The age of the camera is slowly coming to an end—especially the bulky DSLR and all its associated declinations. In a very short while, all that will be left will be those pesky in-object cameras, like the one in our cell phones and a query type box in our browser.
The End of Analog
Bulky big cameras have a legacy deeply entrenched in the physical world. They were made to mechanically create images for physical media. This analog world is vanishing. Already, not only are images all digital, but they all end up – the vast majority – in digital mediums. And like with anything in the digital world, its propensity is to diminish in size while increasing in power (Moore’s law).
Yes, the next cover of Vogue magazine will be shot with the latest Hasselblad, even if equipped with a digital back. And yes, there is so much better light quality entering the frame of a full-size Leitz lens than those three circles in the back of the latest iPhone. But for how long?
File sizes don’t really matter anymore. It is just a question of time before all surviving printed publications become a supplement to their online mothership, Vogue included. Billboards are all but becoming digital as well. The need for large, bulky files is now easily met with upscaling. Computational photography is now the norm, and the skills needed to operate a DSLR are now replaced by AI. An iPhone/Galaxy and successors can and will soon outperform any bulky DSLR.
Alongside the proliferation of our handheld computerized cameras, almost every appliance in our lives will contribute to the creation of photographs. To monitor themselves and their surroundings, visual data acquisition interfaces are slowly creeping into our lives. Doorbells have cameras, cars and high-end fridges already have some, while others, like automated vacuum cleaners or lamps, will soon have some.
Pretty soon, our whole environment will be taking pictures of every moment of our lives. Instead of actually taking pictures at our next birthday party, we can ask the fridge or lamp to share some of the ones they took. Nothing will be missed.
As for professional content? Replaced by a simple query type box. Enter what kind of image you need and hit enter. An AI will produce the picture for you. A photo of a couple holding hands on a beach at sunset, no problem. A photo of Alexander the Great playing chess with Napoleon on the deck of the Mayflower. Piece of cake. And yes, the next cover of Vogue magazine as well. Introducing PaaS: Photography as a Service.
Because of the computational power and software engineering expertise needed, the first iterations of PaaS will be via a handful of companies offering this service via a web interface. But eventually, like everything in digital, it will be integrated into our cell phones or whatever device we will be carrying with us.
Need a photo of a butterfly on a red rose for your Instagram feed? No problem. Tell your Siri/Google, and there you go.
Pros? What Pros?
What about news or wedding photography? Those will certainly still need battle-tested professionals handling bulky DSLR? Yes and no. The proliferation of cameras everywhere combined with an accelerated news cycle and reduced budget make the future of photojournalism extremely precarious.
Even without these replacement technologies in full deployment, it is becoming extremely challenging for anyone to make a living as a news photographer. Already, the local with a cell phone trumps the pro with the heavy equipment. Not much of a future here.
As for wedding photographers, well, sure. They could survive on a few pre-ceremony portraits and outwitting guests with cell phones. But in the not-so-long run, providing a PaaS with two headshots of the couple and a command to create a beautiful wedding portrait will yield some much better photos than anything a pro could do. As for the ceremony, nothing a few cameras with an AI power best scene detection can deliver.
With PaaS, the creative process will no longer be controlled by those who have mastered the tools of the craft, like a camera or Photoshop, but rather by those who have the most creative minds. Imagination will best skills.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.
About the author: Paul Melcher is a photography and technology entrepreneur based in New York, and the founder of Kaptur, a news magazine about the visual tech space. You can find more of his writings on his blog, Thoughts of a Bohemian. Melcher offers his services as a consultant as well. This article was also published here.
Image credits: Header photo by Brett Sayles / Pexels