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

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

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

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.

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?

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?

Jason Parnell-Brookes's picture

Jason is an internationally award-winning photographer with more than 10 years of experience. A qualified teacher and Master’s graduate, he has been widely published in both print and online. He won Gold in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014.

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Just another BS article by a well seasoned (10+yrs!!!!!!!😰) nobody looking for his 15mins!
Tech is moving so fast that the art is gonna be left most. Me, I don't care at all. My DSLR is just fine---likewise, so is my SLR.
The Doomsayers be damned! REAL photography will be around for quite some time. Besides...a little ol' EMP, or CME, will take care of all this fantastic photography metamorphosis...then, back to charcoal cave drawings.......

As a photojournalist working in government, this article is very true. Photographers have to adapt or they are going to be left behind. In order to beat the media, I usually send my images out via wifi straight to the phone with a quick edit for them to post on social media within minutes after a press conference. That's how we have to work to beat the clock. We are in an age where instant gratification is key to success. If we don't adapt we are left in the dust. You can apply that also to the wedding/engagement photography realm and send the photo to the client via text message, just edit the image via lightroom mobile apply the preset, and bam you just amazed the client. You just got yourself a 5 star review because you just treated the client like a queen they are. When it comes to photography, it all comes to experience and how you treat the client. Anyone can take a great photo, but how you treat a client can make a huge difference. Times are indeed changing and at a pace even I don't like but I have to adapt to stay in the game.

I you really think that instant gratification is the key to success and we have to beat the clock, you still have to learn a lot. What about art, what about light and composition, what about colours - heck, what about photogrpaphy? All less important than instant gratifications of (generally) unqualified people?
That all is just BS talk like "if we don't adapt we are left in the dust" as is this article: a meaningless nonsense paraphrased with big words.

I couldn't agree more. As incredible as technology is today, I'm grateful for having grown up in a time when it didn't dominate and decimate human interaction. And, I can't for the life of me wonder why anyone would want their wedding photos right away. If my wedding photographer had emailed me photographs the day of my wedding, I'd have been insulted not appreciative. Not to mention the fact that they would have taken days to download via 28.8bps.

This truly shows that the ones left in the dust are the ones that don't adapt. There are so many articles and YouTubers who even express this same sentiment. But then again I'm glad I'm kept up with the curve and able to do what I love because I was able to adapt to the ever-changing landscape. The ones that do are still in the game. The ones who don't are the ones complaining.

I could give a rat's a-hole about this. I don't do my photo work in this manner and never will. Then again, being retired, I shoot more exculsively for myself now. Everyone can have as much fun with it as they want. Hell....I'm still shooting with medium format film anyway. Like the dinasaur that I am.

Given that most innovation is happening on phones, the future looks like it's going to be smartphone for 99 percent of everything... 🤔
HDR...high frame rates... periscope lenses...editing apps...

I just watched an episode of a TV program called "Our Yorkshire Farm". It's a documentary and the episode I watched covered pre and during the recent Covid Lockdown. Part way through they announced the following parts of the program were shot using the mother of the family's mobile phone. The pictures were stunning it was only the framing that went off, particularly when they strapped the phone to a 4 year olds forehead to give a 4 year olds view of the world.
It was just a pity that they didn't show enough of the phone to make out which brand or model it is, as the results were every bit as good as the professional TV camera when viewed on a 48 inch 1920 HD tv.
If you get a chance to see the episode do so, hopefully you'll be as amazed as I was by the results from a mobile phone.

Let's take it a stage further, consider Microsoft Hololens and what that means for photography and video. Hybrid immersion and and the ability to take picture as you see it and creating interact-able avatars. How about a parrot mount camera, something sitting on your shoulders controlled by hand gestures and or eye control (or even a drone as shown by a lot of SciFi). In camera editing is unlikely for semi-pro or professional markets, however for consumers it's already here with regards to phones but those phones have a magnitude of power both in battery and SOC, then there's the resources you just don't have in cameras such as fast RAM. However offsetting that task to say to a AR headset or tablet is quite viable as we're already doing it. With Hololens you're not restricted by screen size but rather resolution and visual field of view both of which are solvable .

Phone's are a bridge to what's coming in the next decade, the only reason it's not here yet is down to lack of battery advancements.

Cameras are already collapsing to a niche device, there'll be people who'll still buy them but for the vast majority of the population desperate to live their lives on-line within the bubble of the latest social media craze then snap and go tech will dominate in whatever form that makes them look good.

Welcome to modern society, slavery though social media's chains and debt for gewgaws The current crisis has put a critical lens upon how we live that people just don't want to face the truth that essentially life is vacuous and realistically for many meaningless. So many people are screaming for social aid without realising they put themselves in that position by not preparing for the worst. Everyone grew complacent and those that tried to warn us was classed as nut jobs or ignored.

Even mirrorless isn't 'innovation', realistically a lot of the tech gone into them can be applied to dSLRs but manufacturers had to find a new way to make us part from our money. Same with the yearly mobile gadgets.

When you have 10 years of photographic experience I can see how you may think this is important, but with 55 years of experience this sounds like a logical small step forward.

The question is why would anybody need to hire a photographer? AI is no one's friend except those who own the technology. What is happening now in high-end imaging is coming to the entire field.

No-one wants to hire a photographer these days, this has been coming since Nokia (and arguably before) started pushing camera phones nearly a decade ago. It's only those that appreciate artisan goods that will be interested, even weddings was starting to be covered by phones because brides always baulked at paying photographers (however ironic that is). Social Media only hasted the end, and why pay a photographer who will give you prints and album after 6 months when you can have a social media gallery in real time for 'free'. It's only tradition that's keeping the photography industry alive.

I do not do consumer photography but I still, see wedding photographers here in the Midwest in the United States.

Ok I will tell you what the future will hold contac lenses will be the future of photography conected with a.i. with unlimited memory

It's a good thing to think about the continuing integration of all things photographic. But I have to say, my first few thoughts on reading this piece were... What's a DSLR?... then, In-camera processing? What?... followed by, What's a JPEG anyway? and finally... What's new about any of this? Come on. Such ironies demonstrate just how rot-rooted our little world is. Sure I love the gear. I love its capabilities, and I'm 110% confident that the so-called mirrorless (developed in... let's say, the very early 2000's) will be with us for decades, 4/3 or whatever. None of this is actually very complicated. The elephant is asking other questions, such as: What will you do with it?

You're basically describing the Galaxy NX from 7 years ago. Samsung was so ahead of everyone but sadly they dropped out. I'd love to see Android cameras as capable as the Galaxy NX in the future

After 45 years in the business I'm done, retired. I made a lot of money off photography and invested it wisely so I'm good to go. As for the changes,.....I don't know which way photography is headed. I believe cell phones will push digital cameras out of the market over time just look at the new iPhone 12 and the Google 5. Sad, but I believe it's going to happen. I believe film will be used more and more, I know a lot of pros are returning to film and using cellphones for digital. Most I know have both digital and film myself included, my lenses work both ways. I also believe video cameras will produced excellent stills in the very very near future. Some do very well now. I don't know. I wish it were the 1970's it was much easier and more fun.

Be safe

Welcome to the laid-back retired world. You think similar to myself. Although I don't foresee phones replacing digital cameras, at least not for pros. But they may take over a healthy share of the consumer market. As for film, I always have and still do shoot with film, especially in medium format. I do use digital though, but the bulk of my work is in film. Except for my Vietnam experience, I also wish it were back to the 70's. Love using my Nikon F2a, FE, Contax RTS and others. least we have good memories. Enjoy your time now and keep shooting - with FILM. Have fun.

Not sure what you are talking about... It already happened... what's left is serious amateurs and pros. They always will want better results and dedicated dials etc.

Sure maybe the tool will change and adapt, think how ALPA uses iPhones as a way to replace a viewfinder... but I don't see why a tiny sensor and optics should ever be better than a large sensor and real optics.

Think Leica... did the same stuff for 100 years and is, weirdly you may think, going stronger again... it's not that weird if you think it through...

nothing, when shooting analog

"full in-camera editing"

Maybe with an ipad/tablet camera, otherwise I don't see how that would be practical.

I think the next revolution will likely be when the generation of people who have never printed photos get to an age where they'll wish they had printed the photos they took when they were younger, because those are now lost due to obsolete digital media.

YAY - editing pix on a teeny camera fun

Until cameras have at least a 12 inch screen, I am not sure that most onboard editing is useful. At least for serious photographers.

Sorry Jason Parnell-Brookes, but I think you are a little behind in your prediction about the whole editing functions in cameras.
Nikon has had that for years, a bit in a simple form, but it is there, even with RAW editing.

The prediction about our cameras becoming "always online" or just "online" is always going to be hampered by one thing. You need a sim-card.
I'm not going to pay for another subscription.

To those that say - I'm not going to use that build-in editing software, if I ever get a camera with such properties, well don't. Noone is forcing you.

I have spent the last 7 months in Indonesia because of the lockdown with lots of time and opportunity to take pictures at amazing locations. Yet, although I packed 2 cameras (Sony A7r3 and A9) and a holy trinity of lenses to cover most common focal lengths as well as a macro lens, I find myself using my iPhone 11 pro most of the time. The reason for this I think is best described as 'Convenience vs Payoff'. I love taking pictures with my professional cameras, experimenting with settings, depth of field, trying different lenses, filters etc and I don't hate enhancing my pictures in post either. But carrying around heavy, expensive and vulnerable gear, especially on tough hikes isn't exactly comfortable and while editing can be fun, I don't like spending hours in front of my laptop in this nice climate either. A huge part of those inconveniences I took for granted and learned to love because of the payoff.
Pictures from a decent camera and top lens look so much better then a 'snapshot' taken with a smartphone.

Or.. On most occasions I used both and had to admit that often, the difference between my iPhone and camera shots wasn't that huge. Admitted, I don't have my 27" iMac here but still. An additional benefit of the iPhone is that it's always ready to capture the moment, like when you see a monkey in a funny pose. In those cases reaching for your bag to take out your camera means you're too late.

Anyway, to cut off my long story. With reduced difference in payoff, I see myself less motivated to bear the inconveniences of carrying around lots of gear, spend a lot of time post processing etc. The smartphone has already caught up with consumer compacts that formed the middle ground in the convenience vs payoff curve and I think in the future the gap between the capability of pro gear and smartphones will only decrease.

I'm not sure actually "photography" has changed since the very beginning.
What has been changing are tools we use to 'record the light'.
No matter the gear used; photography is still about light, the quality of that light and the shadows from that light

Cheers :)

I have no doubt that cameras will evolve in these ways that the author described. It is not a radical prediction. Indeed the technology is already headed in this way. The camera business has been steadily losing sales to smart phones. Anyone who is a occasional snapper of friends, families and holiday already has very few reasons to purchase a camera. Their phone will do everything they need.

Ergo, we are going to see sharp division of the market where camera manufacturers will seek to appeal only to professionals and serious amateurs/enthusiasts. This will be a much smaller market, which will see a contraction in the number of manufacturers and a concentration on "value add" of the sort the author describes with a corresponding hike in prices. We saw exactly this in the twilight years of analogue audio where you can spend thousands on a 'professional' record deck but the mid market has completely collapsed.

A far more interesting question is not which way the technology is going but the effect that technology change is having on the value photography is accorded in society. As an example, I was asked by a friend to take action photographs of her Tennis club's annual tournament (pre-covid). These would then be sold to raise money for the club. I wouldn't have got anything out of it; it was just a gesture for a friend. The problem was that the club members said they couldn't see the point of paying for something they could capture just as well on their phones! Even after they'd seen my portfolio that showed that was rubbish. I walked away from the project. I don't suffer morons gladly and cheap morons are the worst. I am just glad my career is in software, and project management, not photography!

These changes in photography are contributing to filling up thousands of data centers with hundreds of exabytes each and every day of pretty much the same boring ass images and videos. So basically, contributing to hasten the climate crisis.

Yes, few people know (or want to know) how "dirty" the cloud really is.

I don't know about you, but unless my life is on Instagram, my sensor size of choice is actually getting bigger as Digital Medium Format gets affordable, rather than ditching my DSLR in favour for the iPhone 14 or whatever it is now ... the revolution is happening both on the low end with APS-C achieving a much more balanced setup between lens sizes, quality, and capabilities compared full frame, and the high end where medium format becomes almost as capable as full frame cameras at much greater image quality.

In other words "Full-frame" is both overcrowded with choice and is what is getting squeezed. the market is shifting to Medium Format, APS-C and handphones.


I'm not going to be doing any high-end retouching on my camera or click a button and add a filter...especially for commercial work - That will never happen. Sure it's fine for a casual photographer - but when you need to deliver an image with specific instructions on lighting, color grading, and retouching markups...hell no.

I'm not worried about iPhone photographers taking my job - or some quick photoshop wannabe gimmick promising you perfect retouching and color work with a press of a button. It's what separates the casuals from the professionals.

I will keep shooting with my 8 year old D800 until it's on its last legs.

I edit some photos, mostly for social media posting from my DSLRs or mirrorless in my phone that has the mobile versions of Lightroom, PShop and Adobe Premier Rush. Adobe keeps updating these with new features.
The Samsung Galaxy Camera (3G) point-and-shoot had Android 4.1 Jelly Bean released in 2012. It allowed editing and sharing from the camera.. So the tech is not new or revolutionary as written here.

Editing in camera would be stupid and a waste of resources. But ya, things are starting to change, and will definitely be some changes coming.

I own a lot of high-end photography gear, yet I don't see this prediction coming true. Smartphone cameras are improving rapidly, are with us 24/7, provide larger screens than any dedicated camera will, and have the apps we prefer, and the contacts data we use, plus a keyboard, for distributing photos. If I were a handicapper, I'd say there's less than a 10% chance of this vision becoming true.

My best guess: Smartphone cameras will remain the primary camera for most people. As for carrying a separate camera, it has to deliver things a smartphone camera can't, which might be telephoto reach or lighting/accessory capability. Like millions of other people, I no longer carry the bulk and weight of a dedicated camera only for image quality without a specific purpose in mind; the smartphone cameras are already that good.

Well I was brought here on some promise of revelation within the field of photography. What we got was, one day someone will expand on the NX1 and will bring more smartphone features to the camera? I love the use of the term "edit" but yes one day we will shot in jpeg like format, apply a filter and have A.I. do the rest, in camera and even have a sim so we can post to Instagram, no phone required. The future of photography, get the exposure right and A.I. will do the rest, no need to wait on the right time of year, with the right weather conditions, just get to the location snap the shot, let A.I. do its thing, post, get a few thumbs up, have your dinner. No more waiting at night in the cold for a Milky Way shot, get there in the day, snap, replace the sky from a selection of skies in a drop down menu. Can you tell, maybe, but not on a 6' screen where all of this "photography" is consumed. The perceivable difference between a low effort photo enhanced with A.I. and a shot that took years of planning and lots of attempts will be very small if even there at all. So tell me again about the future of photography.

ZEISS ZX1 Digital Camera

This is one more in a long line of authors I believe is a bit overly enthusiastic about mirrorless technology. I agree that it has certainly brought change to the world of photography. However, even the slightest implication that mirrorless cameras will make photography "simple enough for the masses" is ridiculous.

The technical part of making great images is FAR easier than the artistic part. If you put a smartphone in the hands of an excellent photographer, they will produce some beautiful imagery. On the other hand, you can put a top of the line mirrorless camera in the hands of a novice, and the best you are likely to get will be snapshot quality images.

The online education sites are replete with courses teaching photographers how to get their cameras off "A" and start using manual mode. If even many of the enthusiast photographers don't utilize the features and capabilities of the cameras they have already purchased, why should I think a casual novice photographer will do so?

Mirrorless technology may bring new capabilities for the photographers who are serious about their work and will utilize the features, but just having a mirrorless camera so you can "edit a photo in real-time and post it online"...well, that is simply a gimmick to most real photographers. We already know that editing is a learned skill set, and you don't just hit a few buttons and have perfect photos. Sure, you can use preset looks or AI one-click edits, but seriously, who will want to edit their client images on a 4" camera display??? Even my 16" MacBook Pro is a challenge to edit on. I prefer a minimum of a dual 27" desktop setup for any serious editing.

Save these gimmicks for the novice consumer who just wants a good looking snapshot. You can not automate comes from the mind and vision of the photographer!

It all reminds me of the appearance of high-quality consumer digital video camcorders a couple of decades ago. They were so cheap, easy to use, and of relatively high image quality, that everyone could be a filmmaker with them. No need for large crews or years of experience. Plus, it could all be edited at home on a computer with a free pirated copy of Premiere! And some notables film were made like that, and still are. But as it turns out, the camera plays a very small part in producing a film, and all the other creative elements DO require a lot of experience and hard work. And the same thing is true for photography, on a smaller scale. A camera that's small, relatively cheap and automates a lot of things for you can help, but it's all still a pretty small part of the equation.

Possibly the best answer you can give to anyone saying technology will make photographers redundant.

It’s like saying iPods have made DJ’s redundant because you can now shuffle 1000 songs in your pockets (liking my Steve Jobs drop? :)