One major trend in the camera industry this year is the introduction of mobile operating systems such as Android into digital cameras. By opening the door to things like Wi-Fi, data plans, and apps, camera makers are going in the same direction that phone makers went some years ago, turning their devices into what can best be described as portable computers with specialized functions (e.g. voice-calling, photography).
While covering the trend, we’ve been at a loss for what to call the new cameras. After calling the Samsung Galaxy Camera a “voiceless phonecamera” in our hands-on first-look yesterday, commenters suggested that we call the device a “smartcamera”. Bingo… that’s the term we were looking for.
If you’re trying to make some side money by selling photographs as microstock — or are trying to do it full-time — it’d be wise to heed the advice of one of the most successful players in the industry: Yuri Arcurs. He has published an interesting “state of the industry” report with his thoughts on the types of photographs that are currently in demand with stock photo buyers.
As all active microstock photographers must have noticed, we have seen a constant decrease in sales in terms of our return per image over the last few years. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to shoot great images and profit from it in the same way as it was 5 or 6 years ago. Many critics have claimed that the microstock industry is almost entirely devoid of artistic sensitivity, and is instead only concerned with making an easy profit. But surprisingly, this harsh criticism seems to have had a positive effect on the industry as a whole, because although the return per image has decreased a lot, I have also witnessed an interesting tendency: To make sales now, it’s about getting back to the roots of photography. More artistic, less processed images, and a more naturalistic style, which I, personally, fully endorse. It’s great to see some more artistic and natural images making their way up on the “most downloaded” lists as opposed to the more conventional microstock images that are always overly retouched, overly bright and overly clean.
He also writes that many of the concepts and images that were once popular are now stagnating due to the fact that photographers flooded the industry with them, highlighting shifts in four huge categories: lifestyle, business, medical/health, and spa/wellness.
What sells in microstock anno 2012? [Yuri Arcurs]
P.S. If you haven’t seen it already, check out this interview we did with Arcurs last year.
Image credits: Photographs by Yuri Arcurs/PeopleImages
Are we past the age of entry-level DSLRs? Dan Nosowitz over at Popular Science has written a piece titled “Don’t Buy A DSLR”, in which he argues that DSLRs are no longer the best option for aspiring amateur photographers.
DSLRs are enormous, problematically-shaped gadgets. There’s no other portable gadget with such an unapologetically non-portable shape [...] Hell, even giant headphones fold up into themselves. But DSLRs are bulky, heavy, roundish and squareish at the same time [...] There’s a reason there’s a thriving economy of DSLR-specific bags.
[...] If you’re just getting into more serious photography, a DSLR’s button layout is a major obstacle to overcome, and, more importantly, an unnecessary one. It’s not that people can’t learn, or even that they shouldn’t–it’s just that for many users, there’s no need. To someone who’s only used a point-and-shoot, you know what a DSLR looks like? A f**king airplane cockpit.
[...] DSLRs should be, and will be very soon, for experts. For pros, or passionate amateurs. Sports photographers, bird-watchers, people who want to build a multi-thousand-dollar collection of lenses. But for those of us who just want to take better pictures, dammit, there are amazing options just for us.
I think the big question is “what does the aspiring photographer want out of their camera?” If it’s simply “better photos”, then a mirrorless should do just fine… but they’d be missing out on the joys of learning how to operate “a f**king airplane cockpit.”
Don’t Buy A DSLR [Popular Science]
Everyone is a photographer these days, and it is estimated that 380 billion photographs were taken last year, with a huge percentage of them created with the 1 billion+ camera-equipped phones now floating around. The New York Times’ James Estrin has some interesting thoughts on where this radical-shift in the practice and definition of photography is taking us:
Just as access to pens and paper hasn’t produced thousands of Shakespeares or Nabokovs, this explosion of camera phones doesn’t seem to have led to more Dorothea Langes or Henri Cartier-Bressons. But it has certainly led to many more images of what people ate at lunch.
[...] A photograph is no longer predominantly a way of keeping a treasured family memory or even of learning about places or people that we would otherwise not encounter. It is now mainly a chintzy currency in a social interaction and a way of gazing even further into one’s navel.
He thinks the strengthening torrent of digital images will have one of two possible effects: a culture that is more aware and appreciative of photography, or a society in which it’s impossible for any photo to rise above the flood of images.
In an Age of Likes, Commonplace Images Prevail [NYTimes]
Image credit: Lunch by churl
The New York Times has an interesting article examining how retouching has spread beyond fashion and advertising photos into editorial photography, conditioning the public to accept images that are “heightened versions of the truth”. One reason is pressure from celebrity subjects:
The demands of celebrities also drive this broader trend toward perfection. Mr. Granger said that he found more photographers are being pressured to produce shots that the actors or actresses like because celebrities then will request the photographer in the future for other magazine covers or for advertising work. That can be critical because editorial work alone is not enough to sustain a career in photography.
Ms. Greenberg said that in 2002 she shot Tom Cruise when he was wearing braces. She used Photoshop to remove the braces before submitting the photographs but the magazine asked her to put the braces back in.
“I was sad because I was like ‘now Tom Cruise is going to hate me,’ ” she said. Ms. Greenberg has not shot Mr. Cruise since then.
Who Can Improve on Nature? Magazine Editors [New York Times]
Do professional photographers belong in delivery rooms? More and more of them are showing up there. The New York Times has an interesting piece on the rise of birth photography as a up-and-coming niche:
Birth was once considered a behind-closed-doors affair — a messy, painful and fearsome event where neither mothers nor babies looked their best. Then, expectant fathers entered the picture, snapping photos or taking videos with shaky hands. Now, there is both a surge of interest in the experience of childbirth — not just as a means to a baby but also as a moment to be relished in its own right — and a greater desire to capture all of life’s moments (and often share them on Facebook).
[...] The photographers and their clients have grown accustomed to puzzled looks and probing questions (Pictures of what, exactly?). But their rationale is simple: If you are going to document a child’s every bite of mushed banana as if it were a historical event, does it not make sense that his or her entrance into the world be photographed by a professional?
There are also more and more photographers who are making their livings solely documenting childbirth: the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers (did you know there was one?) has grown to around 400 members.
Honey, the Baby Is Coming; Quick, Call the Photographer (via SFGate)
Image credit: labor – the delivery room by koadmunkee
Smartphones are taking huge bites out of the compact camera market. A recent study by market research company NPD found that the percent of photographs taken with a smartphone has increased from 17% to 27% over the past year, while the share of photos taken with a dedicated camera has dropped from 52% to 44%. Senior imaging analyst Liz Cutting says,
There is no doubt that the smartphone is becoming ‘good enough’ much of the time; but thanks to mobile phones, more pictures are being taken than ever before. Consumers who use their mobile phones to take pictures and video were more likely to do so instead of their camera when capturing spontaneous moments, but for important events, single purpose cameras or camcorders are still largely the device of choice.
The point-and-shoot camera market is taking the brunt of the damage: during the first 11 months of 2011, the market lost 17% in units sold and 18% in revenue.
(via NPD via Wired)
Image credit: Image by The NPD Group/Imaging Confluence Study 2011
Apparently Annie Leibovitz is a proponent of the idea that the best camera is the one you have with you. When asked by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams about her camera recommendation to friends, the famed portrait photographer made a surprising pick: the iPhone.
Guess what camera was used to shoot the photograph above? A tablet computer. It was shot using the new ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime tablet, which features a camera with a 8-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, an f/2.4 autofocus lens, an LED flash, and 1080p HD video recording. Looks like we’ll soon be seeing a lot more people whip out tablets for everyday snapshots.
Bloomberg reports that Canon and Nikon’s failure thus far to enter the mirrorless camera market has allowed Sony to eat into their combined market share — at least in Japan:
Canon and Nikon’s combined share of the Japanese market [for interchangeable lens cameras] has fallen by 35 percent, while Sony’s share has doubled
“Mirrorless cameras are a threat,” said David Rubenstein, a Tokyo-based analyst [...] “If the western geographies follow the same pattern as Asia, then it will be negative for Nikon and Canon.”
“In the long run, Canon and Nikon will have to enter the market,” said Hideki Yasuda, a Tokyo-based analyst [...] “Still, it won’t be too late for them to enter the market after mirrorless cameras become a global trend.”
Although mirrorless cameras are becoming all the rage in Japan, its adoption outside the country is much slower. Canon still owns a 45% share of the global SLR market, while Nikon remains at 30%. Canon also earned $1.5 billion in profit from selling SLRs last year, four times the profit generated by its compact cameras. SLR cameras and lenses were also Nikon’s biggest moneymaker.
Canon Clinging to Mirrors Means Opportunity for Sony Cameras [Bloomberg]