Photography is About to Change Massively, Here's What it Means for You

Photography is About to Change Massively, Here's What it Means for You

There's a new change happening in the photography world and you may not even be aware of it. Let's see how it'll pan out and learn how it might affect you.

The digital revolution handed photography to the masses on a large scale, with the introduction of digital cameras and camera phones gradually lining the bags and pockets of everyone around the world. Almost everyone we know now owns a camera of some sort. Taking digital photos has become the new normal and in the past two decades alone we're now consuming more imagery and media than ever before. And there's a new change happening right now and it's leading to an inevitable upheaval of everything we've become acquainted with in the past 20 years. So, are you ready?

A Change in Technology

Photographing on a smartphone

As soon as phones became powerful enough to sport cameras, the digital photography boom came in fast. The megapixel war was the first wave of tech specs that people around the world look to in order to capture more detailed images

After DSLRs, smartphones were the next step in photography, not through superior optical quality and improved imaging technology — quite the opposite in fact — but through the ability to add filters, edit, crop, and share photos with friends and the rest of the world. It's this integration of photography in our everyday lives that has boosted the popularity of photography.

Until the last few years enthusiasts and professionals have been working on digital SLRs with interchangeable lenses, high-end optics, and increasingly intelligent technology that can stabilize and enhance the photo-taking process. However, like film, the images still required developing through use of an image editing technology and often required computers that were either home-based (desktops) or cumbersome enough to hold back the public from editing quickly and sharing the work with others.

Combining New and Old

Smartphone photography

Mirrorless bridge the gap between intelligent editing and metadata manipulation and the traditional way of shooting with a DSLR. We can now star rate our shots while out and about, without the aid of a computer

Now though, mirrorless cameras have bridged the gap between the smartphone and DSLR market. With features like portrait lighting, retouching, and rating photos right from the camera it's just a matter of time before camera manufacturers take the next logical step: full in-camera editing and sharing.

We already have the ability to share images from our devices through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and this does feature on DSLRs as well, albeit in a very clunky fashion. But what I'm describing here is the symbiosis between editing platforms and camera manufacturers to create a workflow system so smooth that you'll likely be able to edit as you shoot. Seamless workflow methods are already becoming commonplace as photographers and filmmakers turn to hybrid shooting. Cameras are now able to float between stills and moving image that blur the lines between photography and cinematography. It's just a matter of time before this happens in another direction: inside the camera.

A Glimpse Into the Future

DSLR camera in hands

How much longer will it be until we see the disappearance of the DSLR in favor of Mirrorless cameras? Mirrorless are smaller, lighter, faster, and boast better optical quality than DSLRs - so is there any reason to keep shooting on the old kit?

If you think about it we can already change the picture controls in Live View (and Mirrorless EVFs) in real-time, noting the difference in color and tone between "standard", "landscape", and "vivid" so what's to stop companies from introducing plug-ins and other editing functions to the camera. Presets, graduated neutral density filters that can drop in without you needing to pack physical filters, and much more. 

We already have editing controllers for Lightroom, Photoshop and other editing software that are bespoke for photography workflows, so why couldn't such a device be made for a camera. It would negate the need for a larger form factor, would plug in via USB-C (or the connection of the future) or it may even connect wirelessly. Now we'd be able to add exposure changes, color adjustments, even local brush adjustments and clone tool settings to a photo while we take the shot, in real-time.

Long exposure of fire

Editing long exposures like this will be a doddle in a few years time, with the ability to attenuate highlights, boost saturation, and share images to friends from within the camera

It also wouldn't make sense in this new, fast-flowing workflow to slow things down by exporting with specific settings to a local hard drive — you'd just hit the share button within the camera and send it to your friends and family via Whatsapp or share it with others on Instagram. The camera would be connected to the cloud and be able to access a multitude of different publishing platforms much like a small computer.

In this new world the camera wouldn't be replaced by the smartphone, it would be the powerful, hyper-beefed up digital device that links with the smartphone cyber world, the thing you turn to when you want to take a "proper" photograph, but still have connected to the rest of your digital world. You could recall images and use artificial intelligence to search through all the photos you've taken, all without the need for a laptop or desktop computer.

Who Will it Benefit?

Sony mirrorless camera body

Who stands to benefit the most from this shift in technological disciplines blurring? The professional or the hobbyist will both likely be in the minds of camera manufacturers around the world

Assuming this change will be good (or bad) for everyone is to ignore the vast array of different types of photographers. There's the Sunday cafe group who like to snap their cream teas and desserts to share with friends and family, the parent of a young child learning photography to capture their formative years, those that have had entire lives filled with photography as a hobby, and the professional who is keeping up with the cutting edge of technology.

This workflow smoothing will benefit almost everybody who wants to shoot and share pictures, but it's the process of learning that new technology that might strike difficult for some. There are plenty that still don't understand how to edit images on computers, or how to take photos on smartphones, but the majority of people now understand enough to at least get by, if not reap the huge rewards that digital technology lends us in terms of photography. It's just a matter of time until photography reaches its next phase, will you be on board when it's time to leave the station?

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94 Comments

Chris Page's picture

Yes, but quite a well qualified 'next guy', and this could well be an inevitable path. I quite like the idea of having all the filters in my camera as software!

Nox Vega's picture

Pretty sure this "next guy" can predict the future of photography better than this "God" you speak of.

Eric Snyder's picture

Im pretty sure God is very interested in photography, Just look around. :)

David Vivian's picture

The theology of digital photography.. now *THIS* is a thread!

Alexander Ramos's picture

Yup, that is why I love taking photos with my Olympus em10 bodies, aside from its compactness.

Mike Shwarts's picture

Maybe. I edit unimportant photos taken with a camera or phone with Photoshop Express on the phone then share. If I care enough to put an effort in taking the photo, those will still get edited on a laptop or desktop with current software. I want more control than I'd have letting apps think for me and not being able to make out details that need adjustment on a tiny screen.

Florin C's picture

Exactly. Phones are for snapshots and cameras are for photography.

jay holovacs's picture

Cartier-Bresson took pictures exactly as they were in the camera. He would not even crop.

Does that make him a snapshotter?

Ale Vidal's picture

Bresson cropped some of his famous pic. Also he was use to take 30-40 shots fo the same scene, so the fact he wasn't cropping is because he had all the time to "crop in camera"

Matthew Mastrandrea's picture

I don’t see this happening for two reason:

1. Future-proofing. Look at the automobile industry’s previous tech integrations. Fifteen years ago, an auxiliary port was seen as high-tech, today it’s almost considered antiquated, because of bluetooth. But what if input/output formats change, like in the case of the Apple iPhone? My newest phone no longer plugs straight into my car because the 1/8” port has been removed and replaced with a lighting port. This is admittedly not a huge deal, because it’s a hardware problem, and relatively easy to fix, but software? Different story.

How are the camera manufacturers supposed to choose which online platforms to support? Quibi claimed to be the next big thing, and just announced it’ll be closed down by December, not even a year after launch. Further, what happens if a company like facebook decides to throw tons of cash at say, Canon, for exclusive app integration?

2. I don’t want to edit photos on my tiny (but beautiful) R6 screen. Maybe a tablet, but even then, I’d rather have a larger screen to focus on details.

Malcolm Wright's picture

I don't think this will happen in camera without a bloatware removal from editing software. Filters are already here, but there is a big difference between a filter and software editing of photgraphs. Otherwise most of the current software on the market would not be specifying a minimum of 8Gb of Ram (preferably 16Gb)and an intel Core i7 processor, together with a dedicated graphics card with another 4Gb of Ram ( preferably 8Gb) as well as oodles of disk space.
Within Camera will also generate some heat issues.
Now a cloud camera, with processing in the cloud might work, with whole banks of processors doing the editing.

Timothy Roper's picture

Why stop there, with such limited thinking? You need to realize the big picture. Mirrorless cameras will one day also be able to send and receive texts and voice calls (to get direct social media feedback while taking the photos), play video games based on the photos, interact directly on social media, and a whole not more. Who cares about boring single still photos anymore? Stop living in the past ;;;

Fristen Lasten's picture

Google Slim Shady's mother. The button may have already been pushed.

Bill Kearns's picture

And maybe the camera can be worn on the head! A fancier Oculus Rift.

Foto Toad's picture

Hard to tell the future but while these ideas are plausible I think these are more likely scenarios:

1) AI in-camera. Your camera will still take the RAW for later desktop processing but will also auto-adjust a jpeg with cloned out distractions, adjusted details, colors, effects, sky replacement, etc. Right now that sounds gaudy and ugly but AI is improving so rapidly that soon it will be better on auto mode than most pros can do.with PS

2) Good UI in-camera. One camera maker will beat them all: Whichever camera maker can capture the intuitive interface of a mobile phone and translate it to an awesomely quick and powerful tool to.control a dslr camera will wipe the floor with the rest. Camera menus just suck and they all need a major overhaul in order to appeal to all the next gen of camera buyers.

Place your bets

Studio 403's picture

My spin. Sheep and goats, a dividing of directions of the "phone cults" and "DSLR cults" Be fun how this all rolls out in the next 5 years. I would guess a weeding out of the "professional class" folks. The creative ones who know how to shoot and marketing skills. Guys like me who understand the times, will have a smaller bite of the pun intended, Apple. A lot of the "wanna be's" like I was, will fade, then the water turns over and fresh crop comes alive. I made a choice to stay an amateur so to have peace and enjoy this wonderful craft. I just want to improve my skills. My work has vastly improved in the last 4 yrs. At age 74 my experience a lot success from being at the right place and right time coupled with skills. Its sort of who you know and are you likeable and a pinch of humility. Of course I am not discounting mastering the skills of photography. I have convinced some into using my skills, all along knowing I was out of my league. But I did it and all went well, My mentor told me I live way to much in my head......

Marc NINE's picture

Of course more tech will enter cameras.
Personally, I find a 27inch full screen iMac hard enough to nail a good edit.

Doing edits in-camera. Great for people that enjoy squinting, tiny dials and working on teeny, weeny screens.

90% novelty features for weekend hobbyists.

Florin C's picture

Ans then they try to blow them up for a print and it looks like dogshit!

Stephen T's picture

No need to do it on the camera's screen. The camera could cast its image to your TV.

Francis Drake's picture

Just a thought: what if in the future the photo edit is not done on the photographer's side but on the viewer's side?
Think for example of AI editing: it uses existing 'known good' photos and tries to edit your new photos to have the same 'nice' features'.
Now think about how things work in the avertissement industry: everyone is tracked so that advertisements are tailored to each specific viewer in order to maximize conversion into actually spending money.

Mix the two together:
Raw pictures being processed on the fly to match each one's taste.

I also think about 3d mapping and scene recognition: it's well known that a photo with depth information allows to compute depth of field effect in post. But what if the processing tool, be it in camera or not, would also recognize what the scene is.
Like 'this is a lamp post', 'this is the main person you were trying to take a portrait of', etc.

Then you would be able to manipulate the objects, move them, remove them, change size or texture.

sam w's picture

I don't see that being a thing.

not that consumers don't know what they want, or have to be told what they want. being the photographer I know what I want the viewer to see.

I can absolutely see a world where the software I'm using learns what I want the output file to look like, and so it does a pre-filter of the file to that, then I can make other adjustments after. and it continues to learn based on those edits. ultimately, I would have to do very little to an image after it goes through the filter.

perhaps I would even have a few different types of final destination types, and when I load an image I mark them as such, then it edits that photo accordingly.

the biggest problem I would have with this is that assuredly, whatever company does this will have the AI in the cloud, so any edits I do are then stored for that company to use for their own benefit, rather than just mine, they will still charge me to use the software, and still get benefit from my use.

Stephen T's picture

"Just a thought: what if in the future the photo edit is not done on the photographer's side but on the viewer's side?"

Unlikely, in my opinion. In the early days of DVDs, much was made of providing facilities on disc to see alternative camera angles when watching a film. It never caught on and I suspect if you can find a disc with such interactive features then it is quite a rarity. Although what you describe could be a cool tool for teaching photography and composition, I see it having no mass market appeal at all.

Nick Rains's picture

I don't get this breathless imperative to "share instantly with friends". What about a bit of, y'know, actual thought before you decide your images are ready for the world to see?

RT Simon's picture

This piece is just so terribly composed. If this essay were a photograph, it may have broken all the rules of composition.

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