We attended PhotoPlus in NYC recently. I have been attending this conference since I was 16 years old, and it's changed a good bit over the past 26 years. Yes, I just dated myself, but I am a kid at heart still. To this day I am as excited about photography as I was when I started, and we try to remain on the cutting edge and keep our eyes on the future. For better or worse, that is what brings me to this post.
What has changed as of the past year or two is that we are seeing some brands fall off the map, and other brands step into their place. Kodak is no longer at the conference, and their huge booth is now being filled by companies like Sony, Panasonic, or Samsung. Canon and Nikon have a huge presence to say the least being the two legacy photography brands that we all grew up dreaming of owning and using someday. Now the big push we are witnessing is that there are a lot of video companies filtering their way into the show, which was once exclusively a photography conference. We all know that photography and video are converging, but just how much of a convergence are we talking about really?
Well, we had an opportunity to do an interview with a popular photography blog called "This Week In Photo" at the Panasonic booth, which you can catch here. In the interview we are called "next generation high tech" artists. At 42 it's hard to think of myself as next generation, but we always do seem to be about 5 years ahead of the curve in our industry. We embrace change easily, and consider ourselves technologists, and not just photographers and video artists.
In the photography industry change has become inevitable. Those that don't make change a part of they lifestyle just don't last very long in this industry. Although exciting and fun for a few years, keeping the pace isn't easy, and leading the way even more challenging. But, that is the life of artists that make a living with a camera. We keep pushing the envelope seeking out what is different, unique, and meaningful and keep trying to put our stamp on this world.
The latest evolution in the photography industry are mirrorless cameras. The stage is set, and it's inevitable that it will at some point take over the world of content creation and photography as we know it. Reason being is that we as a culture consume photographs and video at an outstanding pace, and I predict that the world of photography and video production is going to be turned upside down over the next decade if not much, much, sooner.
Both camera makers, artists, Hollywood, cable, broadcast, and the entire landscape of media needs a wakeup call NOW. Whether they like it or not change is in the air, and the writing is on the wall. There is a big shakeup taking place, new business models being born, and emerging markets are appearing, but they are far different than anything we have seen in the past. Simply put, you don't need big money, or the powers that be to bless your concept to make big ideas happen any longer. The next generation of content creators, artists, and photographers are arriving in droves and they know that small is the new big. For the most part their mindset is far different than that of the current generation. They couldn't, or can't find jobs, doing what they want. So, their only option is to create, and creating they are.
The Feature Film Industry...
4K video is here at a price point that everyone can afford. Today, if you are organized enough, and have a great story, you can produce a full blown Hollywood motion picture with a camera that fits in the palm of your hand that looks every bit as good as any film that coming from the big studios. Yes, it takes talented actors, high quality audio, and more to think on that level, but the fact is Mirrorless cameras change the landscape of everything we see and consume in the media. You don't need the blessing of a big studio to create a serious motion picture. All you need is vision, story, and organization. Film groups are popping up all over the world, and in NYC we have helped grow one ourselves, which is now beyond 300 members.
Still Photography Industry...
Once again, 4K video has arrived. How long before we see 6K or 8K cameras that fit in the palm of your hand? 4K video, looks gorgeous even when captured at 125th of a second, which is fast enough to stop action. 4K means we can pull prints of the perfect moment and print it beautifully in albums and books. It's already happening, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. 4K print is here to stay, and I expect that 6K and 8K video isn't far behind.
The Television Industry...
TV will have huge paradigm shifts sooner than later. Netflix has changed television forever, but that isn't the big story as I see it. We are now seeing onDemand shows from other outlets such as Vimeo. Commercial free high quality TV content created by anyone with the desire to dream it. Just yesterday I saw an advertisement on the top of a cab for a new show being streamed onDemand on Vimeo, and after watching a few teasers I will gladly pay $7.99 for the season. OnDemand is at every filmmakers fingertips. Just think of content that can go viral, and you have a show in the making.
The Publishing Industry...
I've heard it time and time again that blogging is dying or dead. As I write this I laugh because what I see coming is bigger than blogging your personal ideas. Text is still king because you still need text for SEO, and when you blend high quality writing with gorgeous photography AND video projects you have more than a blog. You have a full blown media outlet on every subject imaginable. Print is not dead, but it is becoming a luxury.
Hello? Is anybody listening to us? Turns out somebody has their ear to the ground catching the muddled cry of the next generation of camera artists and content creators. But, it isn't the brands we cut our teeth on such as Canon or Nikon. Rather it's brands like Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, goPro, and even Olympus which I thought disappeared long ago. As I write this, I am realizing that if the legacy photography brands don't act and start producing 4K mirrorless cameras that make our lives easier at the same time, they are going to be run over and left for dead.
The big market for camera companies is pro-sumer, not high end professional. That market was killed years ago when Canon and Nikon put high quality, cheap, disposable DSLRs in the hands of every photo enthusiast on the planet. The only way pro-sumers are going to upgrade is if the next camera makes their life easier, and has added video benefits. Professionals will turn to the brands that are cutting edge regardless of price point. It's pretty simple.
Gear Won't Make You Better...
There will be those that criticize this post for a wide range of reasons. Yes, this is an opinion, and it is speculative to say the least. Don't hate me for my vision of the future. It's just the way I see it. Maybe you are happy with the status quo, and the gear you own. We can agree that gear doesn't make the photographer. But, gear does change the shape of the industry, how we survive or succeed in it, and unveils new markets or opportunities. That is what Mirrorless cameras are doing right now.
The exciting news is that cameras, especially ones that perform on this level, give you the power to dream on any level imaginable. Today being a hired photographer is only one way to play the game. I encourage all those that make a living with a camera to not only create for paid clients, but to also spend time working on something more personal or bigger than that. Cameras offer power, and with our expert knowledge of light, composition, and style, the future is truly at our fingertips. None of us like wake-up calls, but sometimes it's smart to get an early start.