On the Idea of Replacing Photographers and Photo Editors with Machines

If you read more and more about the future of imaging tech, you’ll see a lot about a very popular theory in communications technology: as we use technology, we become the technology. Essentially, it means that human beings are becoming more and more lazy. For example, the automatic mode on cameras is a great example of this. But technology and image capture are evolving at such a rapid pace that the art world is continuing to keep pace with. As more of this technology becomes available to the masses, the cream of the crop will always rise above the rest.

Let’s take a closer look.

So when you look at the big imaging technology trends coming up that all the pundits speak of in the next few years:

  • 3D: which still needs to be done with artists and compelling content that can create an awesome scene to make someone want to go around it and interact with it. In some ways, Lytro’s failures are evidence of this.
  • 360 photography: this has been used very well with photojournalism and Real Estate. But it has yet to be used effectively with scenes being created vs captured. Creating vs Capturing helps to differentiate true artists from the rest.
  • VR: VR is pretty cool; but VR content besides games and choose your own adventure content are all that’s been well done with it.
  • High resolution video: Everyone and their mother now touts 4K video and the ability to take a still image and print it out. Plus you get so many great frames to choose from that sometimes you don’t even need to shoot still images. This, in all honestly, is completely false. You then have a whole load of problems: like scrubbing through 24 or 60 frames a second to find that one great image. Using an algorithm to do this can help, but an algorithm can only do what it thinks you want due to what you’re telling it. It can’t give you exactly what you want 100% of the time. Even further, the look of constant light vs flash is much different. Some folks like constant lights for its cinematic look. Others prefer the look of flash.
  • Algorithms: Algorithms will become better and better at finding and choosing great images to the point where they’ll try to replace photo editors. For the masses that don’t know or understand any better, they’ll be fine with those images.

All of this in many ways tries to use science, math, and numbers to take the art out of actual artistry. It forces art to evolve into something else but focuses too much on actual cameras vs all the other elements that really make artists who they are. Techniques like double exposure, cinemagraph creation, flash usage, creating and adding your own lighting into the scene (because flash is a creative tool, not something just to be used for fill) etc. are all removed.

But then what this does too is evolve the idea of what a photograph is and why they’re so important in our lives. Capturing images right out of the camera is literally just that; it becomes very hard to create within the camera space and what’s available unless you have a full scale production (like cinematic size).

And with that, creative photographers (who are artists, and actually create images vs capturing) may need to find new ways to evolve and adapt to the technology.