Photography is About to Change Massively, Here's What it Means for You

Photography is About to Change Massively, Here's What it Means for You

There's a new change happening in the photography world and you may not even be aware of it. Let's see how it'll pan out and learn how it might affect you.

The digital revolution handed photography to the masses on a large scale, with the introduction of digital cameras and camera phones gradually lining the bags and pockets of everyone around the world. Almost everyone we know now owns a camera of some sort. Taking digital photos has become the new normal and in the past two decades alone we're now consuming more imagery and media than ever before. And there's a new change happening right now and it's leading to an inevitable upheaval of everything we've become acquainted with in the past 20 years. So, are you ready?

A Change in Technology

Photographing on a smartphone

As soon as phones became powerful enough to sport cameras, the digital photography boom came in fast. The megapixel war was the first wave of tech specs that people around the world look to in order to capture more detailed images

After DSLRs, smartphones were the next step in photography, not through superior optical quality and improved imaging technology — quite the opposite in fact — but through the ability to add filters, edit, crop, and share photos with friends and the rest of the world. It's this integration of photography in our everyday lives that has boosted the popularity of photography.

Until the last few years enthusiasts and professionals have been working on digital SLRs with interchangeable lenses, high-end optics, and increasingly intelligent technology that can stabilize and enhance the photo-taking process. However, like film, the images still required developing through use of an image editing technology and often required computers that were either home-based (desktops) or cumbersome enough to hold back the public from editing quickly and sharing the work with others.

Combining New and Old

Smartphone photography

Mirrorless bridge the gap between intelligent editing and metadata manipulation and the traditional way of shooting with a DSLR. We can now star rate our shots while out and about, without the aid of a computer

Now though, mirrorless cameras have bridged the gap between the smartphone and DSLR market. With features like portrait lighting, retouching, and rating photos right from the camera it's just a matter of time before camera manufacturers take the next logical step: full in-camera editing and sharing.

We already have the ability to share images from our devices through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and this does feature on DSLRs as well, albeit in a very clunky fashion. But what I'm describing here is the symbiosis between editing platforms and camera manufacturers to create a workflow system so smooth that you'll likely be able to edit as you shoot. Seamless workflow methods are already becoming commonplace as photographers and filmmakers turn to hybrid shooting. Cameras are now able to float between stills and moving image that blur the lines between photography and cinematography. It's just a matter of time before this happens in another direction: inside the camera.

A Glimpse Into the Future

DSLR camera in hands

How much longer will it be until we see the disappearance of the DSLR in favor of Mirrorless cameras? Mirrorless are smaller, lighter, faster, and boast better optical quality than DSLRs - so is there any reason to keep shooting on the old kit?

If you think about it we can already change the picture controls in Live View (and Mirrorless EVFs) in real-time, noting the difference in color and tone between "standard", "landscape", and "vivid" so what's to stop companies from introducing plug-ins and other editing functions to the camera. Presets, graduated neutral density filters that can drop in without you needing to pack physical filters, and much more. 

We already have editing controllers for Lightroom, Photoshop and other editing software that are bespoke for photography workflows, so why couldn't such a device be made for a camera. It would negate the need for a larger form factor, would plug in via USB-C (or the connection of the future) or it may even connect wirelessly. Now we'd be able to add exposure changes, color adjustments, even local brush adjustments and clone tool settings to a photo while we take the shot, in real-time.

Long exposure of fire

Editing long exposures like this will be a doddle in a few years time, with the ability to attenuate highlights, boost saturation, and share images to friends from within the camera

It also wouldn't make sense in this new, fast-flowing workflow to slow things down by exporting with specific settings to a local hard drive — you'd just hit the share button within the camera and send it to your friends and family via Whatsapp or share it with others on Instagram. The camera would be connected to the cloud and be able to access a multitude of different publishing platforms much like a small computer.

In this new world the camera wouldn't be replaced by the smartphone, it would be the powerful, hyper-beefed up digital device that links with the smartphone cyber world, the thing you turn to when you want to take a "proper" photograph, but still have connected to the rest of your digital world. You could recall images and use artificial intelligence to search through all the photos you've taken, all without the need for a laptop or desktop computer.

Who Will it Benefit?

Sony mirrorless camera body

Who stands to benefit the most from this shift in technological disciplines blurring? The professional or the hobbyist will both likely be in the minds of camera manufacturers around the world

Assuming this change will be good (or bad) for everyone is to ignore the vast array of different types of photographers. There's the Sunday cafe group who like to snap their cream teas and desserts to share with friends and family, the parent of a young child learning photography to capture their formative years, those that have had entire lives filled with photography as a hobby, and the professional who is keeping up with the cutting edge of technology.

This workflow smoothing will benefit almost everybody who wants to shoot and share pictures, but it's the process of learning that new technology that might strike difficult for some. There are plenty that still don't understand how to edit images on computers, or how to take photos on smartphones, but the majority of people now understand enough to at least get by, if not reap the huge rewards that digital technology lends us in terms of photography. It's just a matter of time until photography reaches its next phase, will you be on board when it's time to leave the station?

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91 Comments

Chris Page's picture

Yes, but quite a well qualified 'next guy', and this could well be an inevitable path. I quite like the idea of having all the filters in my camera as software!

Nox Vega's picture

Pretty sure this "next guy" can predict the future of photography better than this "God" you speak of.

Eric Snyder's picture

Im pretty sure God is very interested in photography, Just look around. :)

David Vivian's picture

The theology of digital photography.. now *THIS* is a thread!

Alexander Ramos's picture

Yup, that is why I love taking photos with my Olympus em10 bodies, aside from its compactness.

Mike Shwarts's picture

Maybe. I edit unimportant photos taken with a camera or phone with Photoshop Express on the phone then share. If I care enough to put an effort in taking the photo, those will still get edited on a laptop or desktop with current software. I want more control than I'd have letting apps think for me and not being able to make out details that need adjustment on a tiny screen.

Florin C's picture

Exactly. Phones are for snapshots and cameras are for photography.

jay holovacs's picture

Cartier-Bresson took pictures exactly as they were in the camera. He would not even crop.

Does that make him a snapshotter?

Ale Vidal's picture

Bresson cropped some of his famous pic. Also he was use to take 30-40 shots fo the same scene, so the fact he wasn't cropping is because he had all the time to "crop in camera"

Deleted Account's picture

I don’t see this happening for two reason:

1. Future-proofing. Look at the automobile industry’s previous tech integrations. Fifteen years ago, an auxiliary port was seen as high-tech, today it’s almost considered antiquated, because of bluetooth. But what if input/output formats change, like in the case of the Apple iPhone? My newest phone no longer plugs straight into my car because the 1/8” port has been removed and replaced with a lighting port. This is admittedly not a huge deal, because it’s a hardware problem, and relatively easy to fix, but software? Different story.

How are the camera manufacturers supposed to choose which online platforms to support? Quibi claimed to be the next big thing, and just announced it’ll be closed down by December, not even a year after launch. Further, what happens if a company like facebook decides to throw tons of cash at say, Canon, for exclusive app integration?

2. I don’t want to edit photos on my tiny (but beautiful) R6 screen. Maybe a tablet, but even then, I’d rather have a larger screen to focus on details.

Malcolm Wright's picture

I don't think this will happen in camera without a bloatware removal from editing software. Filters are already here, but there is a big difference between a filter and software editing of photgraphs. Otherwise most of the current software on the market would not be specifying a minimum of 8Gb of Ram (preferably 16Gb)and an intel Core i7 processor, together with a dedicated graphics card with another 4Gb of Ram ( preferably 8Gb) as well as oodles of disk space.
Within Camera will also generate some heat issues.
Now a cloud camera, with processing in the cloud might work, with whole banks of processors doing the editing.

Teofil Rewers's picture

xxx

Timothy Roper's picture

Why stop there, with such limited thinking? You need to realize the big picture. Mirrorless cameras will one day also be able to send and receive texts and voice calls (to get direct social media feedback while taking the photos), play video games based on the photos, interact directly on social media, and a whole not more. Who cares about boring single still photos anymore? Stop living in the past ;;;

Fristen Lasten's picture

Google Slim Shady's mother. The button may have already been pushed.

Bill Kearns's picture

And maybe the camera can be worn on the head! A fancier Oculus Rift.

Foto Toad's picture

Hard to tell the future but while these ideas are plausible I think these are more likely scenarios:

1) AI in-camera. Your camera will still take the RAW for later desktop processing but will also auto-adjust a jpeg with cloned out distractions, adjusted details, colors, effects, sky replacement, etc. Right now that sounds gaudy and ugly but AI is improving so rapidly that soon it will be better on auto mode than most pros can do.with PS

2) Good UI in-camera. One camera maker will beat them all: Whichever camera maker can capture the intuitive interface of a mobile phone and translate it to an awesomely quick and powerful tool to.control a dslr camera will wipe the floor with the rest. Camera menus just suck and they all need a major overhaul in order to appeal to all the next gen of camera buyers.

Place your bets

Peter Blaise's picture

Knobs.
.

Studio 403's picture

My spin. Sheep and goats, a dividing of directions of the "phone cults" and "DSLR cults" Be fun how this all rolls out in the next 5 years. I would guess a weeding out of the "professional class" folks. The creative ones who know how to shoot and marketing skills. Guys like me who understand the times, will have a smaller bite of the pun intended, Apple. A lot of the "wanna be's" like I was, will fade, then the water turns over and fresh crop comes alive. I made a choice to stay an amateur so to have peace and enjoy this wonderful craft. I just want to improve my skills. My work has vastly improved in the last 4 yrs. At age 74 my experience a lot success from being at the right place and right time coupled with skills. Its sort of who you know and are you likeable and a pinch of humility. Of course I am not discounting mastering the skills of photography. I have convinced some into using my skills, all along knowing I was out of my league. But I did it and all went well, My mentor told me I live way to much in my head......

Marc NINE's picture

Of course more tech will enter cameras.
Personally, I find a 27inch full screen iMac hard enough to nail a good edit.

Doing edits in-camera. Great for people that enjoy squinting, tiny dials and working on teeny, weeny screens.

90% novelty features for weekend hobbyists.

Peter Blaise's picture

Viewfinder.
.

Florin C's picture

Ans then they try to blow them up for a print and it looks like dogshit!

Stephen T's picture

No need to do it on the camera's screen. The camera could cast its image to your TV.

Francis Drake's picture

Just a thought: what if in the future the photo edit is not done on the photographer's side but on the viewer's side?
Think for example of AI editing: it uses existing 'known good' photos and tries to edit your new photos to have the same 'nice' features'.
Now think about how things work in the avertissement industry: everyone is tracked so that advertisements are tailored to each specific viewer in order to maximize conversion into actually spending money.

Mix the two together:
Raw pictures being processed on the fly to match each one's taste.

I also think about 3d mapping and scene recognition: it's well known that a photo with depth information allows to compute depth of field effect in post. But what if the processing tool, be it in camera or not, would also recognize what the scene is.
Like 'this is a lamp post', 'this is the main person you were trying to take a portrait of', etc.

Then you would be able to manipulate the objects, move them, remove them, change size or texture.

sam w's picture

I don't see that being a thing.

not that consumers don't know what they want, or have to be told what they want. being the photographer I know what I want the viewer to see.

I can absolutely see a world where the software I'm using learns what I want the output file to look like, and so it does a pre-filter of the file to that, then I can make other adjustments after. and it continues to learn based on those edits. ultimately, I would have to do very little to an image after it goes through the filter.

perhaps I would even have a few different types of final destination types, and when I load an image I mark them as such, then it edits that photo accordingly.

the biggest problem I would have with this is that assuredly, whatever company does this will have the AI in the cloud, so any edits I do are then stored for that company to use for their own benefit, rather than just mine, they will still charge me to use the software, and still get benefit from my use.

Stephen T's picture

"Just a thought: what if in the future the photo edit is not done on the photographer's side but on the viewer's side?"

Unlikely, in my opinion. In the early days of DVDs, much was made of providing facilities on disc to see alternative camera angles when watching a film. It never caught on and I suspect if you can find a disc with such interactive features then it is quite a rarity. Although what you describe could be a cool tool for teaching photography and composition, I see it having no mass market appeal at all.

Nick Rains's picture

I don't get this breathless imperative to "share instantly with friends". What about a bit of, y'know, actual thought before you decide your images are ready for the world to see?

RT Simon's picture

This piece is just so terribly composed. If this essay were a photograph, it may have broken all the rules of composition.

Sridhar Chilimuri's picture

Isn't the Zeiss ZX1 the first of such cameras of the future?

Timothy Turner's picture

For hose who still use film, it's not an issue. In the end, it's still about printing a photo on a piece of paper and hanging it on your wall.

Peter Blaise's picture

Slideshow.
.

chris bryant's picture

Still?

Simon Packer's picture

Yeah let's all run out and buy mirrorless. Mirrorless are faster than DSLR? At what? Certainly not viewfinder response. Maximum burst rate perhaps, although electronic shutter artefacts are a strong possibility. And battery life? Any attempt to further improve evfs in resolution and/or latency is likely to further increase the high power consumption.
Improvements in data transfer rate for mirrorless lenses are probably insignificant given the amount of data it is possible to transfer with just one contact pair anyway. The larger rear element possible with mirrorless may be an positive but in practice Canon were shifting many lens elements to smaller, more rearward ones in their big telephoto EF lenses to reduce weight. All lenses refract, that's how they work. Dispersion is the wavelength dependent variation in refraction and is routinely corrected for in lens components. The more nearly orthogonal light hits the sensor plane, the better, apart from reflection, which will be worse.
There are no reasons for sharing and editing to be any different between mirrorless and DSLR. And how many people go to the trouble of getting a quality camera only to habitually edit on a tiny screen?
I appreciate camera manufacturers have a resource dilemma but I don't think mirrorless is likely to replace DSLR entirely.

Peter Blaise's picture

Rangefinder.
.

EDWIN GENAUX's picture

Photographers with "Real Cameras" most too young to remember the film days but the Polaroid (a favorite of the girls) and Kodak Instamatic was well as Pocket Instamatics (110) a big hit AND with developing at a local drug store, for there are photo albums (yes paper and cardboard) still in many homes. Now there is the WWW with digital images all about and no censorship (Polaroid skirted around). And with the I want to see it now clients we may be back in the film days (sorta). The bad is no one prints, not even the 4x6's @ 36 cents! I mean has anyone looked at the walls in a normal non camera home? Paintings not photos on the wall but maybe only one or two and what about family in picture frames all over the place from everywhere. Fire has turned to electricity and digital images somewhere (who knows) for everyone as a device to see. Have you seen the person in Costco's selling photos framed or a tourist shop selling prints or paintings, both slow movers. What has to be Mastered "NOW" is not so much editing but SELLING and getting photos back in albums and on walls and in wallets (remember those never ending bragging photos). But a key to all in this endeavor is to remember to print the info/story on the back for how many old photos of family have no names OR dates everything was and is word of mouth and the same for digital. I still carry a photo of my wife and family members in my wallet for a photo is a time machine to the past for did it really happen? Or WOW she Was really Hot, just never noticed! What if the WWW shut down (there is a button in every country [yes] like water on a fire)! Opportunity print on facemasks maybe a 2 or more year thing!

Malcolm Wright's picture

Hard copy might make a come back particularly if digital wipe outs like the recent Adobe and Canon incidents become more common. For most people it only takes one incident to wipe a lifetimes photographic record. Very few people ( outside of professionals and keen hobbyistd) have a regular back up regime. If the cloud gets wiped there goes a lot of memories.
All corporations have a limited lifespan, most now survive for fewer years than the average working life time. What then, when the cloud provider folds..
Hard copy photo album books still sell and it only takes one major incident to have a small up lift in their sales.
We all used to have pictures we were proud to display, and more that lived in a shoe box or such like.
Aside from the real likelihood of a disaster there is also the relentless movement of format change. I wonder how many people have a video cassette tape of their wedding, but no longer possess a working video tape player. DVDs likewise.
Adobe Flash will no longer be supported from December 2020 for example..

Stephen T's picture

"Hard copy might make a come back particularly if digital wipe outs like the recent Adobe and Canon incidents become more common"

The British Library keeps an active of web sites that it considers to be culturally significant. It does not archive them electronically. It archives them on high quality acid free paper with an expected lifetime of 500 years or more. It does this because of the costs of maintaining a digital archive. Either you have to have a rolling conversion programme as media format become out of date or you have to maintain obsolete hardware in order to access obsolete formats. Both are expensive.

Mass market digital photography is only 15 years old. What happens when the JPEG is superseded? Or if a camera manufacturer goes out of business and third parties stop supporting its RAW files? You try to get data off a 5.25 inch floppy disc? 30 years ago they were ubiquitous. How you'd have to go to a specialised outfit to extract the data. Or if you want to read a Multimate Advantage II word processing file from 1989? You're s**t out of luck.

The same will happen with digital photography

Edward Bear's picture

Sometimes I think articles like this are posted just to get people pissed off enough to register so they can comment. The on-camera interface for simple things like deleting and minor editing is already TEDIOUS. The addition of "touch screen" now means I can automatically (inadvertently) change the focus point WITH MY NOSE!. Any professional is going to want a keyboard and mouse or pen to actually do more than the simplest cropping. More likely, AI will result in our getting ever-growing menus of features which will go unused 99% of the time. Already, I have to carry a printed copy of my camera's manual with me at all times. I appreciate the versatility and use many of the features but you should not have to have two BA degrees, an electronics engineering background and programming experience to work a camera.

Malcolm Wright's picture

In the camera I use waving a finger even some distance away from the evf eye piece de-activates the touch screen, never mind placing your eye up to it. The camera is set up in its menu to work that way.
So I'm curious to know which make of camera you're using and if you've inadvertently turned off the evf over riding the touch screen in your menu or if the camera itself can't switch between evf and rear touch screen?
I can get the opposite issue as my touch screen freezes when I sit down to review the days shots in camera, until I notice that I'm inadvertently de-activating it, with a finger of thumb too close to the evf activation sensor. At least I'm not missing a shot at the time though.

Juan Isaias Perez's picture

I will never admit to been old. But I will acknowledge I have been a photographer for 25 year. I started with point and shoot film. Then SLR negative film. Then the big switch was to color slides. Back then I had to wait 5 days to see my pictures. I then took a class on film development, to really understand the nuances of film and to appreciate the new digital age. I got rid of my SLR and switch to a DSLR. I could take a photo, edit it and print it the same day!

I just recently made a similarly dramatic change: swap my DSLR for mirrorless and all my photo editing software to AI based tools. And I am not looking back.

The camera will continue to evolve given the available technology and market. I don’t think we will be editing in camera. The camera will edit on its own and it will distribute the images on its own. Good or bad? It just what the market wants. Now you don’t have to go with the flow. You can get of the train at any stop you choose. Shoot film? Why not. Love to create AI based composites? Have a go at it. Photography is like an ever growing tree. And you are free to chose which branch fits your style best.

John Dyck's picture

Interesting concepts, already being realized to some degree, but there are (in my mind) at least two huge problems: i)How much can you really edit on a 3" screen?
ii)how often does one actually have suitable conditions (like enough time, proper light, good weather) to edit in the moment? Can a photographer really spare a few minutes after every shot?

Peter Reali's picture

I think that this doesn't go far enough about what is going to change in the future. You can see what is happening with sky replacement in Photoshop, ON1, Luminar etc using AI. The time will come when lenses will be done in software with special meta material electronic sensors along with all the other software features described in the article. Currently what keeps this from happening is cooling problems and keeping cameras small. The Microprocessors that are in cameras are not equivalent to desktop processors due to power dissipation. If you made the cameras big enough you could have the software features described in the article. Movies will have life like synthetic characters that are completely artificial and indistinguishable from real actors and actors are going to be a disappearing career. This will happen to save money. It will be possible to just describe a location and the camera will begin synthesizing the image from a bunch of controls that you set and using images he took and stored or stock photography images based on GPS locations. So where does this leave the photographer who considers his work is art, he will paint pictures using these techniques to make his art just like a painter using oil and brush. I think the wedding photographer and portrait photographer will still be employed because these need to be there in person to record an important event for families and couples.

Timothy Roper's picture

It's already upon us, and it already has a name: deep fake.

anthony marsh's picture

It will not affect me in the least. I will always have my film cameras such as my LEICA M-3, MAMIYA C cameras, BRONICA S2A, several IKOFLEX and several folders, When all of the built in filters fail mine will be available to be placed on my lenses. And don't tell me that film is dead, sales are increasing daily and some companies are producing new and old emulsions especially black and white.

Roger Jones's picture

Very true. Well said. I'm building a new darkroom, still have all my darkroom equipment from when I started in the 1970's

Les Sucettes's picture

Presets create pretty, but average and often easily dated photos that may look fine on a small to medium sized screen but will look crap printed. I love my Fuji presets but if I want a really good result I do it manually. If presets get introduced in camera all it would do is create more of a gap between pros and amateurs... all the better.

The future is bright.

Florin C's picture

That's the thing...the "Influencers" using that shit don't care to print a well edited, high res, clear photo. They just want a click-click-click snap to go up on Instagram for 32,584 Likes with hopes of getting free stuff from a sponsor.

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