Will Technology Kill Photography?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by TwoWheels, Jun 16, 2015.

  1. TwoWheels

    TwoWheels Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 28, 2014
    British Columbia
    I generally try to avoid all the Apple fanboy sites, but I inadvertently came across this post suggesting big advances in the next iPhone camera:

    “Multi aperture cameras offer many possible benefits including 3D imaging, artistically blurred backgrounds and the ability to re-focus images after the fact,” Monckton writes. “More importantly, they offer the possibility of vastly improving bottom-line image quality without the need for bulky DSLR-style lenses which simply wouldn’t fit into a smartphone.”


    There are several developments that are here or coming soon--multiple sensors, very high definition video, sensor shifting, etc.--that to my non-technical mind suggest taking pictures as an art form could become obsolete. Is there a not-to-distant future where a hand-held device with multiple sensors will simply record all the information from a scene, possibly in a short video clip? No need for troublesome aperture and shutter settings, focusing and ISO adjustments or composition worries. Push a button and you get something like a high-resolution, photo-merged/panoramic HDR with adjustable focus (and probably 3D). At that point, "photography" would simply be an exercise in software-driven photo creation. With all the data recorded at multiple exposure levels, the reality of the scene almost ceases to exist as the digital darkroom could turn it into anything.

    These are all developments that, individually, we eagerly await and talk about. From Sony's endless megapixels to Olympus's high resolution mode to 4k video, they all seem like great advances. I'm just wondering whether the aggregate of these things is going to destroy the challenge and enjoyment of the photography that we all enjoy. Maybe we're already halfway there. Maybe sitting in front of a computer is really more fun than being in an alpine meadow waiting for the light to be perfect. :shakehead:

    I'm normally not a retro-grouch. I guess I got out of bed on the wrong side this morning, so pardon my musings. Now back to our previously scheduled programming about the great new Sony A7, how much we hope the next generation E-M5 will be able to do high resolution without a tripod and how ISO 12800 just isn't enough. :biggrin:
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  2. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    It may eliminate some traditional gear as we know it, but it can't replace the act of being there and making intentional compositions and hitting the shutter at the right time.

    Imagine an outdoor scene at a famous landmark. There are a nearly infinite possible combinations of lighting, weather, camera position and angle, perspective, focal length, exposure settings, etc. Even if you could record all possible combination with a supercomputer and robot, who decides what the best combination is? And it would take decades for a human to even view all the possible frames. An algorithm that chooses the photo would still only provide a few options, not replace one photographed via traditional means by a human and their own organic supercomputer.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2015
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  3. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Art is about feelings, emotion, choice.

    Regardless of how automated the device might make the process, I as the person behind the device still need to make a ton of choices. Cameras were once full manual. A similar argument could be made for aperture priority mode. The camera is making the decisions? Well, not truly. It might be matching up what it thinks is an appropriate exposure based on an program that an engineer developed, but we all know that the shutter speed may not be adequate, the ISO too noisy.

    Same with these new tech offerings. Lytro provides for multi lens, multi sensor image capture now. What it provides is the ability to get maximum DOF or shallow DOF, but the decision on the final output is still up to me, offering my take on how I want to convey that emotion, feeling, by my choice.

    My thoughts on the whole thing, anyway.
  4. phigmov

    phigmov Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 4, 2010
    I guess the future will be slightly different. We'll have many devices and many angles watching all the time. At that point, reviewing/curating the footage to determine the shot to use will be part of photography.

    Heres an interesting example of what technology is doing - most of these people give all artistic credit to the game creator; all they've done is captured a moment in time within the game . . .

  5. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    Photography is technology. The point of photography is not to master any particular sort of equipment (though that is helpful if the equipment is what one is using to take photographs), but to create permanent images based on light reflected from a scene. Technology will not stop that from happening, nor make it uninteresting. New developments in technology are likely to create more opportunity for photography and give new choices to photographers. Light field cameras or smartphones with high-end cameras will no more kill photography than digital imaging, auto-focus, colour, compact cameras or film (as opposed to glass plates) killed photography (although each made it more accessible). Photography did not, after all, kill painting.
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  6. tyrphoto

    tyrphoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2014
    Seoul | NYC
    Tools change. Artistry and creative vision doesn't.
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  7. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    What is photography that can be killed by tech?
    Digital revolutionized photography and at the time many were lamenting the end of film and tuning color and grain choices. In sure the first use of film worried glass plate photographers. Tech advances have only enhanced the possibilities for photographers.
    Some companies have been put out of business by those advances, or failing to recognize and adopt them adequately, but photographers always benefited.

    In the end it's still somebody deciding what to capture. The tools shouldn't define photography. But the photo industry could be turned on its ear, aka you and I be buying Sandisk memory cards instead of Kodak film.
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  8. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2012
    David Dornblaser
    Did digital kill film? It depends on your definition of dead. Photography tools will continue to both evolve and, sometimes, be revolutionary.
  9. Is their solution for lenses of different focal lengths to crop or something? Still can't see UWA or tele working well there. Besides, half the reason that I dislike using my smartphone is that it's too slow to get from locked to shot.

    It would be great if I was happy with my phone for wide-normal stuff, but the experience and IQ in low light is just nowhere near what I'd accept. Next gen maybe, but the trend of only putting the best camera into the larger phone/tablet body is still a problem for me. Ergonomically it's attrocious.

    I've also tried the latest phone camera bokeh simulators... they suck for anything except close ups, it looks too fake. If they improve, I'd actually like to see them in crop format cameras (or PP software) where there's actually some nice real OOF transitions to be enhanced, rather than making up blur from nothing.

    If the tools improve to the point of being useful, we'll use them. If not, they're just a gimmick.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2015
  10. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    I think it's more a question that photography is evolving along with technology. Something like the A7R or 5DS R or D810 or GH4 or E-M1 is much more capable than the equipment that Ansel Adams shot with, but if this equipment had been around in his day Mr. Adams still would have had to go out with his ladder and his camera of choice and make the images.

    In my view "photography" is much less about the camera (or smart phone or whatever tool is capturing and storing the image) than it is about what is in front of that camera and the intention of the person behind the camera.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2015
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  11. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Well, video killed the radio star!

    Tech is tech - photographers, thankfully, will always be needed.
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  12. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    A camera... any camera... is just a light tight box with a lens and a shutter and some sort of light sensitive recording device. There is room for all sorts of sophistication in any of those elements, but at the end of the day it actually does nothing until somebody points it at something and creates an image... that image is the photograph... and photography is about about the person pointing the camera at a subject of interest and choosing when to press the shutter, and then deciding whether the image is good.

    a camera is just like a chisel... its a tool... it can help build a table, a house, a cathedral or a statue.. but it is only as good as the person using it

  13. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    I have always thought that digital imaging with light on a sensor and then manipulating those pixels in post is a very different art form than analog imaging with light on film then manipulating the projected image with an enlarger in post. After the initial focusing light on a sensitive medium part, the two diverge radically. It actually surprises me that so many in this thread seem to see them as the same. So I would say probably yes... tech will kill the current definition of photography. Digital pretty much killed film, and new tech will likely kill digital as we know it. Although a strong argument can be made that the coming changes will likely be more evolutionary in nature, and that the "death" already happened when digital pushed out film.
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  14. TwoWheels

    TwoWheels Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 28, 2014
    British Columbia
    I hear what everyone is saying. At present, I think you are right and I hope it stays that way. But let me try to articulate my original post a little differently.

    When Ansel Adams took a photo, the decisions he made in the field were critical--exposure, aperture, type of film, etc. He could take a limited number of shots. He had choices in the darkroom, but they were limited. For the majority of photographers, those who didn't do their own darkroom work, the challenge and creativity of photography was 100% at the point of capture.

    Fast forward to today when I can take an HDR panorama photo with a 30-50 megapixel camera (if I had one) and sit down in front of my computer with Lightroom/Photoshop and hundreds of MB of data. Alternatively, I can shoot 4k video and pull a frame from that, eliminating the importance of when the shutter was fired. I can dramatically change exposure, dynamic range, white balance, etc. I can crop to a small area that is a fraction of the original and still have excellent quality. Other than the particular spot in which I was standing to record the data, there is little that I can't change in post processing other than focus/depth of field.

    In the future, with more and more high quality data being recorded at the point of capture including, potentially, from multiple sensors and an ability to change the point of focus/depth of field, isn't it inevitable that the focus of photography will shift further from the point of capture to post processing? Will the stereotype of a photographer change from an Indiana Jones with backpacks full of gear out in the field to a software expert who spends time manipulating large data files?

    Sixteen years ago yesterday, Nikon introduced the professional D1 with 2.7 MP. Today, we're at 50 MP. The quantity and quality of the data has changed dramatically. The software that allows us to manipulate digital photos was developed only 20 years ago. With comparable changes in the next ten or fifteen years...?? Maybe I titled the post wrong. I don't think technology will kill photography, but I see the potential for it to continue changing the nature of it and how photographers spend their time.
  15. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    That's already there and has been since the box brownie. 99% of the population has never cared about photo quality, they just want little Timmy to say cheese and look at the camera. Look at the average family photo album and its full of small prints, direct flash, Polaroids or little square instamatic photos.
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  16. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    You still have to pick a day with the right weather and lighting, drive out at the right time, set the camera up in the right spot, point it in the right direction, and hit "go" when all those conditions converge. And in the end, you still have to pick the way to present and process that data.

    And then I could be doing the same thing in the same place, but pick a different angle, position, time of day and make different processing choices. We'd end up with totally different photos despite both collecting massive amounts of data.
    It's still about the human recording their environment in a calculated way and presenting it in a way that conveys that scene in the manner that they wish.
  17. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Nope.... the ultimate success of any art form whether it be an image, music or the written word, is not the mechanism that produces the result, but is all about intent of the person that operates that mechanism.

    Advances in technology can allow opportunities for more people to express themselves, to experiment, and that is a good thing... however it doesn't guarantee a better end result

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  18. curtisls87

    curtisls87 Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    Jan 7, 2010
    Los Gatos, CA, USA
    Curt Schimmels
    Apple likes to make technology that the average person can use* - and, to paraphrase a famous photographer, the best camera is the one you have with you. I think about their approach to iTunes, and it is centered on ease of use, and ubiquity - not necessarily aural purity. I believe this is what we see most of the time in these discussions, and applies to these sorts of phone cameras.

    Additionally, there are certain things that are physical limitations of the form factor, including sensor size, registration distance, and resolving power of much smaller lenses that come into play. Will they work for the "ease of use" crowd? Of course. Will they work for art? We haven't yet invented AI, so I'm not too worried about it.

    * please don't interpret this to mean that their hardware is not powerful, it is, but they want to get as many devices and as many services into as many people's hands as possible (even if some of us can open a terminal on a Mac and utilize unix commands, etc.).
  19. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    The only possible way I see technology totally replacing the human element would be if you had an army of autonomous drones that flew around the world scouting the best photo opportunities and making intelligent decisions about the best ways to capture them in the ways that would appeal to humans. That's some AI that is sophisticated enough to make humans obsolete in most aspects, though, so we'll have bigger problems than, "that robot stole my photo idea!".

    Until we have that, new tech is just a new way to do the same thing. I still hear people complaining that auto focus and auto exposure have killed the "craft", so it's not a new discussion, anyway.
  20. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    I'm not passing any judgement on the method of the art form or the execution of it, I'm just saying that digital has always seemed like a different art form than analog, despite the similarity in the tools for capturing the initial image. The things I can do in LR and PS are very different in method, and in some instances very different in form than what I could do in a darkroom.
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