Future of Photography

Posted on September 14, 2011


Being a photographer who started in the industry over 30 years ago (has it been THAT long?), I frequently see and hear comments from people about the future of photography.

A good  friend of mine told me on Monday that the future was in video and video capture. Photography was dead when it comes to still images. Video was the only thing that will be around after 10 years, he said. He even pointed me to one of the “cameras” of the future: the Red EPIC and Red Scarlett (the Scarlett hasn’t been released yet). The EPIC shoots 128 frames per second at 14 mega pixels, and is 3D capable. The friend shoots lots of things from weddings to personal portraiture. He indicated that more and more wedding requests were to capture short bursts of video, and the creation of a DVD with stills and video. People are purchasing fewer photographs, and requesting digital images instead.

I have to be honest, I have seen cameras get video capabilities from high end to entry pro-sumer type cameras. This seems worthless to me. If you want a video camera, get a video camera. If you want to take stills, get a still camera. The two aren’t really compatible — you can have video capture at a cost of resolution or high resolution at the cost of the number of frames you capture. What is worse is that lighting on a camera is frequently a strobe, and the lighting on a video is a constant “on” light. They don’t necessarily go together.

Part of where I have seen this propagated has been from people who learned photography on a digital camera, and who would be classified a “machine gun shooter”. You know the types. They hold the shutter button and fire away in the hopes they will capture the image they want purely by luck. I have heard the explanation from a couple of them that they will “more than likely” capture the image they want, but after the review of their photos at home, they rarely capture what they wanted.

Digital photography has made photography cheaper than with film – you no longer think about the number of images you capture. Digital has also made it so that photographers don’t do the planning they once did. Even I have become lazy. With film, you planned and worked to get your sets just right. With digital, it doesn’t cost anything and we can always fix things in post production (read: editing afterwards). So what if you have 20 images that are unusable for each one you do use (or even if it is higher).  But, look at film photographers, and you see every image captured meant something. With 35mm film, the cost was less so people would capture fewer usable images. As you go up in size, the image quality per click of the shutter is higher, the time spent between frame clicks is longer, and so is the cost per frame. Digital removes the cost and why we see machine gun shooters.

I see video capture as the next iteration of that type of photographer. I don’t see it as an art, and I don’t see the planning that needs to go into an image as important with this type of photographer.

I believe in always having some kind of plan for images that you take. It keeps the session on track and avoids the problems that you hear with never ending photo sessions, or things turning to a porn shoot. Planning sets that scope or road map. It also gives you something to aim for when you shoot, and a reference to judge if you accomplished what you set out to do as a photographer. I am sure you will get some good images without a plan, but that is all you will get: pretty pictures of pretty people. If you want more, you need to think about what you are shooting and move in that direction. I don’t believe you can get a great image from shooting video and choosing a “good” one from the millions you captured.

Still, this is the trend that is occurring. Even in Harry Potter, they had images that moved. I will be paying attention, but don’t think that still images will ever completely disappear.