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The changing nature of photography
May 17, 2012 3:06 AM   Subscribe

Photographers: You’re Being Replaced by Software
posted by Brandon Blatcher (76 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
If your idea of photography is a pack-shot, then yes indeed.
posted by unSane at 3:11 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Teachers: You're Being Replaced by Software
posted by R. Schlock at 3:14 AM on May 17, 2012


They can create realistic images with computers now?
posted by pipeski at 3:32 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Teaching, not grading ought to be a teacher's job and if software grades similarly to human readers, that is probably due to the grading criteria, which are practical at best and often awful.

Les Perelman [...[ has crusaded against automated essay grading by writing and speaking widely of his own, successful efforts to fool the Educational Testing Services’ e-Rater, which has been used to grade the GRE and the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), into giving good scores to incoherent essays carefully crafted by Perelman to exploit its flaws.
posted by ersatz at 3:34 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


For some reason I read that as "Philosophers: You're Being Replaced by Software".
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:36 AM on May 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


More tools for creativity = better.
posted by caddis at 3:36 AM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


"a photographer who creates images that help organizations tell their stories" ... oh my.
posted by scruss at 3:41 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


"a free, open-source, relatively easy-to-use software package called Blender.

Holy crapamole, unless Blender has dramatically improved since I used it last (a few years ago, I grant), that is a wildly optimistic statement. Relative to what? Writing your own program? Maybe.
posted by smoke at 3:53 AM on May 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


Unless I'm missing something, photographers are being replaced by graphic artists, not software.

That said, it's always sad when a body of hard-won knowledge is lost merely because some final effect (or even side effect) can be achieved some other way.
posted by DU at 4:01 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


If your idea of photography is a pack-shot, then yes indeed.

I thought this was a very interesting little article - it's not art or even reportage but photography for marketing is an enormous industry.

Seemed like only a few years ago the whole industry had to change over to digital workflow - now it's all change again. (Middle-aged person disclaimer: I was a photographer's assistant around 2002-2004, and we still used large format film).
posted by colie at 4:14 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Three issues with this:

1. That guy is no novice. The simple act of understanding how to observe light and make note of what is happening with it and then create textures and shaders and use lenses and lighting that match the desired realistic effect is a sign of experience. Even talented newbies make 3D art that looks like it was photographed on another planet during a combination supernova and eclipse.
2. Blender has had big UI improvements but that hasn't made it easy to use. It just no longer makes you want to climb a clocktower once an hour or so.
3. I was under the impression that DSLRs and increasing abilities to correct in post had already killed 90% of well-paying photography as a career.

I found his point that pro shooters screw themselves by erasing all signs of reality to be a very interesting and insightful one, though.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 4:19 AM on May 17, 2012 [12 favorites]


Metafilter: You are being replaced by people who skive off less at the office.
posted by biffa at 4:19 AM on May 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Meh, I knew it was fake. You can tell by the pixels.
posted by zardoz at 4:24 AM on May 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


smoke: "Holy crapamole, unless Blender has dramatically improved since I used it last (a few years ago, I grant)"

Blender 2.6+ is somewhat easier to use, yes. It's not a night-and-day difference though.
posted by vanar sena at 4:27 AM on May 17, 2012


This sensationalistic title pretty much ruins an otherwise decent article. It's not like a box of software grows arms, crawls it's way to your keyboard and starts stealing your clients.

"Photographers: You're being supplemented by highly trained 3D artists!" wouldn't get as many page views.

See previously: "Photographers: you're being replaced by easy access to consumer cameras"

See also: "Painters: you're being replaced by photographers!"
posted by fontophilic at 4:28 AM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was under the impression that DSLRs and increasing abilities to correct in post had already killed 90% of well-paying photography as a career

My experience was not that you were instantly out of a job, but rather in tried and tested turbocapitalism fashion, you just had to work much harder because of digital, overnight.

It was the workflow that changed everything. On the shoot your client would be reviewing your images instantly, standing next to you, and the assistant was now mocking up the ads on a laptop there and then (rather than making tea and chatting and occasionally loading a camera).
posted by colie at 4:29 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


It was the workflow that changed everything. On the shoot your client would be reviewing your images instantly, standing next to you, and the assistant was now mocking up the ads on a laptop there and then (rather than making tea and chatting and occasionally loading a camera).

Interesting, I can believe it. Do you find it ultimately better or worse to get fast feedback? On one hand it can be obnoxious but on the other hand it makes it less likely to spend time going down a blind alley that might be more difficult to get paid for.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 4:34 AM on May 17, 2012


Blender is a good example of a tool that should be hard to use. Modeling in 4D (3 space, 1 time) is a hard problem to solve. If it were easy for the n00b, it would be crap at making the impossible possible.
posted by DU at 4:35 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow. That nuts 'n' bolts picture is completely created? I would have figured the individual objects as photoshopped together, sure, but that's pretty damn good creation from scratch. I suppose I should have guessed that kind of thing was now widely available, but hadn't thought about it.

"Photographers: You're being supplemented by highly trained 3D artists!" wouldn't get as many page views.

And also wouldn't have quite captured the philosophical distinction, I think. Thanks, Brandon, that was an interesting, informative link.
posted by mediareport at 4:50 AM on May 17, 2012


Do you find it ultimately better or worse to get fast feedback?

Always worse. The client (under all sorts of commercial pressures themselves) would start to want to try entirely new ideas, or start to worry that the original idea was in fact rubbish (which, this being advertising, often was indeed the case...)

It's all just tech progress and I guess it all settles down into new ways to get results and creativity, but the main part of adapting was finding new moments to actually think.
posted by colie at 4:55 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


For some reason I read that as "Philosophers: You're Being Replaced by Software".

That's a Deep Thought.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:59 AM on May 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Artists of One Kind: You're Being Replaced by Artists of Another Kind
posted by Rhomboid at 5:01 AM on May 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Humans will eventually devolve into to the part of the machine that shits and eats.
posted by phaedon at 5:06 AM on May 17, 2012


Artists of One Kind: You're Being Replaced by Artists of Another Kind

But it is a dramatic change.

Even as a hack commercial photographer, you were aware that everything you did was about manipulating light. You end up with fascinated by guys like Kubrick procuring NASA lenses in order to shoot a whole movie by candlelight.

With images that are 100 percent born and bred inside the computer, it's not clear what substance you're shaping with your hands.

I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it just eliminates another element of the fun.
posted by colie at 5:13 AM on May 17, 2012


When a CEO says a new tech is cheaper what he means is that the practitioners demand less pay than the experienced ones in the old tech.
posted by DU at 5:18 AM on May 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Nice nuts and bolts. I'm sure the hardware photographers are shaking in their boots right now.

Last time I checked there was no uncanny valley with fasteners.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:27 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even as a hack commercial photographer, you were aware that everything you did was about manipulating light.

If you ever want to be good at creating good CGI, you'll come to the same realization.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:30 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the same website, here's the opposite approach: Photos of a Perpetually Burning House
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:31 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pixel-wrangler makes a shitty macro photo. I'm so scared for our future.

I mean, sure, it's nice. It has detail. The lighting looks like a simulacrum of natural light. But, come on, tricking the eye with good skillz is it's own thing, no matter how "life-like."

No one is replacing a photographic eye, unless they work for the State Department. But that ship has sailed, hasn't it?
posted by clvrmnky at 5:37 AM on May 17, 2012


Photographers - you are mostly being replaced by other cheaper or free photographers that are sourced via the interwebs.
posted by Artw at 5:38 AM on May 17, 2012


Soon the viewing of photography will be replaced by software, and the circle will be complete.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:38 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I always laugh at these articles about CG, they always seem to be targeted at people who have absolutely no knowledge of the subject, and laughable to anyone with the least bit of practical experience.

I remember in art school, my photo professors would always say you don't take photos, youmake photos. One of my professors did some research to see how many variables were involved in even the simplest SLR rig in a studio photo. You start with classic Zone System. You have a combination of aperture and shutter speed, you can vary them to give priority to an aperture or a shutter speed. With aperture changes you also have the ability to change focus continuously from the front of the scene to the back. You can meter the light and if you're really into the Zone System, you can pick a different ASA film and vary the developing to optimize for the contrast and curve to match the scene. Already you have a nearly infinite number of choices to pick from. And we haven't even considered the direction you point the camera and the position (nearly infinite choices again), position of studio lights, using different lenses and filters, etc. By considering only a handful of variables, commonly used by all photographers, you have an infinite set of choices. It's like a chess game, a noob has to consider all the potential choices (or ignore most of them) but a grandmaster intuitively knows which choices are likely to be the best options to consider.

CG is like that, but it offers even more controls, so it is infinitely more complex. I will give you just one example.

One morning, I woke up with an image from a dream in my head. It is a simple scene of one particle that breaks into maybe 50 particles, and each of those particles breaks again into 50 more and starts falling randomly, and then those particles break up, like a fractal. I could draw you a schematic of the scene in about 5 or 10 minutes, I could probably produce a fairly good drawing in a day or two of work. Photographically? Forget it. I decided to try to render it in Maya. It uses simple particle dynamics, so I have to model an object that breaks apart into self-similar parts. That was easy. Then I have to let the particles run for a few frames, to fall randomly and scatter under gravity, until they reached an attractive, scattered look. That's easy with Maya particle dynamics. Then they break apart. Okay, not too bad, computationally expensive but possible. Then those particles have to run until they scatter a bit, and break apart again. I hit a wall, it is too computationally expensive on a single CPU, even doing two levels. I wanted to do five levels. The computational cost increases more than exponentially, and even then I had already I scaled it back from the original 50 subparticles to merely 20, to reduce the computational power needed. I did a little back of the envelope calculation, I figured that to properly render this scene the way I envisioned it, it would take more computing power than was available on Earth, or in fact, greater than the aggregate sum of all computing power created to date, or using Moore's Law, likely to exist within the next decade. It has been a decade or so that I've been musing about this image, I've looked for shortcuts, and Maya has been upgraded from my first attempt on v3.5 to v.2013. I think I'm ready to take another crack at it again. But so far, I have only been able to render one level adequately, not even getting so far as them breaking apart.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:38 AM on May 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


Always worse. The client (under all sorts of commercial pressures themselves) would start to want to try entirely new ideas

Yikes, that would definitely do my head in.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 5:48 AM on May 17, 2012


Oh good grief. This article has so many problems I don't even know where to start. The two fallacies that struck me right off:

1) Appeal to Fear: "YOU will be replaced... By a COMPUTER!!" This is nonsense. If you think composing an image takes time and effort in meatspace, I can promise you it will take longer in a tool like Blender or Maya. It is the artist's time, effort and talent a client pays for, not his gear.

2) Slippery Slope fallacy: "Blender can render photoreal objects... AND SOON HUMANS!!!" See above. Making any image look good is hard enough as it is. Digging yourself out of the Uncanny Valley makes it infinitely harder.

Admittedly, some of what he says is true, if you're a hack photographer whose clients have no taste or sense. Such clients will eventually realize they can pay a different hack less money for images that suck in a different way. I find it strangely hard to get upset about that.
posted by otherthings_ at 5:53 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


some of what he says is true, if you're a hack photographer whose clients have no taste or sense.

Welcome to advertising.
posted by colie at 6:04 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sounds like a repeat of the talk of computers replacing musicians that play instruments.
posted by empath at 6:33 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Doesn't this all come down to time? If it takes more time to create a photo-realistic image with software (which must be true with this nuts and bolts example), as opposed to just taking a photo - photo wins, no?
posted by davebush at 6:34 AM on May 17, 2012


Doesn't this all come down to time?

And style. The software image has its own perfect look which is all the rage. This is great for product shots, not so much for portraits and photo journalism.


This comment was untouched by human hands.
posted by mazola at 6:39 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blender is a good example of a tool that should be hard to use. Modeling in 4D (3 space, 1 time) is a hard problem to solve. If it were easy for the n00b, it would be crap at making the impossible possible.

This is not necessarily true, or, it's surely not the right approach to software design. It's not a contradiction to want a modeling tool that makes easy things easy, but hard things possible as well. Getting to that stage is hard, but if we're talking about making the impossible possible...
posted by romanb at 6:41 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Doesn't this all come down to time?

It all comes down to money, and time is one factor thereof. So also is equipment, location costs, etc.

If it takes twice as long to create the image with software, but it can be done by someone working at home for low wages without needing anything but a relatively cheap computer, that may well end up being worthwhile for the content consumers. It may not be worth it to someone who actually wants to do photography, but for the people who only care about the end result, it will be.
posted by tocts at 6:46 AM on May 17, 2012


I trained and worked in photography in the late 70’s & 80’s – and then, it was 8x10, 4x5 and 2 1/4 film. That’s what professionals used. And the work was in knowing your films and paper, knowing about chemicals and temperature; knowing composition and lighting. And it was about endless days in the darkroom, manipulating the developing and the printing.

My first thought of the bolts picture is that it was done either with a really lousy camera or a poor quality lens. The lines of focus are really off (that was my first clue it was fake). The burning house – not convincing.

I don’t have any interest in digital photography, nor computers for that matter. It’s just a different generation. However, I think the human contact element has been lost - but then, doesn’t every generation say that about the next generation?. I would spend a lot of time prepping and posing people,which meant you had to have good communication skills and debating techniques, composition and styles with coworkers, during those late, late nights in the darkroom. I suppose there are techies out there, late at night, arguing about their photoshop techniques.

Yesterday I was talking to a homeless woman on the street and she showed me photo’s she had taken on her phone. My first thought – wow, you have a great camera eye – great composition. And I left her feeling so pleased that photography was now so simple, so accessible and still so meaningful.
posted by what's her name at 7:04 AM on May 17, 2012


Serves them right for stealing all that work from portrait painters last century.
posted by stp123 at 7:13 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really thought this would be about that iphone app that makes peoples' photos all "filmy." It seems for a large number of people, that's all they want out of photography.
posted by gonna get a dog at 7:23 AM on May 17, 2012


CGI is more labor/time intensive than photography, therefore more expensive.....just because its technically possible to make the similar image doesn't mean that switch will happen across the board. Probably just where the shot is difficult/expensive to set up. I can't see how a day's work at least for a computer jockey saves anything on a photographer who can get that shot plus 20 others in the same day.

That being said, being a photographer has been squeezed to shit the last decade. So has journalism, film/video, post-production facilities, recording studios, and specialists skills like color correction in film, on-line editing, sound recordist, etc.

Some of it is technical, barriers to entry and capital costs rapidly falling, some of it supply and demand, and some of it hard driving customers in a buyer's market just deciding things like, well , the associate producer can hold the boom forget hiring a sound man. For that matter, stick a camcorder in his hands rather than hire an experienced shooter to get those pickups.

So some of it is just what people are willing to pay for and what they'll accept as an outcome.
posted by C.A.S. at 7:27 AM on May 17, 2012


Blender is obviously not easy but it is easier than 10 years ago to make images like this. And guess what 10 years from now it will just keep going and yes there is a slippery slope called Moore's Law. What will happen is functions that today require manual input will become objectified and packaged with high level controls. It already exists for some sorts of images using Photoshop plugins, that trend will continue as computers become more powerful and libraries of code advance.
posted by stbalbach at 8:08 AM on May 17, 2012


Can Blender do this?

Because I honestly think this sort of thing is going to come back. Maybe it will start in Brooklyn. At any rate, as long as there are people, there is vanity and nobody trusts drunk uncles or well-meaning nephews who are interested in photography to get all the wedding shots. Because getting pissed at family is worse than getting pissed at someone you paid money to to perform a service.

Glamour Shots doesn't appear out of business yet.
posted by discopolo at 8:10 AM on May 17, 2012


I was just editing some pictures of my nephew in Lightroom this week.

I had shot a few pictures of his face in the setting sunlight. The metering on the camera had done an admirable job, but the shadows on the left half of his face were very dark. I mean, it looked like a perfect half moon.

So, I use Lightroom to "pull" the shadows up. Even 5 years ago, you had a very limited amount you could push/pull files like this. Up came his face to the perfect levels and with no noise introduced from the adjustment. No noise introduced, no color weirdness. A perfect edit.

Then, I realized that I had been using a 35mm lens when I should've been using my 80mm. Crap. Well, as it turns out, the 24.6MP on my camera allows me to crop about 4x and still produce an image 1600 pixels across. Perfectly sharp. So, I crop the picture about 40% and turn this 35mm full-body shot into a 70mm portrait. Without changing lenses.

Bottom line: I was able to get a perfectly exposed shot (a seriously good shot that they are having printed) in a completely different focal length with the nudge of a slide-bar and the click of a crop-tool icon.

Oh, and did I mention this $1200 camera shoots at 10 frames-per-second and records almost broadcast quality 1080/60p footage?

With the recent introduction of consumer-priced cameras with dynamic-range in the 14-stop area (think almost HDR range in a single image), I simply don't see how the whole "I am a master of shadows and light!!!" thing matters anymore. With essentially unlimited storage space (SDXC cards will go up to TWO TERRABYTES) and double-digit frame-per-second a given with most mid-level cameras "capturing the moment" is also seemingly irrelevant.

This is a much bigger issue for the vast majority of people who make money taking pictures than some highly-trained artist rendering 3-D images. "Documentary" photography will most likely never be replaced by that, but in a year or two when Panasonic or Sony or Samsung release a phone with a lens/sensor combo that surpasses most current entry-level large-sensor cameras I don't really know who will be paying $5000 to a stranger to photograph their wedding when everybody at the reception is carrying a serious photographic tool in their pocket.


(PS The camera I'm shooting with is a Sony NEX-7. The "mm" quoted above are 35mm-equiv lengths, not the actual lenses used)
posted by lattiboy at 8:35 AM on May 17, 2012


In the history of art, "Y will replace X because it can emulate X" usually becomes a dead-end movement. The photographers who tried to make "painterly" prints are a historical footnote compared to movements toward straight, documentary, and abstract photography. Cinema realized pretty quick that it could do magic with pantomime, edits, and frame rates that had never been seen on the stage, and stage directors responded with innovative ways to use stage and audience.

"Photorealism" in CGI is good when it's deployed to replace physical effects or darkroom trickery, but it underwhelms me as a creative goal of computer art. A pile of bolts and a splashing iPhone doesn't strike me as terribly innovative photography or computer art.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:53 AM on May 17, 2012


Last time I checked there was no uncanny valley with fasteners.

It's not surprising that the featured image is CG; the fastners are heavily distorted in weird ways. I don't think I would have twigged onto it being CG but I probably would have wondered what kind of weird photographic setup was used to distort the fasteners that way. The Phillips bolt head it heavily tapered but the threads on the same bolt aren't. The silver bolt behind it appears to be slightly tapered in the other direction.
posted by Mitheral at 9:03 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


With images that are 100 percent born and bred inside the computer, it's not clear what substance you're shaping with your hands.

I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it just eliminates another element of the fun.


colie, the exact same argument could be applied to the point in time when painters began buying their paint ready-mixed, instead of having to grind the minerals themselves. You don't even have to go as recent as when photography began replacing portrait painting as a way of recording one's family.

OTOH, I have several friends who do grind their own minerals and mix with oil or water + homemade fixative.

So, it's not eliminating anyone's fun. If it's fun to you, you can still do it. But it won't be the majority moneymaking work process anymore.

Or, in this case, it won't be for still-life advertising. The rest remains to be seen, and some of it may never be replaced.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:08 AM on May 17, 2012


what's her name: The burning house – not convincing.

The photographs you're describing may not convince you, but those were real.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:15 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The other big advantage of this is that you don't need to wait for the final product from China to make your ads.
posted by smackfu at 9:19 AM on May 17, 2012


Serves them right for stealing all that work from portrait painters last century.

Good point. In a way it's those painters and illustrators back again, with a few new 3D tools in their pocket.
posted by romanb at 9:38 AM on May 17, 2012


Visual artists get a fancy new brush. But whatever brush they use, they must have artistic sensabilities and talent or the result will be mediocre at best. No one is being replaced by a computer, but good visuals might get replaced by mediocre visuals for a while, until the clients wise up.

I don't really know who will be paying $5000 to a stranger to photograph their wedding when everybody at the reception is carrying a serious photographic tool in their pocket.

Someone who wants good wedding photos will. Fancy camera or not, it's not easy to do good wedding photography.
posted by tommyD at 9:58 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


The other big advantage of this is that you don't need to wait for the final product from China to make your ads.

LOL I did that back in the late 80s. We'd have clients that needed a product shot of their book but all they had was the cover design in Adobe Illustrator, the book had not been sent to the printer and bookbinder yet. I made a 3D book model in Infini-D, I could slap the cover on it, set up nice lighting and render it raytraced at print rez (which took a long time back in those days) and it was way cheaper than creating a mockup book and doing a photo shoot. Hmm.. come to think of it, I should have charged a lot more for those renders.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:58 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


the exact same argument could be applied to the point in time when painters began buying their paint ready-mixed, instead of having to grind the minerals themselves.

Everything you say is true. I am mainly just being nostalgic for the days ten years ago when it was usually a collaborative process to get an image.

I remember needing a photo of a statue with an exploding head. So we cluelessly blew up several fake statue heads for real and of course got awful results, wasting time and having fun. Ironically the director then had a stroke, while we continued to try and get the perfect stone head explosion image. Kind of the total opposite of efficiently sitting in front of a computer making strangely perfect images of things that don't even exist.
posted by colie at 10:29 AM on May 17, 2012


I don't really know who will be paying $5000 to a stranger to photograph their wedding when everybody at the reception is carrying a serious photographic tool in their pocket.

While this is already coming true in the broader field, actual weddings may remain the major exception to this, for the simple reason that if someone is invited, they're there to see and enjoy the wedding, and any shots they get will be more as opportunity presents. Socially speaking, even if all your friends were pro wedding photographers, hiring someone still makes a lot of sense.

I often hear photographers complain that weddings is almost all there is left. But I can't really feel that this is a bad thing. Sure, we're swimming in bad photography, but we're also swimming in more astounding photography (probably mostly from unpaid enthusiasts) than we can consume. If there is less demand, it's mostly because there is genuinely less need.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:35 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


on the other hand it makes it less likely to spend time going down a blind alley that might be more difficult to get paid for.

Exactly incorrect; near-real time review to the client in visual fields always produces pressure for countless unpaid variations and blind alleys. The trick is to bill for them appropriately without generating squawks.

Regarding the possibility of crowdsourcing your wedding photos via everyone's mobile mini Hasselblad: this is an idea which may sound appealing, but it is a terrible idea. We tried, more or less, this exact thing, with those disposable one-use film cameras. Granted, the actual technical quality of the photos was by no means professional. But the content quality of the photos was nearly uniformly garbage.

Here are some stiff pictures of people at a catering table. Here are forty pictures of forty centerpieces. Here is a long shot of some dim blurry people in the distance apparently dancing while the foreground is flash zapped. Here is a thumb. Here is another thumb. Here is a flash-burnd image of the catering setup, making evything look inedible. Here is the band, hitting on guests. Here are several angles of that really drunk guy embarrasing himself (actually, these are funny). As the event progresses and people drink more, things go downhill. Also, people leave with the cameras, forgetting that they are not favors.

Here are nearly no pictures at all of me, my wife, or our families. We were overly optimistic and did not hire a pro. It was a mistake. Pretty much every aspect of these issues can be forecast for a mobile-phone camera crowdsourced-only wedding photography project.

That said, adding a way to permit guests to easily send you their crowdsourced mobile pics of the event is a great idea. But hire a pro as well.
posted by mwhybark at 11:01 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Photographers: You've got nothing to worry about. (At least in regard to Blender.)
posted by 27 at 11:04 AM on May 17, 2012


My first thought was "What wonderful irony! Photographers to be replaced by illustrators! Bwaaaahahahaha!" But then I realized that thought probably contains the germ of an argument for why it won't happen. Anyway, professional photography is already being replaced by amateur photography for a lot of applications and I don't see that stopping any time soon, nor do I see someone who realizes that they can take an adequate image themselves suddenly deciding they need to pay to have it rendered.
posted by surlyben at 11:04 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile in other photo technology news Leica just came out with an $8,000 digital rangefinder that only captures images in black and white.

...and if it wasn't for the insane price tag, I can almost see it being a really great tool for a fine art photographer.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:24 AM on May 17, 2012


We (me and my fine-art grainsniffer friends) were looking at that Leica last week. Apart from the absurd price tag, it's an interesting but flawed proposition. The sample images are extremely sharp -- the 18MP punches well above it's weight, probably the equivalent of a 25-26MP sensor with a Bayer filter on it. But monochrome is different these days.

I still have all my old gear -- 6x6 Rollei, a Linhof 4x5, a Noblex 6x12 and lots of other stuff, plus a darkroom -- but I never use it because I get better results by shooting digital colour (sometimes HDR) and doing the conversion to BW in Photoshop, using curves to alter the tonal response to red, green and blue light -- mimicking a particular filtration and filmstock, in other words.

Of course you can do this with glass filters in front of the lens on the Leica, but it's not the same as being able to do it interactively.

The other thing is that the default tonality of the Leica is extremely neutral -- or to put it another way, boring. It's not like shooting Tri-X. It's like shooting one of those BW C41 films they used to make. Terrific dynamic range, very sharp, and the most boring film you ever shot. So you're going to end up doing lots of manipulation of curves etc just to get the thing looking interesting.

This is the kind of picture that would be impossible on the Leica because the filtration I used would be next to impossible using traditional glass filters. It prints to about 6' wide, bigger than a neg from my Linhof would go, and was shot using multiple exposures on a Canon 5DMkII.

I sold all my Leicas and lenses about seven years ago. It was a big decision emotionally but in fact I've never regretted it at all.
posted by unSane at 11:36 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's my experience with Blender 2 years ago:
"Huh, Blender, eh? I used to work at a company that made a 3D modeler. This should be a snap! Crap, crashed it. Ok, let's restart it and do th...crap, crashed it again. Ok, restart it and tr...crap. Three times is enemy action; uninstall."

Here's my experience with Blender a few months ago:
"I need a little model for a prototype game. If Blender is stable, I should be able to knock it out in no time. " Me draws the profile and tries to rotate it around an axis. "WTF? That is not even close. Try again. Crap wrong axis, OK, I should be able to transform that and...what the hell? OK, let me start again, clearly I'm not thinking the same way as the authors..." An hour later after going through documentation I give up and go to YouTube videos. Still later after many fits and starts, I have a basic model. "OK, now I'd like to put in rivets along this e...crap, not even close. Eff this."
posted by plinth at 11:45 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hah. I'm imaginging this done with the typical reflective chessboard years ago...
Photographers - You're being replaced with POV-RAY

posted by MysticMCJ at 2:21 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The trend in commercial stock photography is, BTW, very much away from the slick and glossy to more candid shots - ie precisely in the opposite direction of what can be done this way.
posted by Artw at 2:36 PM on May 17, 2012


CGI is more labor/time intensive than photography, therefore more expensive.....just because its technically possible to make the similar image doesn't mean that switch will happen across the board. Probably just where the shot is difficult/expensive to set up. I can't see how a day's work at least for a computer jockey saves anything on a photographer who can get that shot plus 20 others in the same day.
It depends on the photograph. For example, all of these kitchen designs are 3D rendering.

With large and/or expensive products like these, it's often far cheaper to mock them up in 3D than to install them all in picture perfect settings, or have to travel to a dozen different locations where they are installed, shoot under ideal lighting (so probably only or two locations per day), and so on.

Note that a professional photography shoot can involve quite a lot of people in addition to the photographer and assistants. I recall being surprised by the amount of effort that went into a photo shoot in Westwood for a car: they shut down the street for pedestrian and vehicle traffic, had police on hand; the were lights, generators, several huge wall-sized reflectors and a shade, a cherry-picker crane for the photographer, and they were repeatedly watering down everything (it wasn't a rain shot, but apparently they wanted everything wet). And there was a large semi truck parked nearby that had transported the equipment, along with people who obviously managed/loaded the equipment. And then of course you had the extras, the car, and presumably catering at some point.

No doubt this is why so many of the photos and videos you see of cars are actually computer rendered 3D models, including close-up camera pans along the exterior and interior, videos of cars driving on roads (where you can't see the person inside); this is especially likely for multiple cars driving in choreographed fashion. [The captions "professional driver on closed course" are usually boilerplate vestiges of the old days and don't literally apply to most of these scenes].

And while slightly off topic, this video of green screen use in TV/movies is a good example of how even when you're filming people outdoors, it's still often cheaper to add 3D computer effects (to simulate background activity, locations, etc.) than to shoot on location with a less controlled environment.
posted by Davenhill at 4:44 PM on May 17, 2012


As for 3D rendered people, how obvious is it that this man isn't real?
posted by Davenhill at 4:47 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Attention CEOs: I am writing software to replace you. Fair warning.
posted by wobh at 4:51 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


As for 3D rendered people, how obvious is it that this man isn't real?

It would certainly have fooled me. But the man-hours required to produce it are obviously much greater than that to produce an equivalent photograph. No doubt that will change as the shading techniques etc get better though.
posted by unSane at 6:52 PM on May 17, 2012


As for 3D rendered people, how obvious is it that this man isn't real?

Pretty easy for me. The eyes are all wrong. The cornea is too glassy and perfect, and the surrounding musculature is wrong. I can always tell, But this could just be me. I spent months in art school studying cranial anatomy, and have written articles about why CG designers always get this wrong.

No doubt this is why so many of the photos and videos you see of cars are actually computer rendered 3D models

I had a photographer friend in LA who specialized in car shoots. He had a big studio the size of an aircraft hanger, with completely open space. It had a huge motorized turntable in the floor, he could set up lights and just rotate the car to any angle. He'd do 360 degree shoots of the car from every angle. He got a lot of work because he was the only guy in town with this specialized rig. The interesting thing about his studio was that to reduce stray reflections, he had everything in the studio painted a perfect 18% neutral gray. I mean everything, his countertops, fridge, and enamel sink were 18% gray. Even his cat was 18% gray.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:15 PM on May 17, 2012


For some reason I read that as "Philosophers: You're Being Replaced by Software".

Empower your enterprise with Introspector 2.0 - an innovative software solution that contemplates the meaninglessness of its own existence millions of times per second.
posted by problemspace at 12:53 AM on May 18, 2012


It seems to me that the most important point of his article is really in this paragraph:

For the first time in history, photography is about to lose control of its monopoly on affordable, convincing realism and it’s time for us to understand that realism has never been the most important feature of the photograph. Although we rarely think about it, we understand this intuitively: a computer rendering of your daughter’s wedding will never be the same as a photograph even if both are equally realistic. The photograph is defined by its causal, mechanical connection to the real world. Academics have studied this aspect of photography for a long time (for a very clear overview see Kendall Walton’s Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism), but almost from the beginning photographers have stayed blissfully unaware of theory and have systematically ignored and even undermined their medium’s connection to the world.

Essentially he's not saying that photography is going to become extinct, but that it might enter a new phase. Kind of like how painting used to be a lot about photorealism, but nowadays isn't as much. If its possible to render a perfectly photorealistic image of anything at all, then the point of photography must change to be about something else than just realism.
posted by destrius at 1:37 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


As for 3D rendered people, how obvious is it that this man isn't real?

I posted that on Facebook and it completely fooled my (professional) photographer friends but the CGI guy I know (who worked on Toy Story, among other things) said: "plastic shirt, doll hair, saw from a mile away".
posted by unSane at 4:28 AM on May 18, 2012


Philosophers: You're Being Replaced by Software

Philosophers more or less attempted to replace themselves by software 100 years ago until Godel proved that it wasn't possible.
posted by empath at 6:14 AM on May 18, 2012


Philosophers more or less attempted to replace themselves by software 100 years ago until Godel proved that it wasn't possible.

I've always wondered whether it's possible to design thinking about thinking as a tail-recursive function.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:50 AM on May 18, 2012


I'd much prefer to see actual photos of my kids at a park rather than a blender render. Doubt this replaces photography.
posted by Amazed at 12:18 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


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