How Technology is Changing the Photography Industry
When considering the impact of technology on the photography industry, many immediately turn to hardware, rehashing the evident evolution of the camera. Yes, we’ve gone digital, the film is dead, DSLR cameras rule the market, mirrorless cameras are improving and nearly everyone has a camera phone in their pocket. While these advancements must be noted, including the rising use of drone cameras, the future of photography has hit a point where it is not so much the hardware improvements that will pave new paths, but the software advancements. The future of photography is computational – it’s coding unique software capable of manipulating a stream of photographs to create the perfect single frame. Let’s take a look at both the software and hardware aspects below, starting with the growing trend of software impacting the future of photography.
How New Software Tech is Impacting Photography
The ability to code is becoming vital to the photography industry as more and more amateur and hobbyist photographers look to manipulate their snaps into works of art using filters and post-processing techniques found in photo editing applications. The use of AI-powered software is also rising as developers find unique uses for it in the photography industry.
The Smartphone Camera
Smartphone cameras are the ultimate democratization of photography. Everyone now has a camera in his or her pocket, meaning amateur photographers and hobbyists consider themselves pros. What this means for professional photography is a topic for another time. Looking at the camera phones themselves, one must note that most companies like Apple and Samsung are on a level playing field when it comes to the hardware. This means they’ve now turned to software to enhance the capability of their cameras. For example, artificial background blur, or bokeh, is now very common, something only pros were once able to accomplish using traditional DSLR cameras. AI image stabilization and subject tracking are also critical features pushing camera phones to the next level for both photography and videography. Some phones utilize motion sensor data to minimize blur created by unsteady hands or the movement in videos that appears from the movement of videographers. Smartphone cameras are now also capable of detecting people and maintaining focus on selected subjects. Computational photography, which utilizes software to interpret and manipulate multiple photos into one stellar snap, is the future, and the likes of Google and Apple know this. Different modes for their camera phones are now capable of producing images that look as though they were snapped with traditional DSLR cameras. For example, for low-light photography, Android’s Night Sight and iOS’s Night Mode photos look as though they were taken in daylight. And Apple’s Deep Fusion can also combine pictures to create a single photo with the level of detail, or sharpness, expected from traditional cameras. We’re talking about the grain of leather or individual hairs being in focus here. In order to advance these camera phones through the software running them, companies are in need of software engineers, a career path you can learn more about here.
AI-Powered Software Applications
There are now programs being released that can manipulate photos in ways never before seen. For example, a team at Duke University has created software that can take blurry, unfocused pictures and turn them into HD-quality snaps. This app combines photo editing and AI software. The artificial intelligence software scans images of HD faces until it finds a match when compared to the blurry photo. The edited photos are then made using generative adversarial networks, which can produce photos by using two neural networks in unison. One generates new snaps and the other ensures they look right. The first network learns with experience and the second makes sure the new images look like the real thing. You can visit the developer’s website here. The key to developing such software is learning to code, which can be done through boot camps such as these. Another key aspect of much of the photography software being developed is machine learning and artificial intelligence…Another example of AI software being used in the photography industry is the new Anonymous Camera app. London AI startup Playground created the app with the help of investigative journalists. It uses machine learning to identify people in images and videos and then render them anonymous. The app processes images in real-time by making the most of recent AI advances. Adobe has also stepped up its AI software game, recently releasing its newest app, the Photoshop Camera, which combines photography and editing into one app. The app utilizes Adobe’s, Sensei AI. There are face filters, color filters, and filters with the ability to change backgrounds. There are 80 filters in the app to date. Meanwhile, AI-enabled image segmentation using Morpho software is expected to distinguish between facial hair, objects, or clothing in the near future. Morpho’s technology will allow filters to be applied to these specific objects.
Photo Editing Apps
Many people have heard of professional software tools for photo editing like Photoshop and Lightroom, but everyday people carrying a phone as their only camera don’t make use of these heavy computer programs like professional photographers. Instead, they turn to mobile apps. For example, Snapseed is a photo editing app created by Google. It even touts itself as being comparable to Photoshop as it has the ability to edit RAW images, which camera phones are now capable of shooting. Some key features of Snapseed include a healing brush, structure, HDR, and perspective. Another draw is the ability to save presets and then apply them to future photos with a single tap of a button – another feature borrowed from Photoshop. Another top mobile editing app is TouchRetouch, which has the ability to heal and clone parts of photographs, just as computer heavyweights do. TouchRetouch can remove entire objects from photos, such as telephone poles or wires, and even dust marks; basically any object you don’t want in your picture.
The features in both these apps are incredibly easy to use as portions of an image to be edited are automatically selected at the touch of your finger. This ability has raised concern amongst professional photographers, especially news photographers who consider the manipulation of photos to the extent of removing objects to be unethical.
How New Hardware Tech is Impacting Photography
Just because the importance of software has risen in the photography industry doesn’t mean new hardware developments aren’t still playing a role in pushing the medium forward. Let’s take a look at some of the most important hardware developments currently impacting the photography industry.
The Use of Drones
Using drones for photography is now commonplace. The cameras mounted to drones make the most of advanced digital techniques just as camera phones do. But unlike phones or traditional cameras, they can fly. This has allowed aerial photography to reach new heights. The height at which high-quality snaps can be taken has opened new possibilities to photographers. Drones also make new angles available to photographers. These cameras also allow photographers to capture frames without putting themselves in harm’s way. For example, drones can be used for wildlife photography or to record natural disasters from a safe distance.
Advancement of Traditional Cameras
The transition from film to digital photography forever changed the industry. Notable changes were of course the ability to take thousands of photos and store them easily to edit them at a later date. More importantly, technology within DSLR cameras allowed for subject tracking, auto-focus, and burst photography along with other improvements now being replicated in camera phones. These days, DSLR cameras are being challenged by mirrorless cameras, which do away with the reflex mirror within the camera bodies, allowing them to be smaller and lighter.
With mirrorless bodies, the light goes straight to the sensor and users have an electronic viewfinder or LCD monitor to display an image preview. The initial drawback was the ability of mirrorless cameras to keep up with the autofocusing and tracking capabilities of DSLR cameras, but that gap is closing each day. Meanwhile, Lytro has developed cameras capable of allowing the photographer to select focus after snapping their picture.
Wi-Fi Enabled Camera Bodies
With everyone snapping pictures on their mobile phone and quickly using editing software to make them look professional before posting them to social media, a vital improvement to the traditional camera body was the installation of WiFi.With this improvement, professional photographers were given the ability to immediately transfer their snaps to their computers for retouching and delivery to clients. This meant there was no more need for wires or taking memory cards out of bodies, transferring pictures to a computer, and then putting the card back in the camera. A great timesaver.
Self-Directed Video Cameras
The OBSBOT self-directed camera has revolutionized the industry. It’s the first to offer a way to capture footage using an AI camera capable of tracking you. It can also auto-zoom and respond to gestures, meaning you can both act in front of the camera and direct it with hand gestures. This piece of hardware exemplifies the importance of both new software and hardware developments to push the photography industry forward. Its power would not be possible without the well-rounded AI software running it, just as it would not satisfy customers without its 12-megapixel camera, 3.5x optical zoom, and 3-axis gimbal which swivels around smoothly. This all means it can capture dynamic scenes automatically. For example, a subject at a skatepark, football field, basketball court, or dance studio; basically any activity involving a lot of movement.
Traditional camera bodies, and even camera phones to an extent, have hit a wall when it comes to new technological hardware developments. However, the ability to apply software advancements to these pieces of hardware has allowed the photography industry to continue its rapid evolution. In order to survive, both photographers and developers must embrace this reality and aid the inevitable progression of computational photography.
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