Is the Whole Photography Industry About to Change?

In the last few years, we've seen massive changes occur in the photography industry with whole camera divisions and markets wiped out and replaced. More than likely this will continue and the photography industry is going to be vastly different in the next five years.

In a recent video, Tony Northrup makes some predictions for what he thinks are important changes for photographers and creatives to consider. It's imperative for us to not become complacent and assume what is current will remain. This may seem a little disheartening to some extent, but remember this creates an abundance of new opportunities too. Social media for one will continue to change and what works today may not in just a year's time. YouTube is my favorite platform and Northrup discusses how attention spans are shrinking. Shorter videos may be a better option for creatives now. Creative trends continue to change and although this isn't anything new these changes may occur at a much faster rate. We've already seen how many styles of photography are pretty cringe-worthy now and bokeh might be joining that list soon. With smartphones now offering a simulated version of this feature it's not hard to see how bokeh and images with super shallow depth of field are probably on the way out.

Check out the full video and I'd love to know what you think and if you have any predictions too.

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23 Comments

Ryan Cooper's picture

I think more than anything, photographers need to focus on building a style and aesthetic that is a departure from what smartphones are able to create. As smartphones expand in capability, so must we if we want to remain relevant. Pointing a 85mm 1.4 at someone just won't cut it anymore to create a pro look.

I think the future of truly great photography lies in composition, color theory, etc. Smartphones will continue to bridge the technical gap but aesthetic in the hands of a truly great artist is a timeless tool for the true professional to set themselves apart in a way that camera tech simply can't replace.

Edward Jose's picture

Although Colour theory and composition can be achieved in Smartphones.. Would you agree its more like OCF and stuff like that (if we're talking portraits)

Ryan Cooper's picture

The future of photography is smartphone like devices, eventually DSLRs will be gone as tiny phone cameras will be able to match them in every way. Top pros will still stand out because of their aesthetic vision.

“Top pros will still stand out because of their aesthetic vision”

Will you be able to tell the difference between a “top pro” and artificial intelligence with enough processing power?
Today, sure, but that could change in a couple of years.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Eventually, probably not, but we will see, AI will be able to technically match and maybe even aesthetically match, but it will still have a weakness in finding/coaching out the magical moment in a subject, telling story, etc, at least so long as it isn't actually true AI.

Look at drawing, computers have been able to replicate any drawing possible for years now, but they still can't even begin to "create" or "imagine" artistic vision on their own.

I think, if anything, AI will become a vessel to allow those with great creative imagination but poor technical aptitude to achieve what they have crafted in their mind's eye.

I don’t think an AI needs artistic vision.
In time it should be able to “calculate” what we perceive as art and with enough data it will probably be able to predict what the new art movement will be before it happens.
Computer-generated imagery in some movies is already indistinguishable from “real” imagery. What that tells me is that if you mimic anything good enough, it will pass as the real thing. That might also apply to creativity, art, emotions, etc. Some people think human creativity is the result of some divine spark, but it might just be a biochemical process that can be replicated or maybe even improved upon. Who knows, AI’s might not only become smarter but also more creative than any human can be.

Ryan Cooper's picture

But there is a big difference between knowing what we want and being able to convince a subject to do it. The best portrait photographers are able to coax great moments of expression from their subjects. Though I suppose eventually the computer will just make a 3D model of the subject and create expression itself, but I think we are still a long way out from that becoming a reality.

I feel like, realistically, once we hit a point where computers are able to truly recreating unique art, especially portrait art, that we will be awfully close to the point that computers simply take over humanity.

Furthermore, great art often is defined by how it changes the existing perspective. A computer being able to convincingly recreate existing styles and themes is a lot easier than a computer being able to conceive of and create something new that audiences both haven't seen before and really like.

There are situations like with posed portrait shots where the photographer needs to do something to get the expression he wants but there are a lot of forms of photography where there is little or no interaction between photographer and subject. Sports, event, landscape, architecture, wildlife, street, etc.
If you look at the underwater photos taken by robots at the 2016 Olympics for instance, we are getting close. There was still a photographer involved but I don’t think it will take decades to fully automate this en let a computer determine the “decisive moment”.

https://i2.cdn.turner.com/money/dam/assets/160804150750-underwater-olymp...

History will tell what changed existing perspectives, when they changed and how that came about but the birth of non-human art has the potential to do so, I think.

I don't disagree with you at all but was this not what photography was always about? As technology settles a bit so will photography...and maybe ..just maybe we can discuss how truly great a capture is vs. how great the equipment was that captured the image.

Spy Black's picture

I remember around 1988-1990 there was a rapid shift in tech in pre-press and my photo-optical career evaporated almost overnight. I had to re-invent myself into the digital age.

Others tho were very anti-digital and refuse to adapt. Some guys that were once earning 6 figures wound up literally homeless. I could never understand how you couldn't adapt to what has happened and allow that to happen to you.

As Tony shows, attention span of viewers is decreasing and still content creators tend to create more and more longer videos (especially since the appearance of live videos). Why do you think is this ?

Jon Kellett's picture

In short, Youtube and how they measure engagement.

I've seen quite a few videos where they suggest that targeting durations between certain values is essential to get the best positioning in the search results and "suggested videos" sections.

Weather this is true or not, it seems to have gained traction with more and more vloggers. What is certainly true is that watched minutes is a very important metric, especially if you want useful features.

Watch-time is now done as a ratio to video length. If all twenty of my 10-minute videos get 10-minute watch times, and all 80 of your 40-minute videos get 35-minutes of watch time, my watch-time metrics are better than yours.

Aram Khachaturyan's picture

their quality is at best mediocre, especially to talk about photography lol

Usman Dawood's picture

Well it is a free market you’re welcome to post stuff up yourself if you can do better than “mediocre”.

karl johnston's picture

Looking back at the last 10 years when I started photography I can definitely see a changed trend. The amount of people who have even heard of the licensing model is shrinking. I wonder if that downward trend drove the divergence of photographers into mini media production companies. Rather than feeding the media; photographers are now becoming the media. Thoughts?

It's every industry. Prices, sorry costs, are being pushed down. So if you can get it for free that's the one they will roll with.

I think it's important to have a photographer and a story teller. A photographer can capture the moment, while the story teller is lost in the moment. I think it's very difficult to be critically observing while trying to be immersed in the moment.

Ryan Brenizer's picture

It's definitely changed that more and more content like this is in video form with no meaningful written description (although Tony's caption appears at least more descriptive than this recap).

Usman Dawood's picture

https://fstoppers.com/originals

It may be an idea for you to have a look at our many original articles. The reason we opt for this method is to prevent the creator from losing out on views that they deserve. Essentially this is a recommendation and the content is the video.

The photography industry is not about to change! But the bloggers talking about the photography industry may ...

Usman Dawood's picture

So you don't think the photography industry is consistently changing? I've had to make a bunch of adjustments to how I work in the last couple of years and most of them have paid off.

Well, he’s referring to a more radical change, not a constant linear change.

Usman Dawood's picture

Fair point.

I will say that we're seeing change within industries at a much faster rate than ever before. Maybe that's radical enough?