Complaints about photography being easier and for everyone have always been present throughout the art form’s history. There is a theory that as we use technology, we become the technology. What that means is that we start to rely on it much more than our predecessors did. Photography has evolved over the years as technology became better. Today, it’s arguably to a point where everyone is a photographer even though the notion that a professional photographer is still one who makes the majority of their income from creating images.
Here are five big defining moments where photography changed and adapted to the needs of consumers to the point where major disruption happened.
Invention of 35mm Film and Leica’s Rangefinders
For many years, photography was something done in studios with large format cameras, a tripod (though some dared to do it handheld) and required everyone to carry around lots of equipment. It was very cookie cutter and posed. But when 35mm film was developed, the smaller format allowed the everyday person to take images on their own and of things that had never been shot before. For the first time, it was possible to capture fast moving subjects in the streets and daily life was easily captured candidly.
In 1880 George Eastman of the Kodak company started manufacturing gelatin dry photographic plates in Rochester, New York. Later on, he would help on the invention of a roll with photosensitive paper. Eventually, he would mass produce the closest thing to the film that was know today.
This went even further when Oskar Barnack launched and created the Leica camera in 1925. This is when the public really started to embrace the format. Their rangefinders helped capture raw and candid moments on battlefields. The invention and practical uses that 35mm film allowed sparked a change in the photography industry.
Just think: today photographers lust after full frame 35mm sensor cameras. But back in the day, it was a laughing stock to a certain point because of the smaller format.
Implementation of Automatic Exposure Metering
Photographers didn’t always have automatic metering in their 35mm cameras and didn’t even always have metering. Indeed, there are loads of cameras out there without any sort of light meter; so you need to use the good old Sunny 16 method.
Later on, cameras were built with light meters. This helped a photographer get what they needed, but with the addition of fully automatic metering later on, cameras became even easier to use. Suddenly, someone who had no idea how to meter a scene could take pretty much the exact same photo that another photographer would. It was a massive equalizer in the camera world.
Consumer Application of Autofocus
For many years, Leica had a patent on autofocus but never used it. In 1977, the Konica C35 AF became the first mass-produced autofocusing camera. When companies as a whole started finally putting autofocus in their cameras, the whole camera industry changed yet again. Now all someone had to do was point a camera at a person, focus and shoot. Combined with automatic exposure metering and the ease of use that 35mm film allowed, it really changed things.
The Improvement of Digital Cameras
When digital cameras were first invented, they didn’t catch on and the quality they offered just wasn’t there compared to what film could do. But in the early 2000s, that really started to change. Eventually digital cameras became so good that folks quit using their film cameras. It saved them lots of money in the long run and once again, allowed anyone to take a photo when combined with automatic exposure metering and automatic focusing.
Some of the cameras that started to change the industry and make digital a staple: the original Canon 5D, the Nikon D300, the Fujifilm S5 (which was basically a Nikon D200 with a different firmware), and the revolution would continue as the internet and news sources started demanding news faster.
At this point, folks were now able to use the internet to shoot a photo, post it on their blog, email it, and share images on Social Media platforms like Myspace, Facebook, etc.
Apple’s iPhone Gets a Good Camera
So why would you carry around a big camera if you don’t need to? That’s the question that many consumers faced. Apple had been trying to change the game a bit while adding more value to their iPhone. By making the camera better in the iPhone 3Gs and the overall package something that a person would want to use regularly, people bought the iPhone and started ditching their dedicated cameras. With a data plan built into their phone, someone could easily shoot an image, upload it to their favorite social network like Facebook or Twitter and go about their day. There was no actual need for a consumer to plug their camera or SD card into their computer, upload the images, and then select which ones they put on the web.
As Instagram came around, more people started to just use their phones.