PaaS: photography as a service


The age of the camera is slowly coming to an end, especially the bulky digital SLR and all its associated variations. In a very short time, all that will be left are those pesky in-object cameras like the one on our cell phones and a query type box in our browser.

The end of analog

Large, bulky cameras have a deep-rooted heritage in the physical world. They were designed to mechanically create images for physical media. This analog world is disappearing. Already, not only are the images all digital, but they all end up – the vast majority – on digital media. And as with everything in the digital world, its propensity is to decrease in size while increasing in power (Moore’s law).

Yes, the next cover of Vogue magazine will be shot with the latest Hasselblad, although it is equipped with a digital back. And yes, there is a much better quality of light entering the frame of a full-size Leitz lens than those three circles on the back of the latest iPhone. But for how long ?

File size doesn’t really matter anymore. It is only a matter of time before all of the surviving print publications become a supplement to their online mothership, Vogue included. Billboards are also going digital. The need for large and large files is now easily met with upscaling. Computer photography is now the norm and the skills necessary to operate a digital SLR are now replaced by AI. An iPhone / Galaxy and its successors can and will soon outperform any bulky DSLR.

Cameras, everywhere

Along with the proliferation of our handheld computerized cameras, almost every device in our life will contribute to the creation of photographs. To monitor themselves and their environment, visual data acquisition interfaces are slowly infiltrating our lives. Doorbells have cameras, high-end cars and refrigerators already have them, while others, like vacuum cleaners or lamps, will soon have them.

Soon our whole environment will take pictures of every moment of our life. Instead of taking pictures at our next birthday party, we can ask the fridge or the lamp to share some of the ones they’ve taken. Nothing will be missed.

With a simple voice command, anyone will create a perfect image. Photo by cottonbro / Pexels.

Introducing PaaS

As for professional content? Replaced by a simple query type box. Enter the type of image you need and press Enter. An AI will produce the image for you. A photo of a couple holding hands on a beach at sunset, no problem. A photo of Alexander the Great playing chess with Napoleon on the deck of the Mayflower. A piece of cake. And yes, the next cover of Vogue magazine too. Introducing PaaS: Photography as a Service.

Due to the computing power and software engineering expertise required, the first iterations of PaaS will be through a handful of companies offering this service through a web interface. But ultimately, like anything digital, it will be built into our cell phones or whatever device we take with us.

Need a photo of a butterfly on a red rose for your Instagram feed? No problem. Tell your Siri / Google, and off you go.

Advantages? What advantages?

What about the news or wedding photography? These will certainly still need experienced professionals handling bulky digital SLRs? Yes and no. The proliferation of cameras everywhere combined with an accelerated news cycle and a reduced budget make the future of photojournalism extremely precarious.

Even without these replacement technologies fully deployed, it becomes extremely difficult for anyone to make a living as a press photographer. Already, the local with a cell phone wins over the pro with the heavy equipment. Not much of a future here.

As for wedding photographers, of course. They could survive with a few portraits before the ceremony and outwit guests with cell phones. But in the short term, providing a PaaS with two portraits of the couple and a command to create a beautiful wedding portrait will produce much better photos than anything a pro could do. As for the ceremony, nothing that a few cameras with better AI scene detection can’t deliver.

With PaaS, the creative process will no longer be controlled by those who have mastered the tools of the trade, such as a camera or Photoshop, but rather by those with the most creative minds. Imagination will be the best skill.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone.

About the Author: Paul Melcher is a New York-based photography and technology entrepreneur and the founder of Kaptur, a news magazine about the visual technology space. You can find more of his writing on his blog, Thoughts of a Bohemian. Melcher also offers his services as a consultant. This article was also published here.

Image credits: Header photo by Brett Sayles / Pexels

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