Where Is Photography Going?

As technology advances, the tools photographers can use to create their visions are more accessible, varied, and intuitive than ever before. I have a feeling this means our definition of photography and our uses for it are going to expand like crazy. It may also mean a photographic renaissance.

Photography has been in a state of growth since its very inception. People have always looked for ways to make a photograph more than a mere representation. Now, we have the ability to use photography in ways our predecessors never could have dreamed of.

I began my photography journey like most people do, taking snapshots of things I was interested in. As my knowledge of photography grew and as I tried more things, I found myself slowly narrowing in focus. I started with events, families, and weddings, but slowly shifted my focus to fashion, beauty, and editorial work, because “capturing memories” wasn’t creatively fulfilling for me. During this time, my retouching technique grew by leaps and bounds, and I started experimenting with digital painting. I also slowly drifted toward more imaginative photography, using props and locations as well as compositing and other techniques to make fantastical imagery. I felt more and more like I was finding my home. But it wasn’t until I recently began combining photography and all the retouching and editing techniques I’ve learned with digital painting that I realized I may have found my niche.

Digital painting created from a photograph taken this spring. Model: Charlee Johnson
Makeup in the original photo by Kat DeJesus

As an image-maker, I’m interested in telling stories, and photography has become one of the tools I use to do that. It gives me the basis for realism that I crave, while the other techniques allow me to impart a sense of fantasy and magic. And the more tools I learn about, the more I’m convinced that photography is changing and expanding, not just in the act, but in application. AI, filters, animation, digital painting: the possibilities for expansive application are endless.

Before and after of a fine art portrait created with a blend of techniques like compositing, retouching, and hand painting. Model Xamie Beronio, digital backdrop by The Backdrop Studio

But as this expansion takes place, I think it’s going to create a kind of photographic renaissance where the act of simple photography, of capturing the moment without all the bells and whistles, will see a resurgence. We may see again those masters of the “decisive moment,” as people crave the clear, poignant honesty of a photo simply taken in contrast to all the stimulation.

Simple, untouched studio portrait of model, actor, and producer Rodrigo Tactaquin featuring jewelry by designer Adam Fierro

And I love them both. I love the ability to make something magical. I love the ability to make something transparent. And as I continue to explore what is possible and what suits me as a creative, I’m excited to see what others will do and how photography will evolve. Will we soon see things like book covers that move? Animated family photos? Will digitally painted portraits become mainstream? As film sees a comeback, will there be a trend toward photography that is simpler and less “tampered with”?

Where do you think we are headed as an industry, and do you think it’s a good or a bad thing?

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Patrick Rosenbalm's picture

Just like Music, Genres for all tastes and styles. A good thing I think.

Is this considered Photo-illustration?
Is that the term for this?
All genres are mixing in the digital age.
Beautiful images, exciting times for artist like this.

Rod Kestel's picture

Those of us who hang around Fstoppers are fascinated by the process of creating an image, but ultimately, it's the least important thing. What really matters is the effect on the viewer and, as you say, the story. Most have little knowledge, and even less interest how it was done.

Love your flaming book image BTW, makes me want to try something like that. Although I don't have the skill or patience for that degree of post-processing.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

So here is my take on all the creative composite work I see here and other places. I like it, I think most is beautiful, but I am still trying to figure out how there can be such a massive market. I'd say yes, some actually do produce the work and get paid for it. How large is this field or are most portfolio or personal work and not assignments? I mean someone spend three to five day to create a complete image or even just one day, that's a lot of billable time. Gathering props can alone take half a day, then shoot or shoots, then composite time, it's a lot of work. I have done a lot of alterations on images for client, isolated color alterations, removal or replacement of items... Just replacing outdated pillows on a sofa will take some time and it's very basic. Matching the angle, matching the light for each pillow and then placing those captures in the original file, resizing, creation of realistic shadows and so on to me is basic, but it still takes time that I bill for. Income for such work is rarely discussed but I would love to hear more since so many people express interest into this kind of work.

Michael Comeau's picture

The idea that film was less "tampered with" just seems wrong.

They had Photoshop in the form of chemicals, razor blades, and filters.

And I'm not just talking about people like Jerry Uelsmann and Pete Turner.

Hell, I've seen Richard Avedon's test prints and they were marked up for retouches like crazy. He was swapping heads and body parts decades before digital.

Marek Stefech's picture

eeeh it looks like from disneyland

Jon The Baptist's picture

This article is about 20 years too late.

Robert Montgomery's picture

I think in a way nothing substantial changes. Sure technology adds to the process and computers have replaced the darkroom for some. Evolution of the medium. I disagree with the statement that in the old days we had Photoshop. It is like comparing apples to oranges. Technically Photoshop borrowed effects of the wet lab. Where do you think terms like masks,dodge,burn,and layers come from. Each has its strengths and weakness especially in silver gelatin printing. Is either one superior? Yes and No depending on the individual . Both can co-exist . It's a choice of the individual . At the end of the shoot it still takes a human eye and finger to press the shutter, and all that persons creative abilities. No matter the format or technology ,you create. Not the tools or camera be it digital or in my case film.