It won’t be technology change alone that will transform photography as we know it. Rather, there is a looming generational change in attitudes that will have a profound impact on photography, and the design of future products.
My wife and I attended a wedding recently, one of those large Italian affairs. And, as I often do, I observed and then reflected on what I saw. There were many things that have a bearing on photography.
There were 12 people at our table at the reception. On the table were eight iPhones, one Blackberry, a Nokia smartphone and a Nokia dumb phone. (Well, what else do you call them if the others are ‘smart’ phones?) One person had no phone. All the smartphones were used for photography at some time during the event. When I looked at the tables with younger people I saw a sea of iPhones.
At the signing and cake cutting there was the normal rush of people with ’cameras’. The under 40’s used their phone. The over-40s used a mix of dSLRs and bridge cameras. (A few used their phones too.)
By the time we got home there were already photos on Facebook, many suitably enhanced by some app or other.
In conversations with people at the wedding, I found a strong interest in photography among the 30-and-under crowd. Many were particularly interested in my iPad photography apps (the latest one was about to get submitted to the App Store).
I made a variety of observations that night, which I’ve summarised below.
There is a huge generational attitude shift coming to photography. Anyone under the age of 40 will use their phone as their main camera. For those with a strong interest in photography, their next step will be directly to an interchangeable lens camera, either a DSLR or one of the electronic viewfinder micro-twothirds cameras.
Younger people accept photo manipulation as an inherent part of the photographic process. They see a computer as an extension of both themselves and their cameras. There will be none of the hand-wringing, nostalgia rubbish sometimes expressed by older photo hobbyists. Some of the under 40s will play with film for the fun of it, but they will still scan and manipulate.
The under-40 generations seem much more focused on what they want the resulting images to look like than in the technical details of how to get it. They see far less separation from achieving it in camera as opposed to in the computer (or phone) than older generations, and they are more interested in the result than in the process.
Younger generations take far more photos than those of us who still hesitate to shoot because we remember the costs of shooting film. Taking more images is part of learning. They look at their images, select, and then process.
They know that it is the end image that matters, not how you got it.
Personally, I see all of these trends as good. But not everyone may agree.
What This Means for Camera Makers
Camera makers will need to radically reconsider the design of cameras. Obviously the cheap, compact camera will be marginalised until it just disappears. Likewise, the fixed-lens bridge camera. In the near future, the camera market will consist of smartphones and interchangeable lens cameras.
Frankly, camera design is still stuck in the 19th Century. Camera controls are named for what function they actually control, and not what they do for the image. That must change.
For example: A car has an “accelerator”, not an “amount-of- fuel-dumped-into-the-cylinders” control. Likewise, we use a “brake”, not a “how-much-we-squeeze-the-brake-pads” control. We have stop and go controls that describe what we want to DO, not how the action is achieved.
Aperture, shutter speed, ISO and exposure mode controls should become movement, depth of field, sensitivity and lighting controls.
Plus, cameras need to move to an ergonomic configuration that lets you concentrate on what you want to achieve, while accepting certain compromises (such as noise). As I have suggested in a previous post (It is Time for a Camera with Apps), we will need to be able to run apps on our cameras because whatever we get used to doing on our phones, we will want to continue to do when we move up to better cameras.
Cameras will also need both GPS and either Wi-Fi, internal 3G/4G connections, or the ability to Bluetooth pair with a phone for immediate image upload and sharing. If we are pairing our phones and cameras, why not also use the phone to configure the camera.
If I only find acceptable sensitivities from 100 to 400 ISO on my particular camera, why can’t I turn off all the others? Why can I not set the shutter speed at which I get camera shake warnings? And so on.
Likewise, software makers need to provide ways for people to concentrate on what they want to achieve rather than the details of how it is done.
The same holds for printer drivers, which have probably already come farthest in this process.
I also found it interesting that the professional wedding photographer was almost the same age as the bride and groom: under 30. This may suggest that, as always, customers need to feel they can relate to their professional photographers.
More photos are being taken, which is great for the future of photography. We just need to remember: The future may look quite a bit different from the past.