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How Will Technology Change Photography?

Discussion in 'Micro 4/3 News and Rumors' started by Amin Sabet, May 29, 2012.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Kirk Tuck wrote an interesting and provocative piece titled "Will the DSLR die? Will small cameras rule the world?" at The Visual Science Lab. The premise of the article is that cameras were engineered to be large in order to provide for certain functionality, that technology is making it possible to incorporate such functionality in ever smaller cameras, and that the camera market will evolve because of these forces.

    We've been discussing the article over at Serious Compacts, and it's taken us into a discussion of how technology in general will completely change photography. It's no secret that there is pressure on today's professional photographers to incorporate video into their work, and today's video cameras are progressing to the point where each frame can have very acceptable image quality as a standalone still photograph. I've noticed this even with my Micro 4/3 cameras like the Olympus E-M5, but cameras like the RED Epic take things to the next level, providing a high quality, high resolution RAW file for each frame in the video. Many feel that video will eventually bring about the "death of still photography".

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    View the high-resolution Hassleblad H3D vs Red Epic 5k stills here: Will Video Cameras Kill Still Photography? Red Epic Vs Hasselblad | Fstoppers


    One point made by our own Ray Sachs encapsulates the other point of view:

    As I see it, there's no chance that video will ever replace stills when it comes to the way that work is presented. In other words, there will always be a case for showing someone a selected instant rather than a period of time. What may change is the way that we capture that instant. For example, suppose you are doing street photography and see an interesting scene developing in front of you on the streets of Manhattan. You have a camera in your hand that lets you shoot 3 seconds of video at 60fps, and at the end of it you have 180 RAW stills, each having the quality of the files from your current high-end stills camera. Your computer lets you fluidly sweep through them to get to the optimal one and then process that one frame to present as a finished product. Would you choose to work that way or stick with your current method of capturing stills as stills?

    Timing isn't the only parameter of photography which technology will eventually allow us to choose after the point of capture. The Lytro camera is one example of the ability to choose depth of field after the capture, and the future will surely bring more elegant, less limited solutions. Imagine a camera phone-style, tiny lens/sensor embedded in the corner of your Micro 4/3 camera of the future, a couple of inches away from the lens mount. The main interchangeable lens-sensor unit captures a photo (or video) of high image quality, and the secondary tiny lens-sensor unit provides the camera's processing computer with the depth information, just as our two eyes provide our brain with such information. Given this information and sufficient processing power, depth of field could be selected after the capture, and powerful software like Alien Skin Bokeh 2 would allow you to customize the character of your out-of-focus blur to match any number of rare or expensive pieces of glass from history.

    Eventually, technology will come to a place where we have the option to choose everything - timing, depth of field, exposure, shutter speed, even composition - after the fact. In short, the ability to capture the image properly will no longer be in limited supply. Those photographers who choose to limit themselves at the point of capture will be analogous to those who choose to manually focus these days, intentionally eschewing capability* in order to enjoy the process. I personally love the process of taking photos in the soon-to-be old-fashioned way, making decisions at the point of capture. However, my photography is mostly family documentary in nature, and the ability to choose a precise moment in time after the fact will be very powerful for any form of documentary photography.

    All of this is without even mentioning the way technology will shape photography after the desired capture is selected. One of the best examples of where we are headed with digital postprocessing is Adobe's Content Aware Fill, introduced in CS5:

    <object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="https://www.youtube.com/v/S8cJv_X2Ifw?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="https://www.youtube.com/v/S8cJv_X2Ifw?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>

    How else will technology affect photography? Will all of this capability change photography for the better? Will you stick to the old ways?


    *I realize that manual focus may add capability in specific cases, but hopefully you get my point.
     
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  2. I'm just not sure about using this method being all that attractive to use in practice. For instance, I currently have the option of shooting in a similar manner on the E-M5 with a 9fps burst, and yet I choose not to. The example given also presupposes that storage capacity increases at least 180 fold. There's a lot of technology on modern cameras that I wouldn't be without, but the action of releasing the shutter at just the right moment is something that I am not yet ready to see become automated.
     
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  3. linkedit

    linkedit Mu-43 Top Veteran

    649
    Aug 6, 2010
    New Jersey, USA
    For big budget Fashion and Celeb shoots it probably will eventually. Does anyone remember reading about the Megan Fox Esquire shoot from 2009?

    Megan Fox Esquire cover

    Shooting that way seems like a natural progression for fashion shoots. The photographer can let the model run through all the poses without having to worry about getting the shot at that perfect moment. He would just look through the images later.
     
  4. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I'm there with you Nick. I can't remember the last time I used burst mode on any camera. How about choosing DOF or plane of focus after the shot? Something you would be interested in?
     
  5. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Great example. It hurts my head to think about having to look through that many frames. I have a hard enough time looking at the 50-60 pictures I usually bring home from shooting in single shot mode to find the 2 or 3 that I want to process. A lot of the pain comes from waiting for the computer though, as opposed to having to look at that many pictures.
     
  6. Yeah, sure, but I think only as a last resort. Sometimes after the fact you just wish that you'd done things a bit differently, but the moment has passed. There still needs to be some kind of challenge involved, since photography is as much about the process as the end product. When an activity becomes too automated it become mundane.
     
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  7. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    For me the old way was black and white film using a SLR back in the late 60's/early 70s, and developing and printing the results. I took a break for several decades for a number of reasons but seem to be back taking photos except I'm now shooting colour with a digital camera and viewing the results on a screen. In many ways I haven't stuck to the old ways but the one thing where I have stuck to the old ways is that I'm still doing still photography.

    I also read and I have an iPad with a number of e-books on it. In general I'm still reading books printed on paper because I prefer that. I also listen to music. I started out with vinyl in the 60s but these days I'm completely digital though I still mostly play discs, CD and SACD. I haven't moved to computer based music apart from having an iPod which I use in the car in preference to swapping CDs in a player there.

    It seems to me that I've found it easier to change how I do photography than how I do other activities I'm interested in and I wonder whether that was because I took a break from photography and came back after it changed. With reading and music, I kept reading and playing discs through the change and while I have changed to some degree, I haven't changed as much because I'm used to reading books on paper and changing discs of some kind and I'd like to keep doing that.

    Technology has certainly changed photography but not everyone has adopted every change and I suspect the reasons why some people don't adopt a given change aren't the same for everyone. That inclines me to believe that there is no change that can be made that will drag everyone along with it. I suspect we'll still still see lots of variety in photography: different camera/sensor formats, RAW vs JPEG/TIFF/other image formats. black and white vs colour (including more monochrome cameras), single shot exposures vs video with frame extraction, and so on. I suspect the market is big enough to allow manufacturers to carve niche markets for themselves and run with that.

    One thing I think we may see is the development of personalised component cameras by which I mean the opportunity to build your own camera from different components which can be assembled together to build a camera with the features and interface you want, just as many hobbyists build their own audio systems and video systems by assembling their own choice of component parts. The Ricoh camera with its choice of lens/shutter modules is an early version of that to my mind.

    I also think photography will fragment around these different ways of doing it. We're seeing that with the development of separate "communities" devoted to, for example, iPhone photography in particular and/or phone photography in general, the Leica community, the M43 community, and so on. To some degree we're letting what we use define us, and what kind of photographs we take, define us just like we've become accustomed to wearing clothing with the labels showing which is another way in which we publicly define ourselves.

    I'm 65 this year and I'd like to stick to many of my old ways but that isn't going to be possible. Change is happening at an increasing pace and devices become obsolete fast. Film is getting harder to get (Kodachrome, for example, is gone) so how long can people continue to do film photography? If film disappears entirely (it may make a comeback like vinyl), I suspect the small group of people using older processes like the colloidal process and making their own plates will experience a boost in numbers. Not everyone wants to use a digital camera. Some want a more hands on experience and there will be ways for them to accommodate that desire, probably provided they don't want to take their equipment and chemicals on a plane because airline security doesn't like DIY chemical processes.

    All in all, I think things are going to get interesting in some predictable ways and also, thankfully, in some unexpected and unpredictable ways. I have no doubt we'll still be able to find personally congenial ways of doing photography no matter who we are and how we like doing it.
     
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  8. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Jason
    I don't shoot video, so I have no experience with video. Getting stills from video would seem to have some advantages over just shooting stills, though. Like in sports, using high speed video to grap that one moment is much easier than trying to take a picture of that one moment.

    I guess the question I have to ask though, isn't shooting video to get still from that video different than just shooting video for video? Isn't composition to workflow different?

    Nic,

    You mention that the process is just as important as the end product. How if we are observers living in a vacuum, and had two similar images; one capture with traditional still photography and one capture with burst/video methods, how, artistically, would they be any different? Similarly, isn't the end result of oil on canvas compared to watercolor on canvas just a painting?
     
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  9. A respect for human endeavour is ingrained in our nature, as well as an ability to evaluate things based on how they were created and who created them. If, as you describe, we are viewing something in a vacuum with no knowledge of how it was created, we can only appreciate it on it's artistic merits alone. That will often be enough since a good image is a good image regardless of how it was created. On the other hand, when we have an understanding of the process involved in it's creation and the degree of difficulty in doing so, our perception changes.
     
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  10. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I think it depends on the application. If you are looking to sell an image of an event to a news company, they won't care how you got it, so long as it was obtained legally and you have the rights. On the other hand, the value of art often takes into account the process by which it is created. Ie, if you go to a concert and hear an improvised solo or a rapper's freestyle, there are different standards for appreciation as compared to a formally composed, written piece.
     
  11. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    Am I missing something? If you shoot 24fps for your video, I don't care the quality of the individual frame in terms of MP, RAW, etc. it's still a 1/24 second shutter speed (or slightly faster -- but if it's too fast, then the video will look terrible). What if you want 1/1000 to freeze action? If you shoot a video (typically 24-60fps) at 1/1000 shutter speed, the video isn't going to look great, so are you really shooting video? Just high speed burst mode. I don't think today you can really have both UNLESS You are looking for stills with 1/24-1/100 kinds of shutter speeds (and maybe you are, so I guess it could work for those needs).

    I suppose in the Jetsons-type future, we'll have all-in one cameras that do 8,000 fps, then post-produce quickly, algorithmically combining frames into an effective shutter speeds (i.e. combing 1,000 frames to simulate a 1/8 second shot) and adding/subtracting to simulate exposure for either video or photos (just push a button!). But that's some ways off.

    But on a more personal level, I don't like processing video. The effort involved for video itself is tedious for me. Then, to add in find the right still? Combing through 24, 40 or 60 fps to find that "best" frame? I get tired combing through 300 shots from a days shooting. That would be covered in 10 seconds if you were shooting 30fps!

    On the lytro -- that sensor is so tiny, that you have to be pressed up against a subject to get any kind of background blur and, in the samples I've seen, blurring out the subject to get the background in focus makes for a terrible pic, so that technology has a long way to go before even being contemplated.
     
  12. jeffryscott

    jeffryscott Mu-43 Top Veteran

    505
    Jul 2, 2010
    Arizona
    To me, a photo is a moment captured in time. It takes skill, talent, patience and sometimes luck.

    When does a photo stop being a photo? My concern with photography is the direction it is going with the software.

    That clip of the content aware fill, quite honestly, disgusts me. I spent the better part of my adult life professionally taking photos and aside from basic darkroom work or later toning in photoshop, what I got in the selected frame was what was presented.

    I see the trend for software manipulation very disturbing in that what is a photo and what is a software creation? I see examples over on POTN all the time of manipulation and it is bothersome that people praise the results and don't question how you get there.

    What this does is dilute the meaning of photography. It destroys the trust in the image and the efforts to achieve it. It takes away from the integrity of the craft and the profession.

    Obviously, this is my opinion and is based on my personal ethics.
     
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  13. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I hope you are right.
     
  14. kinlau

    kinlau Mu-43 Top Veteran

    836
    Feb 29, 2012
    Not that I care to do it this way, but a dedicated edit station which is what you'd need for this anyhow, will have a jog shuttle to easily and smoothly scroll thru the images in real-time, or frame by frame.

    Just keep in mind the cost/value of having Megan Fox on set, means your time and your computer time is relatively cheap :)

    The problem with using video instead of stills, is that good looking video makes for a very limited range of stills you're stuck with shutter speeds of 1/50 to 1/120 for 24p or 60p. Faster shutter speeds will cause the video to stutter, slower speeds will simply be blurry video. In studio, you'll have trouble with lighting, video requires constant lighting, and the cost goes way up. It's also call hot-lights for a reason.
     
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  15. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    Great points.
     
  16. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    Joe
    Wow....some incredible stuff here, it's the first time I've seen 'content aware fill' in action and I'm stunned, how on earth a software algorithm is able to essentially predict (best guess) to that degree of accuracy is uncanny.

    I have no doubt that extracting high quality stills from some form of video capture will become more common...but that will require many other advances before it becomes mainstream...of which will have to be huge leaps in computer processing power and internet speeds to your average home and home pc. The tech is obviously already available to the very high paid pros and studios.....no doubt their investment will pay real returns which will mean other studios/pros will need to keep up....to keep up ! ....over time, that trickles down to us, the enthusiast consumer, and eventually, the wider market. This is no different to any other tech.....every bit of technology is born with a single common destiny, that at some point it will be replaced by something that does it better.

    Nic...you raised a good point about an ingrained respect that we inherently have for human endeavour...I agree that with many things this still holds true, but as more and more tech becomes more available will the novelty of these things begin to wear off at some point ? Not too long ago a printed photo in an album was cherished by its owner....sometimes almost as if it were a sacred object, now.....to many people, any photo is just like all the other thousands that fill their hard drives collecting dust in the computer desk drawer. How are most people to appreciate a still image when the process involved to create it is getting easier and less involved.....most of the carpenters i work with on site have better cameras in their cell phones these days than what the average person had for their 'proper' camera 15 years ago.

    Still photography dead ? I hope Ray is right......not in my life time !
     
  17. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Jason
    An argument can be easily made though that knowing the process taints the viewer. For example, I've been to art musuems before that have had hanging photographs. In some cases, the camera and methods are put up on a placard underneath the photograph. Sometimes not. I know myself that I have judged similar photographs differently knowing the camera and process.

    In many forms of art, the medium is easily known, but the process in which the artist works with the medium isn't always divulged. This leaves the audience to judge a piece based on its own merits, not the process.
     
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  18. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Jason
    I'm not arguing that human endeavor isn't appreciated. At the same time, I'm not sure if we always look at it that way. Do we care how a great basketball player got great? Do we care how a great football player got great? We all appreciate work ethic, but many achive the same or similar thing through varying degrees of methods.

    I'm not trying to devalue the importance of "process". I do however think that we can become too biased on a piece of work because of the process. I even think we even become dismissive of a piece of work. Look at the various forums out there. There could be an excellent image posted but because it wasn't taken with the right camera, its crap. It wasn't processed with XYZ parameters, so it must be crap. When does art stand based on its own merit?

    In more to the point, isn't getting stills from video or high frame rate just an evolutionary step in photography? We moved away from the darkroom to photoshop. Can't technology help us move getting the shot at the right moment in time? (Sports photography does this anyway. Most shooters I see are shooting in burst mode. Granted, the framerate is not as high as video. Weren't flip books the first motion picture?)
     
  19. When we view our own work, we can't help but we influenced by the process that went into creating it. There isn't the same detachment or mystery as occurs when viewing work foreign to us.
     
  20. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I think it's up to the artist to decide whether they consider the process and the viewers' awareness of that process as a part of their art, and it is up to the viewer to decide whether the process is contributes to their appreciation for that art.

    Some artists clearly consider the importance of the process, eg: Process art - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia