Photography

5 Predictions for the Future of Photography

Photography has been through a series of revolutions since its incarnation. Whether it’s the introduction of the Box Brownie, the Polaroid, disposable cameras or smartphones, the arrival of new technology has always made photography more accessible to the masses. This trend will surely continue, so what does the future hold for photography?

1 – The death of the DSLR

In June of this year, the DSLR celebrated it’s 18th birthday. The camera format has come a long way in its short life. The first ever consumer model – the Nikon D1 – featured a 2.7MP sensor, a 4.5fps burst rate and a maximum ISO of 1600 – which was intensely grainy. Despite the success of the DSLR and their rapid advancement, it’s unlikely they’ll be dominating in another 18 years, if they’re even with us at all.

Will DSLRs soon be a thing of the past?
Will DSLRs soon be a thing of the past?

Mirrorless cameras have come on leaps and bounds in the past few years, and the remaining advantages of DSLRs are soon to be eroded by advances with CSCs. At first, the key selling points of mirrorless cameras was that they were lighter, smaller and therefore more portable than DSLRs, but DSLRs had the edge on image quality. Sony’s full frame CSCs put mirrorless cameras on a par with DSLRs in terms of image quality, yet can’t compete on battery life and many people still prefer a pentaprism viewfinder over an EVF. It won’t be long until these final gripes are eased away as technology improves and the CSC will reign supreme.

Sony’s latest mirrorless camera – the A9 – offers a 24.2MP full frame sensor, 20fps with AE/AF tracking, 693 AF points, and 5-axis image stabilisation. The electronic shutter allows for much faster burst rates, no viewfinder blackout, silent operation and much quicker shutter speeds. On paper, this camera is much better than anything a DSLR is capable of offering, but it’ll take a little while for photographers to switch to this new way of shooting. Old habits die hard, but DSLRs will surely disappear as their faster, lighter, and better cousins take prominence.

The new Sony A9 outperforms DSLRs on many key tasks
The new Sony A9 outperforms DSLRs on many key tasks


2 – Smartphones will kill off compacts entirely

Digital camera sales have declined by over 80% since 2010. The hit has mostly fallen on compact cameras; due pretty much entirely to the rapid rise of smartphones and mobile photography apps. In the meantime the popularity of interchangeable lens cameras has remained fairly constant, as people more serious about photography still want the quality and control of a dedicated camera.

Sales figures show the decline of compact cameras
Sales figures show the decline of compact cameras

However the trend of the compact market shrinking looks set to continue as consumers are satisfied with the images captured by their smartphones. Plus people don’t want to purchase and carry another piece of technology that essentially does the same job. For most purposes a smartphone camera matches what people need. Plus with each new release the image quality of smartphones improves, and soon everyone will have a top quality camera in their pocket. In 10 years time compact cameras will seem as outdated as portable CD players or pagers.
Smartphones have replaced compact cameras for most users
Smartphones have replaced compact cameras for most users


3 – Artificial Intelligence will transform photography

Big changes are surely on the horizon with how we capture, store and edit our photographs. Cameras have had some degree of AI on board for a while now; automatic exposures and autofocus systems assign control to the built-in computing components and perform an excellent job. In the coming years we’re likely to see truly smart cameras that recognise entire scenes and subjects and automatically adjust the shooting variables to match. Everyone will be able to capture perfectly exposed and focused shots at the push of a button.

Our image libraries will become smart too. As machine learning develops, software will recognise every element of an image. You’ll no longer need to assign keywords or organise your work in various folders. Instead, you could search for any term; be it ‘tree’, ‘car’ or ‘sunset’, and your library would display every image you have containing those elements. As facial recognition software improves, you could search for a particular person and every shot of them would appear. Imagine how that would improve your workflow.

Artificial intelligence will transform how we capture and process photos
Artificial intelligence will transform how we capture and process photos

The biggest transformation is likely to affect post-processing. We already have AI based tools such as the iPhone 7’s new Portrait mode, which blurs the background to produce a pleasing shallow depth of field effect, and Luminar – an AI powered filter that makes more complex editing a breeze. Most photographers spend the majority of their working time actually post-processing images, rather than shooting. This would change once software is intelligent enough to automatically choose the optimum images from a shoot. Only selecting images where all the subjects eyes were open, the frames are the sharpest and utilised the most balanced compositions based on tried and tested algorithms. It would then instantly apply adjustments to RAW files based on what the software has been programmed to do or has learnt from your previous behaviour. It would apply the perfect tonal adjustments, set an immaculate White Balance, control the sharpening, sky detail, skin softening and so on. This will save on countless hours of work, and make it possible for anyone to produce professional looking shots, regardless of their skill level.

4 – Constant connectivity

With every new generation of camera, more connectivity options are included. Whether it’s Bluetooth, WiFi or NFC, there’s lots of ways to wirelessly connect your camera to your smartphone to backup your images and post online. It won’t be long until cameras automatically connect to the internet, perhaps via the superfast 5G network which is set to launch in the next few years and rapidly expand the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things will see more devices permanently online
The Internet of Things will see more devices permanently online

With this there’d be no need for SD cards or other forms of physical storage, providing you’re somewhere that has a data connection. Instead your photographs would be instantly uploaded to the cloud, meaning you could access them from any place or device, and you wouldn’t have to worry about running out of card space, losing a memory card or damaging one and corrupting the files. Like cassettes and floppy disks, SD cards will likely be assigned to the history bin in the not too distant future.

5 – Photographs will come to life

As new technologies emerge, the way we consume photographs is likely to change too. Rather than an image being a still, 2D experience, photographs could become much more immersive.

Photography could soon leap beyond it's current 2D boundaries
Photography could soon leap beyond it’s current 2D boundaries

Virtual Reality is set to explode in the coming decade and it may well have a huge impact on the world of photography. Instead of looking at an image on a screen or piece of paper, you could explore a scene with the aid of a VR headset. This would bring to life the sights and sounds of an image, allowing you to relive your captured moments and move around inside your memories.

Virtual reality will revolutionise how we experience our images
Virtual reality will revolutionise how we experience our images

Of course cameras would have to change too, but technology never sits still for long and in 20 or 30 years time the image making tools at our disposal will surely be immense. Maybe we’ll be wearing our cameras, permanently recording our every interaction. Something akin to Google Glass, but much more advanced, allowing us to revisit moments of our choosing. Right now this is still science fiction, but it’s not far beyond the cusp of our current reality. Let’s wait and see.