We often see articles predicting the future of photography. Most of these articles are based on the quite near future and revolve around expanding the capabilities of existing technologies.
Despite the revolution of digital, the form factor and taking processes of photography have little changed in the last 50 years. We still use the SLR style format of camera, we still change lenses, we still view images on screens or as prints. Even the major technological advances have done little to change the basics of photography, mirrorless cameras still look and feel like cameras we might have used in the 1970’s, we still press shutter buttons and remove SD cards or films.
So what of the far future? Technology is moving at a pace never before seen and a lot of that will filter down into the way we take photos. Today we are going to take a look at how photography might look more than 20 years in the future.
There have been thee things that have limited camera ergonomics for decades. The need for a mirror, the need for a significantly sized optics and the human that is operating the camera.
The mirror is on the way out, yet mirrorless cameras are still hampered by the size of the lens, albeit smaller than those on an SLR. Currently, we are bound by the centuries-old technology of focussing light through large glass elements.
However, emerging technologies such as metalenses will revolutionize the way we focus light on our sensors. In the far future, it will be possible to have lenses that are tiny, yet have amazing focal lengths and ultra-fast apertures.
This is all very exciting but cameras would still be limited by us and our large cumbersome hands. Or will it? Even now, we interact with things at home via voice or gestures. Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri all recognize our voices and carry out our commands.
There is no reason at all why this technology will not be applied to future photographic equipment. When it is, the camera as we know it will change beyond all recognition. No longer constrained by the need to fit into the photographer’s hands, the camera will become miniaturized wearables that we take everywhere we go.
They could be built into glasses, clothing, even into us. Given the advance of technology, this is perhaps not so far away.
Of course, the purist might shout that there is another defining aspect to the way current cameras are, and that is sensor size.
Our current day mindset is still based on the size of 35mm film and that sensors should conform to that format. However, the advance of sensor and lens technologies will effectively end that debate. In the future, there will be fantastic depth of field, ultra-low noise, and incredible image quality from tiny sensors.
The Shooting Experience
With the advancement of technology, so too the shooting experience will change. Of course, as a photographer, we will still need to compose the shots, get into the right positions and understand the light.
However, emerging technologies, such as augmented reality, will change the way we visualize our images, as well as provide us with live, on location, advice about light, weather, and even shooting position.
Imagine wearing a pair of glasses that not only shoots the image by voice command or gesture but shows us what the light is like on the opposite side of the building we are shooting. These are not flights of fancy, I am certain that within 20 years they will happen.
The need for memory cards will also be removed, images will be uploaded in real-time to the cloud and visible for our friends to view on whatever social media platforms we are using in the future.
Autonomous photographic platforms will also become much smaller and more intelligent. Tiny drones, fitted with powerful cameras, will perform photographic missions while we shoot from the ground.
We will also need to get away from the concept of stills photos.
In the future, most images will be created by pulling stills from an ultra high definition video clip. The upcoming 8k format will allow us to produce 30+MP stills from video. At the moment the constraining factor is that video requires a shutter speed two times that of the frame rate.
Current processors and memory cards are pushed to the limit to process that amount of information. However, as processor technology improves we will be able to shoot 60p video at 1/120th of a second while shooting a second video clip at a shutter speed of our choice simultaneously, perhaps to the same sensor, maybe to a secondary one. All of this being uploaded live to our personal cloud.
Beyond this, we will also be looking at our video and images in full 3D virtual reality rather than the 2D restrictions that we have today.
Imagine ultra high definition 3D 360-degree video watched on the same glasses we use to take our shots.
Some might dismiss my predictions as the flight of fancy of an over-active imagination. However, much of what I am predicting is entirely possible using technologies either emerging now or existing but improved.
Photography is on the cusp of a revolution that will make the change to digital seem trivial. In 20 years time, I doubt we will recognize photography as we know it today.
Tell us your thoughts on the future of photography in the comments below.