrote that the future for the wedding and portrait pro was not all that rosy. These predictions were not based on a rainy day session with the Ouija board, but on conversations with many fellow pros. I stated that the wedding and portrait markets would weaken because of the digital revolution. I got a few letters from angry photographers who thought I had rocks in my head. Lately, some of these same photographers now say I'm Nostradamus. I stated that the market would exist for the very low-end, inexpensive photographers and the very high-end, expensive photographers. I now believe that I was correct, though I'm certainly not patting myself on the back or liking the fact that this scenario actually played out.
Here's why: The magic of how an image is created is now gone. You can take a photo and see it immediately, and unlike Polaroid, you can make as many as you like. When you can buy a camera with a lens for under $1000 that can create pro-quality images, every amateur photographer whose friend has ever told him he should turn pro is going to hang out a shingle. Wedding photography, certainly one of the most difficult assignments to cover properly, is being handled by Uncle Joe with his
5-megapixel point-and-shoot. High school senior portraits are now being taken by soccer moms. Baby photos are taken at home and printed on the all-in-one fax/printer/copier. Sorry, I didn't make this up, I see it every day.
Many photographers who did not take steps to address the above concerns are no longer in business, or are hanging by a thread. The gap between the cheap photographer and the expensive one is widening and there is very little in the middle. Cheap photographers will get work because, well, they're cheap, and they'll appeal to those who value price over all else, even though that studio probably won't be around next year. High-end wedding photographers jet around the world for clients who want and can afford the very best. Many of the "middle" clients will forsake the professional studio and do things themselves.
What to do about it? The only studios that will survive must be the best photographers and the best marketers. You used to be able to get by on just the marketing and solid photography skills, but now the bar has been raised. There just isn't room for anyone else, especially since the market is being flooded because of the low cost of entry into this profession. Look yourself and your business squarely in the eye and see where you stand.
The End Of Paper?
When we asked Larry Berman for his Future Tech contribution he submitted a mock press release from the year 2016. We changed the company name he used, but we think you'll get the drift.
Kopson Announces it is Phasing Out the Production of Paper for the Print Market
August 7, 2016--Kopson America Inc. today announced its long anticipated departure from the printing paper market. Citing severely declining demand for "hard copy" products, Nomar Hardkopie, Divisional Manager of US Paper Sales, advised his sales force this morning that Kopson, as the last manufacturer, could no longer maintain the necessary profit margins required to support factory operations in this market. But don't start crying for Kopson yet. Kopson has been aggressively engineering and bringing to market the micro-nanotechnology based "always on" memory media needed to support "the Picture of Life" display devices that have supplanted printed media in all aspects of our visual society.
The effect on the fine art photography market has been immense. Artists now display imagery using the "Picture of Life" presentation screens for selection by their patrons. The ability to dynamically size the images to satisfy the customers' home or office display capabilities has eliminated the guesswork of which image sizes to produce that was prevalent with the old printing methods. On demand digital production has also produced profitability for artists who no longer have to produce and carry a physical inventory from venue to venue.
The real paradigm shift has been the change from artists selling physical prints to now selling "display rights" to their images. (Anyone old enough to remember "stock photography"?) Customers are now selecting display duration alongside the image size to satisfy their art, ergonomic, social, and entertainment needs. The ability to deliver the selected images directly to the customers' Picture of Life device via ArtsNet2 (on the new all wireless Internet 6 backbone) has revolutionized the business. The device specific display key embedded in the image by users of MicroDobe CS12 prevents the display on any unauthorized devices.
More Photographer Input
It seems that the tipping point has been reached and passed of digital taking over from film. It may be time to look less to the industry as the harbinger of progress in digital photography and more to photographers themselves. In the last year there have been two significant products which have been as much influenced by photographers and users as by the companies that initially produced them. I am talking about Apple's Aperture, their digital camera raw file management and processing application, and Adobe's competitive Lightroom, both of which were subjected to public beta testing. In other words, photographers, in one way or another, may be more participants than ever before in the kind of products the industry produces. So let us hope the strategy of public beta testing spearheaded by Apple and Adobe is successful for both the companies involved and the photographers. It would be good to be able to look to a future where what we work with is more the result of a two-way partnership, a collaboration between photographers and the industry that supplies us.
--David B. Brooks
The best of today's consumer-grade digital SLR cameras seem to be ideal in all respects, including 8- or 10-megapixel resolution, high speed, great image quality at ISO levels up to 800, large LCD monitors with a wide angle view and anti-reflection coating, superior batteries that last a long time, and so on. But my crystal ball says that digital SLRs will be quite different within two years. By December 2008, expect to see at least one model with 25-megapixel resolution (with full-frame sensor) while entry-level cameras will routinely use (APS size) 12-megapixel sensors. Thanks to high-speed processors, an entirely new JPEG format, and 266x memory cards, they'll be even faster than today's 6- or 8-megapixel models.
Employing pixel-by-pixel exposure compensation they will produce tremendous dynamic range (highlight/shadow detail). Their new high-sensitivity sensors will allow for superb image quality even at ISO 3200, without the need for noise reduction processing that would blur the images.
Lithium ion batteries will be extinct, replaced by hydrogen or methanol fuel cells with much longer life and shorter recharging times. New OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) monitors will feature ultra-wide viewing angles, very fast response time, low power consumption, and great brightness. While basic entry-level digital SLRs will be available at under $500, the prosumer-grade cameras will be more expensive but also more impressive.
They'll routinely include features such as GPS, full video recording, 3 or 4" monitors, wireless Internet access, and automatic image-enhancing software for correction of aspects such as lens aberrations and distortion.
--Peter K. Burian
Still And Motion In One
Digital video cameras will start to become popular with still photographers thanks to increased resolution and the ability to extract any frame of video to be used as a photo. These combination cameras will continue to come down in price, eventually replacing mid- to high-end compact still digital cameras. At the low end, cell phones will continue to improve in quality and ease of use. And, it will be easier than ever to share your photos online with features like Apple's Photocasting leading the way.
Printing at home is going to become more approachable for many, with features like wireless transfer from cameras and easier to understand options for accurate prints on the first try.
Pictures Or Photographs?
In Rick Smolan's closing address at the 2005 Mobile Imaging Summit, he asked: "What happens when a billion people worldwide become equipped with the tools of visual communication?" I have one possible answer and it's one probably Smolan won't like: You get lots of photographs such as the ones made of a drunken Mel Gibson before his arrest. Some might call that "photography"; I call it taking pictures. I think the future of the art and craft of photography is far more important than the size and shape of future imaging technology.