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Since photography first burst onto the scene some 200 years ago it has gone through an incredible arc of evolution and growth. The evolution of photography was driven by its early pioneers, the increasing democratization and widespread access to photographic equipment, but, ultimately, it was mostly due to improvements in the technology that was available to its practitioners.
From cumbersome, hard to use wet plate cameras in the 19th Century to light, handheld digital devices and smartphones; the exponential improvements in photography are astounding when compared to most other types of technology. Not only did cameras become easier to use but they also produce infinitely better photos today than they did just 100 years ago.
With this in mind; when it comes to considering the future of photography, one of the main determining factors will be the continued development of the available technology. Of course, predicting the future has long been the realm of the imaginations of science fiction writers but one can still make some fairly accurate educated guesses about the direction that photography is taking and will continue to take into the future.
Trends That Will Shape The Future Of Photography.
There are key trends that will likely shape the future of photography.
Demand For Professional Photographers Will Fall.
In all likelihood, the demand for professional photographers will reduce as camera technology and editing software continues to improve. This is not good news for professionals but it’s an exciting prospect for amateur photographers. As smartphone technology improves they have more and more inbuilt features which can do a lot of things that used to be the exclusive domain of the professional freelancer. For instance, filters, post processing and even the picture quality is likely to keep on improving which will inevitably make it harder for professionals to find work.
To add to this, excellent quality cameras and equipment prices look set to continue to fall while simultaneously providing more functionality and value for money. There will still, of course, be opportunities for the professional photographer in the future but the types of job will change and overall demand looks like it will reduce over time. This means photographers will have to be more inventive when creating packages and services for prospective clients to stay in business.
Immersive Photography Will Go Mainstream.
It’s a little known fact that in the 1850s a form of 3 dimensional photography emerged called ‘stereography’. The system used a camera which took two photos simultaneously from two separate lenses placed several inches apart. When viewed through a special device, the two images appeared to be 3 dimensional; and although it was quite remarkable it never took off and soon faded into obscurity following the 1920s.
Since then photography has been an entirely 2 dimensional art form but in recent years technological advances have seen the re-emergence of 3 dimensional representations. The modern 360 camera technology uses almost exactly the same concept as the stereographical cameras of the 19th Century with the latest technological advances incorporated into its design. In essence the 360 camera takes two images, or videos, usually using two fish eye lenses, and then automatically compiles them into one 3 dimensional image.
360 camera work has become a mainstay of genres such as real estate photography but it’s still a fairly niche pursuit. Looking to the future, the trend of immersive, 3 dimensional photography is bound to play a much larger role in the industry.
Within several decades, fully immersive, 3 dimensional photography will become a reality, with the viewer being able to walk around a 3 dimensional holographic image. 3 dimensional, fully immersive photography exhibitions in galleries will become commonplace and people will think nothing of taking a 3 dimensional, holographic family picture to keep in their digital photo albums!
The Return Of Vintage Gear.
Although technology will lead the major trends in the future of photography there will always be a die hard section of the population who will hold on to the old techniques and equipment. Digital cameras already have incredible resolutions and are extremely convenient in a whole host of ways but there is a special type of magic involved in developing photo prints from the negatives in a homemade darkroom; and so, as the world goes digital the value of vintage camera equipment will sky rocket.
Using the more traditional photographic techniques will always have a certain allure for people who enjoy the artform and although it won’t be a mainstream trend it doesn’t look set to vanish into the mists of time. Using 35mm film and polaroid cameras is already quite popular in a subculture of photographers but even wet plate photography is making something of a comeback, even as digital cameras offer more possibilities than ever before.
So if you have a couple of old film cameras in your attic then you should probably consider hanging on to them because in a few decades they could be worth a small fortune!
Artificial Intelligence Will Become More Integrated Into Camera Gear.
The sky really is the limit when it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and if Moore’s principle is anything to go by, which states that the capacities of computing technology double every 10 years, then the possibilities are quite astounding. Already, digital cameras can almost instantly perform post production techniques which only 20 years ago would have taken dedicated software and a skilled editor to do. However, this is just the beginning.
Autofocus and lens image stabilization features already use a basic form of AI to achieve the desired results and smartphones are packed to the gills with AI tech that operates post production apps.
It’s hard to predict where this technology could go in the coming decades but what is for sure is that as AI technology becomes more integrated into cameras the art of photography will become increasingly conceptual. This is because as the camera and AI can instantly do a greater proportion of the process of creating an image for you, there will be less and less skill required to take a perfect picture. Into this void the creative spirit of a photographer can really shine but it will still massively change the entire industry.
Picture a photography studio of the future: with smart cameras on tripods that automatically adjust themselves, studio lights which dim and brighten themselves and an AI receptionist who meets and greets the clients after booking their appointments, handles the marketing, PR and tax forms for the business. In a situation like this, the photographer would need to be more of a software technician than an artist; if a photographer was even required to operate the studio at all!
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for photographers because despite the potential of AI there is no evidence that it can imitate genuinely human creativity. This might mean that photographers are freed up from mundane photoshoots to work on projects that require creativity and authentic human insight.
The Future Looks Bright For The Smartphone.
It’s very likely that as the future unfolds the compact digital camera will become a dinosaur as the smartphone continues to improve its functions as a fully operational digital camera. Already this trend is showing itself to be quite profound, with digital camera sales having fallen by almost 80% since 2010.
Of course, for professional photographers a digital camera is still the go to choice but for the average amateur photography enthusiast a smartphone which can do the same job might be a preferable choice.
Smartphones are small enough to fit in your pocket and as their capacity to take crystal clear photos and the post production apps continue to improve, the future’s looking bleak for the manufacturers of compact digital cameras. Add to that the improving Wi-Fi connectivity and the ease with which photos can be uploaded from a phone onto social media and it’s easy to see why many are opting to spend a little extra on their phone instead of splashing out on a separate compact digital camera.
However, the manufacturers will use their experience, knowledge and expertise to swivel into other newly emerging aspects of the photography industry, such as immersive photography, and one day, maybe even holographic cameras! That said, top of the range DSLR and mirrorless cameras have a safer future ahead of them, at least over the next few years; but for the compact digital camera the sun may be setting on their brief spell of widespread popularity.
The End Of DSLR?
High quality DSLR cameras have been a crucial piece of gear for professional photographers but as mirrorless cameras are beginning to break all the old records for image quality and resolution they are starting to increasingly dominate the market.
The death of the DSLR won’t be a sudden or a quick thing but if the current trends are anything to go by then slowly, over the next decade or two, the DSLR will be replaced by the mirrorless camera.
Surprisingly, industry giants such as Fujifilm no longer manufacture DSLRs and focus their production on mirrorless cameras instead. Other companies, such as Sony, have also started to shift their production in favor of the mirrorless camera, and so this trend already looks to be well under way.
There are also other practical economic reasons for this. Mirrorless cameras are cheaper and easier to make because they have fewer components as well as being lighter and smaller while delivering the same image quality as a DSLR counterpart. Mirrorless cameras are also quieter than a DSLR which means they are less intrusive at weddings or other events and are a better choice for wildlife photographers too, who don’t want to frighten away the animals they are shooting.
The Future Of Photography Is Both Exciting And Hard To Predict.
Photography has always been a rapidly moving industry that has used the latest technology of the time to further advance image quality, convenience and portability.
In the future you can certainly expect a huge rise in immersive 3 dimensional techniques, holographic photos and videos as well as a greater involvement of AI in the process of creating images.
However, photographers are well known for being both creative and business minded so if there’s any group of people who can handle the potential fast moving landscape of the future it’s photographers!
Improvements in technology have always been viewed with both excitement and a sense of dread but in the end they tend to offer a greater scope for creativity and opportunities that couldn’t be imagined until they are manifested. Therefore, as photography changes over the coming years it will be necessary to hold on to the good things from the past while embracing the new possibilities that open up before you.