Shutterbug 2000
Future Of Photography

Well here it is, the turn of the century and a new millennium ahead. What does the future hold for photography and photographers? We asked our group of magi, wizards, sages, and prognosticators (in other words our regular contributors) to dust off their crystal balls, reshuffle their tarot cards, haul out their Ouija Boards, and cast their runes and let us know what they think is coming. You already know that our writers are a diverse lot, and so you shouldn't be surprised at their widely varying views of the future. Sit back, relax, and let the future of photography unfold before you.

Monte Zucker
Certainly, the basics of photography will never be replaced. Good photographic technique will never be outdated. But put that together with today's ever growing technology and a whole new world begins to open up.

The future is always a combination of the best from the past and the greatest ideas of today. One without the other will never last.

I see a return to tradition. Many who have broken away to forge new roads are already finding them to be bumpy and leading in no positive direction. The straightest path to photographic success is paved with great photographic technique. Many could get lost taking short cuts.

Truly, the streets are paved with gold for those who make the effort to mine it.

Darryl C. Nicholas
Images will be captured, stored, and displayed electronically. We are just beginning to see the "Model T Fords" of digital cameras now. As the electronics improve and it becomes possible to capture and store more and more raw data, it will also become possible to capture enough data to support three-dimensional images. And, of course, after that, the next step will be three-dimensional images that move. Think of them as moving holograms in full color. I can imagine a picture frame that sits on your desk and is powered by a tiny energy cell to display a 3D hologram-type of picture. A small button on the edge of the frame will allow you to change the picture. A second button will activate a five or 10 sec motion clip with sound for each image.

Fine art photography will use the same technology with 30x40" picture frames holding three-dimensional holograms in full color, being displayed electronically from stored memory cells. Such images would never fade or deteriorate. They would be permanently burned into the memory cell. Once every few years you might have to replace the battery!

Rosalind Smith
Oh, boy! Who can even guess? I feel pretty secure in saying it will all be digital, digital, digital. How can anyone keep resisting as equipment becomes simpler and results get better and better? But that is for the pros. As for the ordinary Joe, from what I have seen on the street, representing many countries, I think multimedia will rule--camcorders everywhere, big ones, little ones, and if I were a bettin' lady I would put my bucks on Sony.

Edward Sarkis Balian
Image-makers will be able to share their work instantaneously all over the world; we are just seeing the beginning of this today. The face of "publishing" photos will be completely changed as a result. Cultures will be in even closer contact than they are today via these instant images transmitted everywhere--even well into deep space.

While technology will obviously be driv-ing the photo markets (as it may already be today), "fine art" image-making will be alive and well; there is just no substitute for the human hand working in image creation. But, those working in darkrooms will be few and far between and that skill will become recognized as strictly an art form; it will no longer be associated with "photography" the way we define it today.

Fantastic 3D digital cameras with superb image quality, selling at the check-out stands in supermarkets for under $5. But, you will still know how to best use it for taking great pictures. There will be nothing quite duplicating the human mind!

David B. Brooks
Photography has been far more important to how the 20th century has progressed than most realize. This is largely because photographs are such a ubiquitous part of every aspect of life today. Advertising has drastically affected economics bringing most of us much improved lives over those of a century ago, and largely because photography is crucial to the effectiveness of so many ads. Photography impacts the course of history through newspapers, magazines, and television shaping public opinion to influence the outcome of wars, famines, oppression, and inhumanity.

With photography becoming increasingly digital in the 21st century, the parts it has played in the past will prevail and expand as communication continues to become more significant in every aspect of life. Digital photography will also provide greater access to individuals to the use of the medium as a means of visual expression and creativity. Accessibility and affordability, will in the future, allow more and more individuals to use the digital darkroom to an extent the traditional, closed, wet, and light-less silver-film darkroom never allowed. The dimension of possibility that is most intriguing is the phenomenon of convergence that is associated with the computer. The ability to readily mix and blend other media with photography so easily using a personal computer to make expressions and communications presently unimagined.

Steve Bedell
I can unequivocally say that my predictions of where photography is headed in the next 150 years will be wrong. The digital technology that currently exists was not even dreamed of 30 years ago, so how can we imagine where things are going? Having said that, I'm going to take a shot at guessing what the portrait and wedding studio of the future will be like.

First, there will be no paper prints. The photographer will be paid a fee to create the image or images, then they will be taken and stored electronically and the client will walk out the studio with a CD or some other storage device with the images on it. Multiple copies can be made to give to friends and relatives. Homes will have "frames" on the wall that hold a display device and the image can be changed easily by remote control. Wedding "albums" will be a continuously changing display. The need for small or wallet size prints will be eliminated. There will be a point where photography and image manipulation software is so simple and so inexpensive that the professional portrait and wedding photographer will no longer be needed.

But hey, I've been wrong before!

Roger W. Hicks
Go forward far enough in time, and cybermen may capture all they see with the blink of an eye, download from brain to holovision screen, retouch by power of thought alone, then save the shot for all eternity in some undreamed of form.

'Til then, and maybe after, silver's hard to beat for beauty, cheapness, speed, and ease. Like Shakespeare's tongue itself, it will survive beside the novelties; it may outlast them all.

Mike Matzkin
One hundred fifty years from now the two-dimensional image will be a thing of the distant past replaced by three-dimensional images with their own corporeal reality. Today's laser imaging is only a hint of what will be. The equipment to make them will be as readily available as the 35mm SLR and the point-and-shoot camera and probably easier to use. This imaging technology will have vague roots in today's computers but be beyond anything we can imagine.

Perhaps the most radical innovations will be in astrophotography with instruments that have their roots in x-ray, optical, and radio telescopes but with advances that make it possible to image galaxies we can barely see now. Again the images will be three-dimensional with unimaginable detail. In a sense they will have a reality all their own rather than simple photographic models. But no matter what there will be images and people making them. Imaging has been ingrained in mankind from the very beginning.

Howard Millard
Digital cameras and backs are proliferating--some with better resolution than film; the darkroom is moving out of the dark and onto the desktop; ink jet printers can lay down images on a rich array of papers, canvas, plastic, and other substrates. Software like Adobe Photoshop 5.5 offers infinite control over tonal curves, contrast, color, and retouching, all in a tiny fraction of the time required for these tasks with conventional photography. Over the next new decade or two, I predict that digital will overtake conventional silver-based imaging.

More and more photos will be viewed, shared, and sold via the Internet. The computer and television will merge into a new medium for viewing still and video images, with the world connected by satellite. Looking even farther ahead, nearly everyone will have a digital camera--a tiny, lightweight still and video device smaller than a deck of playing cards with the electro-optical equivalent of a zoom ranging from fisheye to 1000mm in 35mm terms. Film, and eventually prints on paper, will be relics confined to museums. Pictures will be displayed on walls on huge thin flat screens or viewed on magazine size (and weight) computer screens, or with projectors that can fill a wall. In 150 years or even a lot sooner, these images will be 3D. Isn't it hard enough already to tell what's real from what is not? I'll see you in cyberspace.

Robert E. Mayer
I believe the genetically dominant seeds for what will grow tremendously in the future were introduced 10-12 years ago with the introduction of the original Sony Mavica digital camera. In that far distant future decade most everything will undoubtedly be vastly different than what we know today, due to greatly expanded technology and inventions, combined with the need for a safer environment with minimal caustic effluents from today's color chemicals--therefore it will all be digital electronic in nature.

Silver halide film as we know it, will be a relic of the distant past. All imaging will be captured and saved--permanently, with no worry about fading or deterioration of precious images--digitally on electronic chips. Lenses will be more like the human eye, able to adapt to widely different light levels and still capture perfect, sharply detailed, images. So ISO speed ratings will not be needed. There might even be some non-wired or connected means of saving the images your eye sees, thereby eliminating the need for a camera or other recording device with a lens. All you would need is a highly portable small device with a memory chip to store the visual images you desire to keep. These saved images could be transferred instantaneously to friends and others via satellite transmission. Walls in homes and offices would be coated with a sensitive material capable of receiving and retaining any type of electronic image similar to flat screen VDT monitors today.

Gary Bernstein
As a veteran people photographer, I am uniquely aware that it is the subject alone who determines the success or failure of an image. So it matters not if the future sees the photographer making filmless images. Regardless of the method used for capture and delivery, the criteria for the successful portrait will always rest in using the elements of light, lens selection, camera angle, posing, photographer-subject rapport, and mind's-eye pragmatism to create an imaging environment in which the subject wishes to reside if but for one special moment in time.

James A. Sugar
From my first camera, a venerable Argus C-3, to my latest computerized, turbo-charged creation, a Nikon F5, I have dreamed of the day when taking a picture required little more than blinking one's eyes. In addition, I imagined that the projection screen would resemble a theater-sized window shade in thickness and in its ability to unfurl from the wall.

After witnessing the meteoric changes in computers and photography in just the past decade, this human interface to future generations of computer technology should become a reality during the next century. In other words, shortly after blinking one's eyes, the photo-electronic image will be beamed instantly to a flat panel display on the far wall of the room, the far side of the planet, the far side of the universe, or the far side of another person's brain. But until then, the camera/computer conundrum will provide the valve that gets in the way.

Dave Howard
In photography's second 150 years, methods and materials will, of course, change almost unimaginably. Film will pass into photographic history as silicon finally proves its superiority. Lenses will become much smaller as electronic image brightness amplification matures, obviating the need for huge front elements. Cameras will be incorporated into eyewear, featuring a VR "head-up" viewfinder display. Stills, motion, audio, 3D, and variable aspect ratios will all be commonly available from a single camera. Darkroom operations such as dodging, burning, bleaching, and retouching will be accomplished via multifunction electronic styli applied to images displayed on large, flat touch screens. Your work (still series or motion) will be showcased on plasma wall panels, updated by simply exchanging plug-in media cards. You're gonna be having too much fun to lament the past!

The accelerating Information Age will demand improvements in the archivality of digital storage media. Current magnetic solutions are unacceptable, as the images inexorably begin leaking away into the Earth's magnetic field as soon as they're taken.

And finally, Leica just might come out with an M7 rangefinder camera, featuring a modern shutter capable of X synch at higher than 1/50 sec; hmmm, we're only talking 150 years--nah, no way!

Peter K. Burian
I predict that both media will continue to flourish side by side for some time yet, but digital imaging will surpass conventional photography. By 2025, true photographic processes will be a rarity, used by artists and a few traditionalists.

During the 1970s, Marshall McLuhan claimed that "the medium is the message," but his theory is a fallacy. Regardless of our tools, content will always be the message. A technically perfect, visually compelling, or aesthetically pleasing image will evoke a strong response from viewers whether it is made in silver halides, dyes, or pixels. Because of this fact, the photographer's eye, brain, and creativity will remain the most significant factor in this art and craft.

Tom Fuller
Much has been written about the demise of photography. This is not going to happen for a very, very long time. This is demonstrated by the simple fact that while top-end illustration software occupies yards of shelving in art supply stores, a greater amount of space is devoted to markers, T-squares, and crescent board. Photography means, quite literally, writing or drawing with light, and because everyone has something different to say, and says it in a different way, the traditional materials of any medium will exist as long as artists find them sufficient for expressing their social and cultural statements. I'm one such adherent, but I have no gripe with digital--it's simply not, so far, my voice.

Will we still want to hold a simple snapshot in our hands a century from now? I think so. Be it a tintype of an unknown Civil War soldier, a faded '60s Kodacolor of Mom doing the dishes, or an overly vibrant minilab print of you or me 50 years hence, a snapshot creates an immediate connection to the subject, a bridge that spans time, distance, and differences. It's a moment captured, a very simple thing, a thing that need not be replaced with anything more complicated, no matter how much "better" the technology may be perceived.

Happy new millennium!

Rick Sammon
January, 2150--Just got out of my time machine. Wow! What a ride through the past 150 years.

So here I am, in Botswana, a place I photographed with a 35mm autofocus camera back in the year of the big Y2K scare. Same great wildlife here, thanks to local and international conservation efforts. But man, phototechnology sure has changed. Check this out.

The device I'm using to capture pictures is not called a camera anymore. It's called a PDST, an acronym for Personal Digital Satellite Transcorder. Why the name? Because it's tiny, records still and moving pictures with sound--all digitally--and can transmit data to, and receive it from, any place on earth via satellite. It's about the size of one of those old cigarette packs that were banned in 2010, but weighs about the same. It's solar powered, just like our safari vehicles. Cost me $99.

As far as tech specs go: the digital zoom lens is equivalent to a 20-200mm on a 35mm camera of yesterday, the ISO equivalent is 400, the viewing screen is bright even under the blinding equatorial sun, and I can transmit an endless number of pictures--as I shoot them--to my web site.

Today I used my PDST to take pictures, receive e-mail (and send this one), watch the "Monica story" on the History Channel, check out Shutterbug's web site, and call my National Geographic friends at the base station on the Titanic.

Kinda cool, don't you think?

Jay Abend
This is what I know about the next 150 years of photography: The still image will continue to have a unique place in popular culture, regardless of the technological changes that occur.

These are the things that I don't know about the next 150 years of photography: Will there still be silver process film? Will there be any mechanical parts of "cameras," or will it all be electronic, with multi-megapixel sensors, LCD shutters, and teeny tiny multi-megabyte storage cards? Will cameras of the future combine still images, moving images, sound, and other data? Will there be any film available for classic collector cameras?

These are the things that I hope will be true in 150 years: Cameras from a variety of manufacturers offer unprecedented automatic features, full manual control, unlimited digital storage, and breathtaking resolution. The "Old School" backlash is in full swing, and black and white film, enlarging papers, and chemicals are the rage. We can all dream can't we? We'll see...

Frances E. Schultz
Everything will change, and everything will stay the same. Silverless photography will grow, and change, and evolve in ways we cannot imagine. But for those who love the craft of making traditional prints, the darkroom will still be their retreat.
Until the new media can engage the senses in the same way as the old--the richness of the image, the crispness of the paper, even the smell of the chemicals--then surely, silver will survive; and the future will continue to make room for the past.

Joseph A. Dickerson
For immediate release. February 5, 2149, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Earth Province. The Canon Camera Company of Earth Province today announced at the Photo Marketing Association convention in this city the new OCIS (Optical Cerebral Interface System) that will replace the bulky handheld cameras that we have come to expect in the last 50 years or so. No longer will the photojournalist need to carry equipment weighing nearly a pound in order to capture and transmit images and sound directly to subscribers the world over. The new system will utilize the same display wall technology for the viewing of the images as found in all homes today but the resolution will be increased to over 100,000 lines per inch and the fidelity of the audio will be greatly enhanced as well.

The installation of the OCIS will be performed as a simple outpatient procedure at a cost of less than 10 million earth dollars or just a little more than the cost of a week long stay at any of Mars' famous health spas. The optical unit, with an equivalent focal range of 6-600mm at an effective aperture of f/1.0, is inserted into the photojournalist's dominate eye and does not interfere with normal vision. The main controller/processor/transmitter unit is implanted into, and connected directly to, the cerebral cortex allowing the photojournalist to activate it, capture an image with sound and transmit the signal to his/her subscribers by simply thinking it. A consumer externally worn version is rumored to be in the works as well.

Bob Shell
I see the future of photography in the near future through the eyes of Blade Runner. A small gadget in every home which combines television, telephone, computer, printer, all in one module and operates completely by voice commands. "Gimme a hard copy on that," and the print spits out from a slot in front. Images will be captured with "cameras" so small they will be worn as adornments, functional jewelry. Digital storage will be on crystals, with hundreds of gigabytes on a crystal block the size of a sugar cube.

Later on in the more distant future I think of the world of Neuromancer, a world in which we can share each other's realities and computers will be fully integrated with the human mind. Humanity will become something totally new, creatures of biology and solid state reaching levels undreamed of today. In this world photography and motion pictures will cease to exist, melded into a new, all encompassing art form in which the boundaries of reality and virtual reality will not only blur, but cease to be of any significance. I just want to live long enough to be a part of this.

Joe Farace
See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me. During the past 150 years, the shape and size of the tools that we've used to create photographs has changed drastically. To capture sweeping landscape vistas, you no longer need to drive a mule-drawn darkroom wagon into the wilderness. Now while hiking in the Rockies, a tiny Advanced Photo System tucked into a shirt pocket will do the job quite well. During the next 150 years, the means that we'll use to capture photographs will change dramatically, but not the motivation to share our view of the world with other people.

Apple's QuickTime VR software--the hardware won't matter anymore--provides a hint of the kind of images we'll be able to share with one another. In the future, three-dimensional, wraparound images will be able to be viewed through the same kind of tiny Walkman-like headset envisioned by Douglas Trumbull in his highly underrated film Brainstorm. Viewers of your images will be able to see, touch, even smell the experience that you want to convey to them. Your images may be as simple as vacation pictures made on this or another celestial body or as complex as unreal worlds that exist only in your mind's eye and were created with successors to software such as MetaCreations' Bryce--or maybe even a combination of the two technologies. As Al Jolson said in 1929, "You ain't seen nothin' yet."

Don Sutherland
A potential of digital cameras is that they can be essentially "deconstructed." An electronic camera doesn't need to be all in one piece. I've already described in Shutterbug the necklace-camera, where one "gemstone" is the lens, another the battery, another the image-processing system, another the memory, and so on. Framing and focusing conducted by eye-control on a special pair of Foster Grants. The components exchange data through the string holding them around your neck.

Manufacturers are quite sure the market is not "ready" to accept something so radical. Yet it could be built today, using off-the-shelf technology. And this camera would be a lot less "in your way" than any you actually have to pick up and hold.

Extending this objective over 150 years, we have to consider something in the realm of bioengineering. Even more out of the way would be a device that connects directly to the optic nerve, and records its photographs in the photographer's spleen (or other appropriate receptacle). Perhaps an implant would be impractical, and perhaps it would be necessary to genetically engineer people who have biological image-recording systems. This would certainly get the camera "out of the way," as well as lending a new definition to the term, "cameraman."