What Are Your Best Predictions for Photography in the Next Decade?

As we finally draw to a close of 20 years of awkward decade names (the Noughties and the... Teenies?), it's time not only to reflect, but to look forward. So, I want you to give me your best predictions for changes to the industry over the next 10 years.

The changes from the end of 2009 to the end of 2019 are significantly less drastic than 1999 to 2009, as well as 1989 to 1999. The digital revolution hit the industry hard and in a plethora of ways. Now, it feels a little like we're suffering diminishing returns until the next major change. While I both love and use mirrorless, it isn't really revolutionary. Similarly, other obvious changes are in line with other tech, like getting smaller, faster, and better in every way.

Two areas of the industry flourished over this decade: drones and video. Starting towards the latter end of the Noughties, drones began to become a staple in travel videographer and photographer kits, before breaching the doors to damn near everybody's kit bag. Video followed suit with higher interactions rates on social platforms, YouTube continuing to grow at an incredible pace, and thus, more of a yearning for video content. In keeping with that demand, gimbals became more affordable and useable for the average consumer too.

But I can't help thinking we're due something more substantial: another photographic singularity which is rejected by most of the veterans of the industry and embraced by the fresher faced 'togs. I began scribbling down ideas for how photography and videography might change during the Twenties, and here are my best three guesses. Remember to leave yours in the comments below, so you can reference it in 10 years as evidence that you're a prophetic genius or have it linked back to you as evidence you are, in fact, a dunce.

VR Integration

VR headsets were the big thing that hasn't quite picked up the steam we expected, a little like cryptocurrencies. And like crypto, I think it will come good sooner or later, because it just makes sense. In everything we enjoy, from music and theater to games and art, we want the experience to be immersive. As non-photographic mediums (like computer games and cinema) begin to mass adopt VR, the demand for more content that utilizes the technology is inevitable. It won't be long before watching videos on YouTube that are in VR will account for a high portion of the platform's traffic and uploads, which means photography as an industry has to rise to meet the need.

But the use of the tech isn't just flowing in that one direction. Recently, we have seen the introduction of the brilliant DJI FPV racing drones which allow you to fly them, as the name implies, in first person view. Apart from sounding about as much fun as I could have legally, it also creates opportunities for composition of photographs and difficult filmmaking techniques that has previously not been possible.

With that in mind, I think that both the use of VR technology and the creation of content that utilizes it will be substantial influencers of the industry over the next decade.

Cameras Reacting to Mobile Phone Photography

One gap I hadn't expected to be bridged this much over the last 10 years was mobile phone photography and DSLR (and mirrorless) cameras. There were scientific and physical barriers that meant the two were unlikely to ever meet, but they've been circumnavigated. The biggest separator between the two was depth of field and how difficult that was to attain with a phone, as they have such small sensors and wide lenses. In stepped algorithms.

At first, the fake shallow depth of field was noticeable and rough around the edges, literally. But it's improving year on year, and while I still think that most photographers could spot fake shallow depth of field very quickly, that won't last forever. There are already some shots you can't be sure of, particularly with clip-on lenses like Moment produces. These outliers will become more and more commonplace.

Furthermore, Google has introduced astrophotography into their camera app via long exposures, image stacking, and automatic post-processing with machine learning. It's worth reading this blog post by Google on how it works and the issues they encountered as well as this news piece on how Samsung is doing something similar.

So, my prediction? This bridging of the gap cannot keep on, and laziness and lack of innovation from camera brands will see them struggle. Integrating technology typically seen in phones — like GPS, WiFi, and Bluetooth — is worth doing, but for standalone cameras to be prevalent outside of professionals and true photography enthusiasts, they have to offer something that phones can't and can't fake. What this is is tricky to say. VR could certainly be one route. Either way, phone cameras are chasing DSLRs and mirrorless cameras down at a rate of knots to the point where I'm no longer sure standalone cameras can outrun phones, instead needing to pivot. Image quality, resolution, and artistic control are metrics that soon will not work in their favor.

My Curveball: Cameras to Get Bigger

I wrote recently on my appreciation for heavier, larger cameras and the tactile sensation and operator satisfaction that offers. I see that I'm not alone in that sentiment, and I began to dive further into the benefits larger cameras might offer other than the intangible. For example, everything a camera of any kind can offer, a larger camera can offer an improved version of, at least in principle: resolution, battery life, memory, and so on. Also, with a large screen on the back and more processing power, it isn't unthinkable that post-processing could be baked in to the unit, with a touchscreen similar to that of higher-end graphical tablets.

The nature of technology is to get smaller and smaller, but only to a point. Then, similar to the cyclical trends of fashion, bigger may go back to being better. As I mentioned in the article linked above, there is something distinctly more enjoyable about taking photographs on a medium format body with a large lens than my mobile phone.

What Are Your Predictions?

Over to you now. Etch your name in photography history with an incredibly astute observation for the next decade.

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Christian Lainesse's picture

I am hoping that Sirui is on to something with its cheap anamorphic lens, and Panasonic with its in-body desqueeze option. Anamorphic could be the next trend.

stuartcarver's picture

Mine is a bold prediction, I’ll keep taking photos and will hopefully get better. All that other stuff, not bothered.

Jeff Walsh's picture

I dont think we'll see many big changes, and only a few small ones.

-Mirrorless will still be the way companies are going.

-VR, if it becomes better and more affordable within a decade, will be dominated by video not photography.

-I do think we'll see more connections between phones and cameras (as long as phones stay predominant) as everything revolves around our phones now.

-A decline in the amount of people claiming to be photographers once they realize there's no money or notoriety in it unless you're actually a good photographer.

-Hopefully a push for quality over quantity and a shift from repetitive shots into originality (this is unlikely).

zave smith's picture

I have been an active full-time photographer since 1978. While the technology changes, the power and the need for visual storytelling in the form of still photography remains the same. We have amazing word processing software but we still need authors.

That said, the ability to earn a nice living creating still images will only become harder with fewer being able to achieve turn talent into dollars.


stuartcarver's picture

And Wesley Snipes will be prancing around in dungarees with yellow hair murdering people ;)

stuartcarver's picture

Oh yeah, some of the crap that’s had a run of sequels (fast and furious).. that definitely deserves one.

Jonas Karlsson's picture

Im sticking my chin out here and predict taking images that makes you feel will be the deal. Like it did in the 18 and 90's

Jeffrey Puritz's picture

My prediction is not great. Continued contraction in market and the disappearance of most ecosystems (blogs, accessory makers...) The Japanese mfgrs will become Leica like selling very high end high margin products and lenses and the Chinese will take over whatever remains of the low to medium end of the chain both in camera bodies and lenses. Maybe they will figure out how to integrate ILC's with phones? maybe not, IDK.
Hoping for the best but whenever I am out shooting I only see other old men (sometimes old women) with stand alone cameras. I can't remember the last time I saw anyone under forty holding a camera instead of their phone.

Sophie Charlotte's picture

I'm 18😃 pretty sure thats under 40. And I have a tonne of friends in a photography group who are all around my age.

Joe Vahling's picture

My Prediction. A.I. will be more active in the post process and even the pre-process of photography.

AI Image culling.
AI image Cropping
AI Image editing

And this technology will spill over to phones and mirrorless cameras before you even take the image with AI composition.

Rhonald Rose's picture

VR is not a photography thing.

For photography;
Continues lighting will be able to provide strobe equivalent lights
Sensors will evolve, shutter shock will be a thing of the past
Glasses will start vanishing from the camera and lenses
Apsc will be the new micro four third, full frame will be the new apsc and medium format will be the new full frame
Camera tech will be deep learning driven (assisted focus, composition guide, shot optimization, AR integration will guide photographers to take better shots at tourist locations, intelligent color correction)
Camera to internet integration will be way better
Bluetooth 7 + wifi 10 + 8g will be enhancing and distracting at the same time
Software bugs will be a thing with the cameras
Camera will have app store and you can purchase apps for certain activities
VR headset a could be the next EVF
Better dynamic response thanks to machine learning + hardware improvements
Cards and local storage will be replaced with camera to cloud storage
Smartphones will eat all of micro four third market and some of apsc market
Smartphone photography will be entirely software + DL + AR driven (immersive)
Market will be half of what we have right now
Video will be the biggest thing, photography will complement videos
And more distractive and useless things will be added

Martin Van Londen's picture

The real power is strobes are in the short flash duration.. so I don’t think they will ever fuse.

Dave F's picture

I predict there will be a shortage of actual commercial photographers because everybody will think that being successful means running a YouTube channel telling everybody else how to be successful (and how to use frequency separation).

Sophie Charlotte's picture

The frequency separation part got me 🤣🤣🤣

michaeljinphoto's picture

1. Samsung hops back into the camera market to challenge Sony for dominance in the image sensor industry.
2. Pentax ceases operations.
3. 6x9-equivalent sensors begin to emerge in the consumer market.
4. Certain events and venues begin to ban shutter sounds.
5. Apple partners with Leica to bring iCloud integration and social media tools to Leica cameras.
6. People finally stop using TEAL AND ORANGE.
7. At least one legacy SLR company (Canon, Nikon, Olympus, etc.) releases a very expensive re-issue of one of their classic film cameras.
8. Memory cards begin to be phased out in favor of integrated SSD's in conjunction with cloud storage solutions using 5G connectivity.
9. China gains more prominence in the industry with at least one Chinese lens manufacturer gaining Sigma-like respect and one Chinese camera company entering the market.
10. The increased connectivity and capability (particularly resolution) of cameras subjects photographers to far greater suspicion in public eyes with laws being passed to place restrictions on public photography with "professional cameras" under the banner of national security.

Deleted Account's picture

Spat my tea out at number 6 :D

imagei _'s picture

You're right. That silly predicion will not happen for sure.

michaeljinphoto's picture

Well, we can dream... 😂

Sophie Charlotte's picture

6 would be great. The actual likelihood of it happening is pretty slim

Matt Williams's picture

I agree with a number of these as quite likely (and others obviously are more wishful like #3 - first we need to see full size 6x4.5 sensors become the *standard* for medium format).

#1, #2, #4, #9, and unfortunately #10 are most likely to me. Though the latter would be in violation of several laws in the United States, but I can see it happening in other countries.

michaeljinphoto's picture

Well I'm hoping that a combination of sensors coming down in price as well as nearing the limits of pixel density will spark a move toward bigger medium format sensors to continue increasing image quality. It's certainly wishful thinking, but I do think that barring some paradigm shifting leap in sensor technology, we're eventually going to get to a point where the only way to improve IQ is to simply create greater surface area for the image. Perhaps the next decade is too short for this, though.

Matt Williams's picture

Oh for sure - I agree that before long, 6x4.5 full size will become the standard (we already HAVE the sensors, they're just in insanely expensive Hassys and Phase Ones). I'd love to see a 6x6, most likely from Hasselblad... eventually 6x9, which is the same aspect ratio as our current 35mm sensors.

So, yes, I agree entirely - we're pushing the limits of what's really feasible (pixel density wise) for sensor sizes. I think the a7R4 is really the limit for full frame and 100mp the limit for 33x44. After that, diffraction is going to be just too much of a problem.

Edit: I GUESS we could do 80mp FF, which is the same as 20MP micro 4/3, but still... if you need that much, get a MF camera.

Deleted Account's picture

Selective colouring will make a comeback.

Deleted Account's picture

We will develop nanotechnology which will permit us to use our eyes as cameras.

Resistance is futile.

Matt Owen's picture

With increases in bandwidth computational photography will be "outsourced" to a cloud platform. Take a photo, the raw is uploaded and you get a processed image (or multiple variations) back. The bonus is your phone/camera gets upgrades to its processing without needing new hardware.

Andreas S's picture

Computational photography will become increasingly important, making its way from smartphones into mass-market and pro cameras. Related to this, expect metadata to play a bigger role; for example, data from motion sensors, ambient light conditions and sensor temperature might allow in-camera corrections or additional editing options. Cameras will gain additional sensors to support all of this.

Your camera will generally get a lot smarter. It will know where it’s pointing and what it’s pointing at, and where it is relative to the photographer, the external lighting and the subject. Cameras and peripherals will gain a LOT more computing power, and exchange massive amounts of data with minimal latency. Memory cards in the camera will become less important as image data is offloaded wirelessly in realtime.

Some things that currently require Photoshop or a similar image editor will become in-camera effects or adjustments, like taking a black and white photo where only the moving objects are in color, or automatically straightening the horizon.

Cameras will increasingly rely on tethering to phones and other devices to extend their capabilities. In some cases, this may be so useful that it would be almost inconceivable to use a standalone camera.

Cameras will become an infection vector for malware within the next decade.

Camera sensors will become smarter as well, allowing pixel-level ISO control (think on-sensor HDR within a single image) and crazy burst rates as the sensor captures only the pixels that change between one frame and the next. You will be able to take a photo with mixed ambient lighting and have the sensor apply different white balance settings to everything in the frame. Customizable sensor readout patterns will make flash sync issues an antiquated concern, or allow artistic effects that currently require superspecialized custom hardware. Your camera’s sensor will let groups of pixels (i.e., 2x2, 3x3, 4x4 pixel clusters) act as virtual pixels, gathering much more light at the expense of resolution.

We will see AI play more of a role, with condition-based image capture (e.g., when nobody is blinking, or when the horizon is level, or when your child is smiling), or automatically switching to burst mode when a ball is moving in the frame. You will be able to train your camera, and camera owners will be able to trade or share custom training modules, letting you benefit from pros who have optimized their camera AI for bird photography, landscapes, or surfing competitions.

AIs will design lenses, reducing chromatic aberration and allowing uniform sharpness across the entire sensor area.

Smart tripods will become a thing.

Smart lighting will also become a thing; groups of lights will coordinate with each other over a dedicated mesh network. You will be able to place lights around a room, and by knowing where your camera is and where it’s pointing you will always get the right key/fill ratio and never have a flash firing into your lens. LEDs will become the lighting standard, with flash tube-based strobes fading from the scene; a few strobes will instead be replaced by a large number of tiny, networked LED lights (think Lume Cube units) working in concert. You will be able to light a scene with a swarm of small drones; wedding photographers will love this.

Non-pro cameras will develop interesting and untraditional form factors.

Camera hacking will be a specialized niche hobby, and customized firmware will allow capabilities the hardware designers never imagined. Think of the Magic Lantern firmware for Canon, but with access to the hardware with the capabilities speculated above.

Royston Phillips's picture

Camera manufacturers will only be producing high end cameras for professionals and the well heeled. The rest of us will be using phones. Nikon and Canon may survive, but the likes of Pentax/Ricoh, Olympus will go bust, and Sony/Panasonic will drop stills cameras as they become unprofitable.

craig salmon's picture

In about nine years or so a halfway decent waterproof camera may be produced

We're going to look back and remember when the internet wasn't so harmful to connect too. All these subscription based software are going to look like a nightmare once we realize in order to use them we will need to allow our expensive workstations to connect to the internet. We are going to need to learn to air gap our files

Hopefully the art schools finally start teaching business practices for artists (after centuries of having their heads in the sand)

Strict contracts about archival retrieval of files are going to become a fairly big talking point

the concept of the cloud will not be innocent white puffy dream storage solutions - it will take on major risks both in being held in a contractural ransom with ever increasing rates (time-share condos) or compromised files that can in turn infect your protected in house system.

Companies are going to have to invest more into their creative departments and hopefully the young applicants will demand the salary they deserve one that sees the value in being creative, able to handle multiple intensive software programs, a director able to direct multiple team players all under the corporate deadline. I think its funny how many people in other positions get paid so well and have never had to learn a software program especially ones as advanced as photoshop or final cut

Tom Reichner's picture

I don't really have any predictions for photography itself over the next decade, but I do have a prediction about photography gear over that timespan.

I think that in 10 years, wildlife photographers will still be wanting an Animal Eye Auto-focus system that performs perfectly in all conditions, but manufacturers still won't have one.

We will want and need an Animal Eye AF that instantly picks the animal's nearest eye out of the scene, locks on to it, and does not let go. We need it to be able to do this, no matter how far away the animal is, or how small it is in the frame. And we need it to do this instantly even when the animal's eye is in a deep dark shadow.

To date, every type of Eye AF has some kind of limitations, some conditions in which it doesn't function rapidly or perfectly. And, sadly, I think this will still be the case 10 years from now, and we will still be getting some shots where the animal's eye isn't in perfect focus.

I hope I end up being wrong, but I have lost all faith that manufacturers can or will give us a perfect tool in just 10 years' time.

Harshit Bavishi's picture

What do you think will be the impact of ubiquitous 4K screens with true HDR (Vs tone mapping)? Will we start using 10- or 12-bit JPEGs to display our files?

Will true HDR replace current HDR in still photography as well?

Will larger cameras with larger sensors regain their prominence because of the ability to better capture dynamic range, color and tonal detail?

Will IoT have an impact on photography?

Tom Reichner's picture