The Future of Photography

I don’t usually write about photographic equipment. To me, cameras are just boring hardware. More often than not they stand between the photographer and a good photo.

Let me make an exception for a new type of camera that may change photography even more than the invention of colour film did, a long time ago.

I am talking about a light-field camera, of which type a company called Lytro recently launched the first consumer model.

Three Lytro Cameras (Photo by Lytro.)

I won’t bother you with the technical details of how this camera works (but do read this article if you are interested). What the camera in essence does, is to allow you to decide where the focus in the picture is, after you have taken the photo. Each area in the picture can be in our out of focus, or in photographic terms: may fall inside or outside the depth of field of the photo.

The great thing about this: if the photographer can decide where the focus is after the photo has been taken, so can the viewer.

To give you an idea: these two pictures are actually two instances of a single photo taken with a Lytro. You really should have a look at the showcase website of Lytro to get an idea of how interactive and dynamic this is.

Lytro photo

Two instances of the *same* photo taken with Lytro camera. (Copyright Erik Cheng/Lytro.)

Now digital photography has brought us many gimmicks, which in the end have not proven to be very helpful in taking photography to the next level. On the contrary, ‘techniques’ like HDR and time lapse turn cameras into magic boxes without really turning the photographer into an illusionist.

The Lytro camera is anything but a gimmick. This camera will create a whole new kind of photography, in which the dynamic photo, changeable by the viewer, will play a central role. In the future, the role of the viewer will become much more important and the interaction between the photographer and their audience will become much more intense and direct.

The photographer will invite, even challenge, the viewer to see things completely different than the photographer did. And that is the complete opposite of what has been the approach of photography for nearly 200 years now: to try to show the audience what the photographer saw or wanted to see.

That is why I dare predict that this Lytro camera will change the course of photography more than any invention before.

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