Of the importance of convenience in photography, and how it will drive conventional digital cameras to irrelevance for casual photographers.
Before they lost everything, Kodak had built an empire on convenience. They had made a process which was seen as extremely complex and cumbersome – taking photographs – into something as simple as pressing a button.
Apple, Google, Facebook, Instagram and a few others have made an activity which was discouragingly complex for billions of people – taking pictures, uploading them to a computer, editing them and sharing them with family, friends or perfect strangers over the Internet – so simple that a 6 year old can do it. For the casual photographer, there is no better camera than a smartphone.
How is the obsession with simplicity and convenience going to impact photography as we know it?
It may take a few years, but digital photography as we know it is going to leave the mass market and become a niche:
- Smartphones and their cloud ecosystem will only get better at meeting the needs of casual photographers. They will not only take better pictures, but will also offer more functions and even more convenience than today, in a way that will be impossible to match with conventional digital cameras. Imagine the possibilities of combining Presence, Search, Face Recognition, Augmented Reality and Video to make pictures more beautiful, more flattering for the subject, more relevant, easier to share and easier to retrieve for the average user.
- Conventional digital photography, with its big and heavy cameras and its cumbersome workflow requiring PCs or Macs and Terabytes of storage will not be able to compete on convenience with smartphones. It will leave the mainstream, and will increasingly be the field of people passionate about creating the absolute best pictures. Those photographers will form a small niche – with its forums, its Web galleries, its exhibits, its sub-culture. The situation of digital photographers will be comparable to what photographers shooting with film experience today. They will form a new minority of enthusiasts.
- I don’t expect photographers working with digital cameras to abandon their 50 Megapixel sensors and the Terabytes of disk space where they store their RAW or DNG files to go back to film.
- But you can wonder what newcomers to photography will do. If they have an interest in photography as a craft or as a form of artistic activity, and want to go beyond the pictures that the smartphones of Apple and Google will have prepared for them, will they invest in digital cameras and in the digital workflow, or will they go to film? I don’t know. But I’d like to bet on film.