The Future of Photography with a Few (Useless) Predictions

Palm Nuts

Pondering the future of photography certainly has not been keeping me awake at night, but I have been giving it a little thought. So, here is my take on where photography is and where it is going. Be forewarned, most predictions of the future prove wrong, and mine most likely are too.

Today, everyone is a photographer. If you have a cell phone you can snap a picture and publish it to the world within a matter of seconds.

“Hold on a sec while a get my phone and take a picture of the soggy bowl of Cheerios I am eating and put it on my Facebook page, and while I am at it, I’ll upload it to Flickr as well.”

I recently read that we take over a trillion photos every year. That’s over 2.7 billion each day! That might lead one to believe the future of photography is, indeed bright. If one only considers quantity. But what about the quality of the images?

Barriers of entry to photography are getting lower and will continue to fall as technology continues to make photography easier and cheaper. There are a plethora of books out there on how to take photos with a cell phone. (WTF)  Consequently, we are inundated with millions of mediocre images shot by naive folks who see that their photos are as good or better than those they see on the web or in the media, yet they have little or no knowledge of the basic principles of photography such as f stop, shutter speed, iso, white balance, etc. not to mention composition.

“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”   Ansel Adams

Thus, we will have more and more marginal photographs. Although, technically they will be as good as the phones/camera’s software will allow, thus instilling an unwarranted sense of competence. But, more good photography will appear as well, because of the shear number of photographers, many of whom are diligently working to find and express their creative vision and are passionate about image making as an art form.

A similar phenomenon is occurring in the publishing industry. Rapid advancements in technology now allow a writer to self publish their book without the need for a third party publisher. Amazon’s CreateSpace, Lulu, and catering to photographers, Blurb are a few. Being a published author is easier than ever and relatively cost free. As with photographers, writers can nurture their creative spirit and get their work before the public with unheard of ease.

A few other predictions:

  • First an easy one. Point and shoot cameras and cell phones will become one in the same.
  • GPS equipped cameras. Again, this is beginning now.
  • In camera HDR. HIgh dynamic range images will be processed in camera and on the fly.
  • Cameras will become smaller while image quality will remain the same or improve. The third generation mirrorless, interchangeable lens cameras are growing in popularity and will replace all but the very high end DSLRs.

More Essays on Photography are here.

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2 Comments

  1. carol June 25, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    Definitely interesting to observe the phenomena of people sharing snippets of their lives via camera phones, etc., usually to a receptive audience of friends and family. It’s good, on the one hand, because it enables people to share their experiences visually in short order. It’s not so good on the other hand (for the reasons you mentioned above) for the market of fine art photography.

    • Ron June 27, 2012 at 11:21 am #

      As you say, it is all very fascinating. With so many photos being taken one has to wonder if anyone is really looking. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what are a hundred thousand pictures worth? It seems like a case of diminishing returns.

      How is your summer going?

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