Three Driving Forces That Will Shape Your Photography In 2014

Three Driving Forces That Will Shape Your Photography In 2014

Change is afoot and 2014 could well be the year that completely redefines the photo and video landscape as we know it. It doesn’t matter if you you shoot weddings, fashion, portraits, landscapes, products, food or concerts - these changes will affect us all. Here are three game changers - let's take a look at what they are, what they could mean for you, your photography and your business.

 

1. Sales Of DSLMs (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) Systems Will Continue To Grow; DSLRs Will Continue to Slump

2013 was the pivotal year for the compacts/mirrorless market. More mirrorless cameras came to market than DSLRs in 2013 and they grew market share while DLSR sales slumped.

Six weeks ago, the NY Times reported that The Camera and Imaging Products Association, a trade group whose members include Fujifilm, Nikon, Canon and other Japanese camera makers, says overall shipments of digital cameras plunged 39 percent in volume, and 26 percent in value, from January through September. Fujifilm X-series devices and other mirrorless cameras, declined only 13 percent in volume and 5 percent in value during the same period, the trade association said, showing the marked difference in DSLR VS. DSLM market growth.

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According to Bloomberg, Hiroyuki Sasa, CEO of Olympus, says its mirrorless cameras will rise to 1 million units as early as April 2014, and account for 5 percent of the global market share; if Olympus achieves those figures, it will bring $68 million in operating profit. “What mirrorless cameras can do has now become toe-to-toe with cameras with mirrorbox,” Sasa told Bloomberg.

What It Means For You

So is 2014 the year that signals the death of the DSLR? No - mirrorless systems still have some way to go, but as the new full frame bodies like Sony's A7R prove (UPDATE: and introduction of the A5000, the self proclaimed lightest interchangeable lens camera soon to be available), pressure is going to continue to bear down on Canon and Nikon to step up their game if they want to compete with the new mirrorless bodies. As prosumers in particular continue to redefine the market with their buying power, expect the mirrorless market to drive the momentum in interchangeable lens camera systems through 2014.

After spending the last month with Fuji’s new XE-2 camera , I’m convinced of the power mirrorless has. These cameras pack a huge punch and the small form factor doesn't compromise image quality from what I can see. I won’t be selling my Mk3 just yet, but I do want to put a mirrorless system and some glass through it’s paces this year and see how well it fares. Watch this space for developments of that - and let me know if you’d be interested in seeing a DSLR / mirrorless shoot off.

 

2. Stills and Motion Convergence Continues; 4K Set To Explode

The ongoing obsession with Instagram is testament to our ongoing love of making photographs. With that said, digital video consumption (and production) continues unabated.  I wrote last year about how the photographic skill set is going to become a prized commodity as we continue to create more, increasingly compelling digital video.  If you are so inclined, 2014 would be a great time to dip your toes into the wonderful world of video.

Meanwhile, 4K is coming - fast. Time magazine reported this week that Michael Dell said that his company would have 4K monitors on the market sometime in 2014 that were priced around $1,000. Dell currently carries a 32-inch model for $3,500 and a 24-inch model for $1,300. That puts home 4K viewership into the price point of a decent new large screen LED TV.

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Further evidence of product shift and momentum for 4K comes from the dissolving of the OLED joint venture between Sony and Panasonic as both companies decided to focus attention and budgets around 4K production, instead of OLED.  Sure, there isn’t much 4K content yet out there yet - but it’s coming and quickly too. Netflix has reported it will be streaming 4K content of shows and movies this spring and it began piloting "Ultra HD" content back in November.

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RED have been capturing magazine cover shots from stills grabs from their 4K cameras for some time so it’s not likely to be too much of a surprise if clients start to cut the photographer line item in the budget and just request stills grabs from the video guy.

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What It Means For You

Video is here to stay – and rich multimedia content is in high demand (and also just conveys the story or message in such an engaging way – check out the NY Times “Snow Fall” story to see a great example of rich multimedia content in action). As photographers, you’re in a great position to move into the world of video. But if that doesn’t appeal, think about the potential to partner with local video production crews. The key is to build strong partnerships with those whose work you admire so you can deliver richer, better quality content to existing and potential clients when they want more than just what you're able to offer. 

UPDATE: As my colleague Dave Wallace has just reported, Sony have just announced at CES their $2000 4K camcorder. Check out the link for a 4K preview video - it's insane).

3. The (Wearable Tech) Revolution Will Be Televised – By You

Google Glass hits the streets this year. You might have seen the early adopters of Glass wandering about. Mat Honan of Wired Magazine spent a year with Glass, and while he began to amusingly refer to himself  and other early adopters as “glassholes”, he said there is no escape from the fact that wearable tech is coming and it’s going to change everything. For those curious to get a feel what this might actually look like, you can get a first person perspective from the video below.

Wearable tech isn't going to replace our gear. What it's doing though is totally meeting a need for us to record everything, anytime, anywhere, in any place without holding a device.

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If you haven't seen it, the Google Glass Photographer is a funny video that shows exactly what this change could look like in action.

Joking aside, how we begin to document our lives and the ability for us to do it in ways where the gear we wear (rather than hold) helps us to do so, will have a profound effect on what content we produce, how we produce it, and what we want to see from other content providers.

What It Means For You

From a gear standpoint, this doesn’t change much for your average professional, but it’s likely to be dramatic in terms of what people want to shoot, how they shoot it, and what clients will (and won’t) pay for. Just as we've seen with digital, the photography market will continue to split between the many millions (or billions) of people out there who would never pick up a "real" camera, and those who are using high end pro-sumer or pro products and equipment. Those who are well versed in lighting technique, post production creative work and who work well with people will probably all continue to be in demand as those are the sorts of skills "professional" photographers will be called in for.

Clients will continue to be split between the “DIY-style” brigade who will want to shoot things with an amateur or "minimalist" look and feel (either intentionally or as a way to reduce budgets, which I wrote about in relation to the world of music video budgets).

The key is to be clear with yourself about where you want to sit, don’t worry about trying to do everything and just focus on your area of strength and on meeting the demand in that way.

The Most Important Game Changer Of All - Is Still You

Don't worry, there is good news if this all feels a little overwhelming - the same principles of the last 150 years of image making will continue to shine through. The best visual media of 2014 probably won't be created with the hottest, latest, most expensive, newest equipment or stylistic changes. As always, it will be the simple ideas, executed well that capture the imagination of the viewer that will have the most resonance. This is important - the real game changer is and always will be you, and the content we create is really down to our own vision and how we choose to execute it.

If there are any other trends of changes underway that you’re interested in, or curious about, let me know in the comments below and I'll do my best to dig in to them and bring you the latest news and insights to help support your photography and business through 2014.

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20 Comments

For good quality 4K, one needs to couple it with good audio. We havent seen much of audio technology improved since 1980s. Maybe some research into that would be good? Which one will make its way to the consumer level? The Shure LensHopper VP83F seems to be a game changer?

David Geffin's picture

thanks Timothy, will look into this for a review post

I didn't read this post because that lead photo is just wrong. wrong. Seriously, what do you think that photo says to an actually diverse audience (a.k.a. diverse in thought, ethnicity, gender....)?

Did you mean to say the key visual for the article is misleading? Yes! You are right! It just doesnt link to the content.

The main photo is from google glass... Not that difficult to figure out. If you read the article they feature google glass. Well what do yuh know!?

You forgot #4. Everyone who wants to be taken seriously in the photo/video world needs to own a yellow python.

Lee Christiansen's picture

mmm...

Of course a lot of us quite like a big heavy camera. I've tried things smaller than my 5D3 with a grip, and I just can't get on with them. I don't use the grip in the vertical position but I still prefer to have it as it makes the camera more manageable.

I guess mirrorless will be the future as it will reduce manufacturing issues - but decent viewfinders will be essential and I'm thinking we're several years away from that yet. (Be nice to get really fast sync speeds though, so that would be great).

4K is the thing we're told we need when I'm guessing we really don't. We'll end up having it though whether we do or not...! Unless you're sitting on top of a very large screen, TV isn't screaming out for higher resolution. Seriously, were we all shouting at 1920 res and declaring is was better but the pictures were still fuzzy...? I'm not sure I want to see an image at greater resolution than my eyes can resolve. There comes a point when too much detail and information becomes less restful to the eyes.

Now, if we could have better programmes... that would be nice...

4K for photography makes me smile. If were were talking about some new stills camera at this resolution we'd be deriding it as not good enough. And if it were limited to 1/50 or 1/60 sec shutter speed (which is typical for TV or film production,) then we'd be complaining about motion blur!

There will be those production houses and PR agencies who "cheap out" and just use images from video cameras, (even if if they're cheaping out on a £30K camera...) but stills photography requires skills and technique which is different from video. (I speak as a pro in both fields). There is a recent campaign from one of the big banks in the UK where they're using stills from the advert, and alas they're not very good. If they'd replicated the shots with a dedicated photographer they'd have had much more impact.

...And if the world all starts walking around in daft glasses, recording every event and seeing everything through a haze of display screens and Google info - then I'm off to a quiet island with no electricity.

All moans aside, we've got interesting times ahead - but I hope none of the above become game changers - even in the next 5-6 years, never mind 2014.

(Now... where's my VHS deck and ZX81...?)

I just think there's something sad about the cover shot as a frame grab. I know business is business, and it still takes a good eye for a good edit, but this just sucks the magic out of it somehow. It's like we look at Avedon's shot and say "We're not in the business of your level of effort anymore, and we're not going to try."

David Apeji's picture

I find it interesting how you choose to quote one NY Times article in favor of another: http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2013/12/29/business/29reuters-japan-camer...

David Geffin's picture

I hadn't seen that article, but regardless, the post is based on what i see, hear in the industry and interpret from various sources. That article doesn't mention the fact DSLR sales slumped in comparison to mirrorless for most of the year; instead they focus on the 3 week period leading up to December 14th. Three weeks, IMHO, isn't long enough to establish any sort of trend or to try and define medium-long term industry moves.

David Vaughn's picture

The cheapest 4K television from a mainstream seller is around $2000. The cheapest ones are from off-brand companies and even they're $700. And there are STILL cable stations that have not made the switch to 1080p. I doubt that saturating the market with more $2000-$4000 TVs will cause more people to buy them when there are so few places that even produces 4K content.

No doubt that mirrorless cameras are where the tech is headed however I have yet to see a reason why that matters. It makes no difference to the end result and in many ways it doesn't even change the way a camera is used. This isn't adding video to still cameras this is just making them a bit smaller and using a different kind of viewfinder.

Regarding #2: "Stills and Motion Convergence Continues; 4K Set To Explode," stills and motion will not "converge" as shooting optimum stills and video @ the same time will remain physically difficult if not impossible, as optimum stills and video require different exposure times and shutter speeds.

Two-page Red EPIC advertisements in photography publications and major glossies recently read, “Shoot a feature and the poster for it at the same time,” while stills pulled from 4K and 5K Red video footage regularly grace the covers of high-end magazines. Award-winning New York Times photographer Doug Mills mounted one DSLR atop another, calling his novel apparatus the “Double-Shot.” USA Today sports photographer Robert Hanashiro mounts an HD GoPro camera on a lens hood to capture video while shooting stills, writing on his site, “Obviously the best way to shoot a video gig is dedicating yourself to shooting just video. But in the ‘real world’ of newspaper photographers we’re having to multitask more and more.” NikonUSA.com presents various strategies for capturing HD-sized stills on a page appropriately titled, “What to do When you Need Stills while Shooting HD Video.”

But can one shoot optimum stills & video @ the same time with a single camera?

A touch of motion blur in video frames is more pleasing to the eye, while sharpness is generally sought in photographic stills. For this reason, the Red cameras are limited, even with their 4K and 5K image sizes. If you optimizes the shutter speed for sharpness with speeds of 1/2000s or just 1/1000s, the video will appear “stuttery,” like those old black and white WWII film clips. Should you optimize the shutter speed for video at around 1/60s to 1/120s, motion blur will creep into the stills, showing up in handheld shots or when the subject is moving. When photographer Kevin Arnold used a $65,000 Red EPIC rig (now around $40,000) to shoot skiers at Whistler Mountain, he concluded, “The EPIC’s sensor, while amazing for video, just isn’t on par with top-end DSLRs and certainly not even close to medium format digital cameras when it comes to still images. The bigger challenge—especially when shooting fast moving lifestyle or sports action—is achieving fast shutter speeds. The great majority of the frames we shot were soft due to either camera movement or subject motion blur. This is the single biggest issue with pulling stills from video.”

Soon the processing power to shoot both full-sized RAW stills and RAW video will arrive across the board, as it exists today in the Red systems. In a couple years, 4K video, which is about 4 times the size of HD video (more than enough for feature films at your local multiplex), will replace HD as the standard, and even our smartphones will be shooting 4K video. But as aforementioned, while stills pulled from a 4K video will be large enough for print magazines and billboards, their exposure times will not always be optimum, especially in hand-held scenarios or when shooting motion. If you increase the shutter speed for sharper images, the video will suffer. Thus two cameras—one dedicated to stills and one to video—will continue to have advantages, as optimum stills and video generally require different exposure times. Also, this allows you to capture different fields of view in the stills and video, with different depths of fields, and, as we have seen, different shutter speeds; all of which suggests the use of a dual-camera system.

From the article published in the Winter 2013 Resource Magazine:

How Will You Shoot Quality Stills & Video @ The Same Time?
http://45surfer.wordpress.com

Despite the "tools" one chooses to use, DSLRs will have their place even if mirrorless catch up with the market. DSLRs may be bulkier and noisier, but the optical viewfinder is not an expendable feature. The way an image is conceived through a direct view versus an electronic one differs in that in the OVF you don't see a representation already, I mean, you still see the "real" object although it is already bounced three times in the pentaprism. It is not only about a "real time" representation in a screen, but about what you leave in or out, those tiny details I mean.

Yes, I own both systems, and I prefer the bulkier DSLR over the mirrorless.

The way I see it is that mirror cameras "whatever" Hopefully it will make DSLR cheaper and that way I can continue to own the best "DSRL

Frame grabs really don't work for a lot of things and it's understandable that non-photographers don't fully recognize the limitations of a video frame.

It is impossible to have a cinematic look of anything moving and then grab a frame and make that poster sized without significant motion blur.

Our eyes trick us when watching video.

Not so when looking at a still image.

Any video shot with higher shutter speeds doesn't have that cinema look. Look at something shot with high frame rates and high shutter speeds vs traditional film look cinema footage. See which you prefer to watch as a moving image and then try and capture a frame from the one you prefer for a still.

You will likely pick the cinema look and it will be a horrendous still.

While a RED might be able to shoot hundreds of thousands of frames during a session and get a useable still if a sufficiently high shutter speed is used, why not set up your shot and just do it once instead of machine gunning and pulling a frame? Easier to machine gun with expensive equipment vs having the techniques and knowledge to pull it off in just a frame or two maybe?

If you want the best look for a still and motion.. you WILL do it twice as of right now.

*Exactly* Michael.

"If you want the best look for a still and motion.. you WILL do it twice as of right now."

Yes! For three years running I have challenged any RED operators to capture better stills & video @ the same time with a RED camera than I can capture with two cameras at a major surfing event. So far there have been no takers:

http://blog.9shooter.com/2012/05/9shooter-vs-red-epic-red-scarlet.html

And yet, they continue to preach the gospel that RED can capture great stills & video @ the same time. I'll give them four more years of preaching this, without ever backing it up. :) Such is the nature of major corporation PR + fanboys = unlimited, unsubstantiated hype. :)

Two-page Red EPIC advertisements in photography publications and major glossies recently read, “Shoot a feature and the poster for it at the same time (which was misleading as one wants the poster to be sharp, and the film frames to have a touch of motion blur),” while stills pulled from 4K and 5K Red video footage (optimized not for video, but for stills) regularly grace the covers of high-end magazines. Award-winning New York Times photographer Doug Mills mounted one DSLR atop another, calling his novel apparatus the “Double-Shot.” USA Today sports photographer Robert Hanashiro mounts an HD GoPro camera on a lens hood to capture video while shooting stills, writing on his site, “Obviously the best way to shoot a video gig is dedicating yourself to shooting just video. But in the ‘real world’ of newspaper photographers we’re having to multitask more and more.” NikonUSA.com presents various strategies for capturing HD-sized stills on a page appropriately titled, “What to do When you Need Stills while Shooting HD Video.”

But can one shoot optimum stills & video @ the same time with a single camera?

A touch of motion blur in video frames is more pleasing to the eye, while sharpness is generally sought in photographic stills. For this reason, the Red cameras are limited, even with their 4K and 5K image sizes. If you optimizes the shutter speed for sharpness with speeds of 1/2000s or just 1/1000s, the video will appear “stuttery,” like those old black and white WWII film clips. Should you optimize the shutter speed for video at around 1/60s to 1/120s, motion blur will creep into the stills, showing up in handheld shots or when the subject is moving. When photographer Kevin Arnold used a $65,000 Red EPIC rig (now around $40,000) to shoot skiers at Whistler Mountain, he concluded, “The EPIC’s sensor, while amazing for video, just isn’t on par with top-end DSLRs and certainly not even close to medium format digital cameras when it comes to still images. The bigger challenge—especially when shooting fast moving lifestyle or sports action—is achieving fast shutter speeds. The great majority of the frames we shot were soft due to either camera movement or subject motion blur. This is the single biggest issue with pulling stills from video.”

Soon the processing power to shoot both full-sized RAW stills and RAW video will arrive across the board, as it exists today in the Red systems. In a couple years, 4K video, which is about 4 times the size of HD video (more than enough for feature films at your local multiplex), will replace HD as the standard, and even our smartphones will be shooting 4K video. But as aforementioned, while stills pulled from a 4K video will be large enough for print magazines and billboards, their exposure times will not always be optimum, especially in hand-held scenarios or when shooting motion. If you increase the shutter speed for sharper images, the video will suffer. Thus two cameras—one dedicated to stills and one to video—will continue to have advantages, as optimum stills and video generally require different exposure times. Also, this allows you to capture different fields of view in the stills and video, with different depths of fields, and, as we have seen, different shutter speeds; all of which suggests the use of a dual-camera system.

Lens are the current restriction to wide spread 4K. To get all the information you need the type of lenses Panavision, Zeiss, Leica, Cookes & Angeniuex manufacture. Fuji have made some good zooms also but all of these are way more expensive than most people can afford Nikon & Canon lenses dont cut it from their DSLR ranges and nor do compact system / mirrorless camera lenses.

Google Glass & photography simply dont go together not if you care about craft.