Ten years ago I had no interest in photography. Delving into it on any level was either a clunky or an expensive situation. I had no interest in taking the time out of my day to learn my way around a darkroom or the proper techniques. As for digital. Well digital was a joke back then. To get something decent you had to sell your body for science, anything consumer wise was laughable at best. So in short I had no interest, but I did possess a camera despite the odds. I just didn’t have the passion for it that I have now. What changed?
Despite the push back from photographers on the sanctity of film over digital, thankfully, the technology manufacturers have continued their steady progression of improving upon themselves. This progression has allowed the trickling of professional grade cameras into the hands of average consumers. Mind you not every consumer is going to go out and get a $2500 5D Mark II, but its a lot cheaper easier to obtain than a $15,000 Hasselblad. But if you take a look further into what is being produced you have several cameras that have broke the $1000 mark that can produce professional level results. What’s even better than this is that it has pushed the consumer level products down to dirt cheap affordability. An affordability level that is evident now that almost every phone has a camera in it.
Between 2000-2010 the rise of photographers can be attributed to many things, but the biggest being the accessibility & affordability. Being able to come out of college and spend some money on a decent camera and start a business is not a stretch of the imagination for budding photographers.
The great thing about this? The quality will only improve, and the prices will only drop. Don’t get me wrong, I love film…if its in the right hands. The rise of digital photography has allowed a whole new crop of artists to emerge, ones who thrive on instant feedback and correction. Yes you can go to school, learn the proper techniques, and go about it the “right” way, but if your are talented and you have a good eye that can easily become great, don’t let the “schoolers” stop you. If you create great art, you will be respected for that. And if you don’t, well get some schooling, take some classes and refine your approach.
Digital photography has also opened up other emerging trends in our industry. As the darkroom slowly fades away and artists pull up in front of their computer they are faced with endless possibilities for crafting their images. Our post production process is now more robust with the advent of Photoshop, the ease of Lightroom, Aperture, and the millions of plugins out there.
In mere hours we can go through a shoot we took in the morning, edit, post process and send them to the printer. We have improved our work flow and allowed us more time to dedicate to being artists.
Of all this though, I feel the largest change in the industry had come within the last two years. Trends are happening at such a regular pace it is hard to keep up. Each trend happening on top of the other in a frantic overlap. For me I first became aware of the turnover when photographers really began leveraging the social scene. I started to see new techniques, discovers new media, new technology. The first big trend I noticed was HDR photography. First it was a manual thing, then BAM! It started to become its own program, then bracketing was brought onto most cameras, and now some of the newer cameras being rolled out are HDR capable. They produce live on board HDR photos. A trend that still continues.
Then along came two more trends that are still picking up pace. The Micro Four Thirds / EVIL systems, and mobile phoneography. I think the MFT/EVIL systems are a sign of things to come. A good example to look at is the Sony NEX-5. I see this becoming a baseline of what our future professional cameras are going to be based off. But of course with full frame sensors. Anyone who has carried around a 5D Mark II fully loaded with a Telephoto lens, knows you need to start weight lifting. Imagine carrying around a body that was as light as your phone and the lens system was all inclusive. Well, Sony and Canon are already heading down that path. The time frame they gave seemed far off, I expect it to be much sooner in the scheme of things.
Mobile Phoneography is something I wholeheartedly endorse and participate in. I have heard photogs complain time and time again that they wanted a shot but couldn’t get it. Or got a shot and said I really wish I had this. Well, as they say “the best camera you have, is the one you have in your pocket” (or something like that). Most photogs carry phones with them all day long. Our phones (I’m going to use iPhone as an example because that is what I use) have become not only mobile desktops, but an easy portable phone. I have started and many others have started series of mobile phone portfolios. If you can make something looking amazing and incredible from your phone, then you have the talent to wield and learn a body/kit system. But where these phones succeed is past the point of simply taking a picture. You can edit, post process and share your photos in a matter of minutes.
The line between consumer and professional equipment is being blurred. What we think of today as “consumer grade” will most likely only reside in our pockets. Outside of our phones nearly any camera you pickup in the near future will be a professional level camera.
But what’s next? What’s the next big trend? I feel to next big thing is on board processing. They have begun to put this into some of the MFT and Camera Phones, but I imagine real soon you’ll be able to take your post process directly from your preferred program and apply them directly on your DSLR or your camera of choice, saving you even more time.
What about you, what are your feelings on the next big trend in the industry?
Ron Heerkens Jr (http://www,ronheerkensjr.com) is President of GF Media Entertainment multimedia studio (http://goatfactorymedia.com). Key areas of focus are Film, Photography, and Sound Design. Also a musician, actor, lover of comics. Lives life in Rochester, New York with his wife, daughters and dogs. You can follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gfmedia or contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org