How badly will Lytro damage photography as a career?

If you aren’t yet aware, Lytro is is the most revolutionary upgrade to photo technology since color. WAY bigger than digital.

Seems to me this turns just about anyone into a competent photographer, and the only real areas left that aren’t readily available to anyone would be serious travel, extreme sports and adventure, and celebrity, because those have to do with access more than anything.

As far as advertising and commercial photography in general, it’s going to be all about the styling, not the shooting.

So what’s the Doper word?

Plenoptic photography is very exciting technology for a number of reasons, but I am reasonably assured that the profession is safe, and that traditional photography isn’t going to be replaced outright.

The ease of (or skipping) of doing stuff in post, and being able to work in much higher resolutions has value - not everyone is going to be in a hurry to sacrifice that so they don’t have to worry about focusing.

Lytro is really, really neat, but there’s more to photography than focusing, isn’t there? Getting proper focus is just one part of a good photo. What about composition, lighting, color, contrast, depth of field, motion, temperature, etc.?

I don’t think Lytro is bigger than digital. Digital lets you examine ALL aspects of a shot immediately after you take it. Digital decreases the turnaround time of a shot to mere seconds instead of hours or days. The instant feedback makes it a lot easier for people to learn by trial and error and to correct an error while still on-scene.

Lytro lets you change the focus spot afterward, but focusing is not particularly difficult with modern autofocus cameras anyway. Lytro also does nothing to prevent two common causes of blurry photos: Moving subjects and unsteady hands.

Like digital, Lytro’s value is in being able to correct a mistake in the virtual darkroom after you make it. The difficult half of photography is seeing the shot – whether in the camera or in your mind’s eye – in the first place. Already, for most people, equipment isn’t their biggest hurdle.

I agree with reply.
I have an auto focus camera. In the last 5 years I may have taken less than a dozen pictures that weren’t in focus. They still look mostly like shit. I have no eye for composition or really any artistic skill. You can’t fake that.

Lytro will have it’s greatest effect on automated, surveillance-type cameras.

Can it capture your kids’ goofy grins?

Make a chick look hot?

Give life to a landscape?

Capture the emotion of grief?

Photography still needs photographers.

Still, it’s another step towards the extinction of photographers that* make a lot of money.*

Honestly if people had a bunch of backdrops and props at home I think Sears portrait studio would already be out of business.

Until someone comes up with a way to get a camera to automatically frame it’s own composition, there will always be professional (and prosumer) photographers. There’s a reason they say ‘it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.’ I promise. You can take your shitty camera that takes crappy pictures and hand it to Annie Liebowitz or Ansel Adams* and they’ll take fantastic pictures.
Every few years, there’s some huge advancements. We had digital, we had auto-focus, auto aperture/shutter, program modes (sports, night, slow sync etc), some in camera post processing, histograms that automatically pop up. Every one of these things helped tremendously, but until you understand things like the rule of thirds, where the sun should be, how to frame a picture, DOF etc, you’re still going to wind up with a tree growing out of your friend’s head.**

*First two random people I thought of

**Seriously, one of the first things I tell people. Look through the lens, check to see if there is anything growing out of anyone’s head and if there is either you move or ask them to. No one notices the extra work you put in to avoid this, but when you don’t do it, it can ruin a good picture. I’m hardly a pro photographer, but it’s the little stuff like this that puts me just a hair above ‘average’ photographer. And it’s this stuff that I don’t see a camera ever being able to do. Well, I take that back. I could potentially see a camera being able to recognize faces and alerting you to something growing out of their head, but that’s just one tiny tiny aspect of composition.

I was always under the impression that those photographers were working for magazines and in the high fashion industry. I doubt they’ll lose their jobs over a new camera. If this new camera is that great, they’ll embrace it and find a way to make it work for them and make their work even better.
On top of that, you have wedding photographers. They might have some issues. I recently shot a wedding with a friend. Sure, we can shoot a wedding and put a CD together, and the couple (along with their family and friends) can order prints from wherever they want, but if you want it done really well and you want the album and all that goes along with that, you still need to get a pro. But I get the feeling that wedding photogs have always been in a battle with people like us and a new camera isn’t really going to change that.

Well you won’t have to understand DOF (depth of field) anymore, so you can scratch that from the list.

But overall, your point still stands. Absolutely.

The applications of this seems to be more utilitarian.

Did the typewriter eliminate professional authors? Did autotune eliminate the need for professional singers? It may have changes the landscape a bit, but creativity, vision, and artistic talent is still needed for quality work.

It is still going to matter if you do or do not have an eye. Even in artistic enterprises with zero craft technique involved (for example, dressing fashionably or interior design) it is still immediately obvious that some people have it and some don’t.

My sister is a professional photographer (not high-end, she mostly takes wedding pictures) and you can see the difference. You go through our family pictures and pick out the “good” photos and then you realize how many of them she took. Even when she’s using the same camera as the rest of us, she takes better pictures.

I think the biggest impact digital photography had on amateur photography was psychological. In the past, every picture you took cost money. Today, pictures are essentially free, which means you can take as many of them as you want. Back in my film camera days, I would take just one, maybe two pictures at a time; now I take ten. The chance that one of them will actually be good is much bigger.

Or Photoshop.

Well, yes and no. Honestly, I haven’t really played with it [Lytro] and don’t have any idea what’s going on under the yet. Let’s assume that I can take a picture that in post processing I can then adjust to make look like it was shot with my lens set to f/3.5 or f/22. It’s still the photographer that’s going to know which f/stop will look best, it’s still the photographer that’s going to know where to put that focal plane. Though I admit, the random user will do much better then they could with a camera and setting that said AP or AV on the dial. Hell, they might even start to develop an eye for it out in the field knowing what they can do when they get back home.

In theory the biggest worry would be for lens manufacturers, but I cant help thinking this is a ‘no free lunch’ situation where something has to be sacrificed to make it work.

Wait till we see the actual camera is my thinking. As pointed out, missed focus on a static subject isnt exactly a huge issue now anyhow, particularly given we can now instantly review pictures. Is there a need for longer exposures for instance? If so, this wont be quite the miracle it sounds like.

If anything the tendency has been to add DOF/blur effects in, which is easily done in software already.


Don’t a bit of reading on light field photography, I came across The draw back, I’d guess would be either in camera size or image quality. ISTM what’s going on is that this camera is taking multiple pictures all focused at different planes and then allowing the user to adjust where they want the focal plane to be in post processing. If that’s the case and there are multiple lenses (I’m not sure if it requires multiple sensors) I’d think the camera would have to be much bigger to live up to today’s standards of 10+ megapixels or it would have to take a hit on the quality of the final product.

The web page in the OP’s link has a link to a Ph.D. Dissertation (PDF) which has a fairly accessible description of how it works (and lots of illustrative pictures). I had never heard of this before, but it’s pretty interesting.

Essentially, there are multiple microscopic lenses just before the sensor. Each of these lenses corresponds to a pixel* in the final picture, and each of them forms a crude image on the sensor of a small portion of the scene, maybe 10 by 10 pixels (sub-pixels? Need a new term here.). To get a 1000 by 1000 final image, for a normal camera, your sensor would need to be 1 MegaPixel, but for this, it would need to be 100 MegaPixel. Using the extra information they have for each final pixel, they do some processing to choose which of the sub-pixels of each pixel contribute to each pixel. It really made me think of how insect eyes work.

The no-free-lunch part is that you need many more pixels for a given resolution. They also mentioned that at some point they’d be diffraction-limited, so they can’t just keep adding more and more pixels to their sensor for a given lens size to get better resolution. Eventually, they’d need to also increase the lens size. On the other hand, there’s no moving lens necessary, so there’d be some cost savings there.

I agree that this won’t affect professionals. I think it will have a bigger effect on amateurs. The modifications don’t seem like they’d be that expensive to manufacture, and computing is cheap. I could see these becoming the standard point and shoot in five or ten years. Only professionals will still be focusing.

  • There’s a factor of three or four for color somewhere as well, but I’ll ignore that.

Seems to me that the microlens/plenoptic camera technology would be more interesting for videography, whenever the focusing post-processing can be done in near real time in hardware.

Sports in particular would benefit, I think.

I believe photography as a career and artistic endeavor is much less dependent on the gear than one might think.

As a comparison: In the sixties and seventies, if you wanted a fancy looking newsletter, you would have to get it professionally typeset. Sure, you could buy those press-on letters in many cool fonts, but you probably wouldn’t want to do ten pages of Helvetica using press-on letters.

Then came WYSIWYG editors such as Word, great computers with beautiful displays, and printers that generate documents with a crispness that even professional typsetters and printers could not achieve decades ago.

Does this mean we don’t have true artists creating professional documents? No, it means that we get uglified documents printed by folks who think that Comic Sans is just the right font for their doctoral dissertation. People don’t understand that less is more in the world of fonts, and that there are rules of thumb to go by.

That’s where professionals will always prevail. You can look at a professionally prepared flyer and you know it was done by a professional, but you can’t put your finger on the exact part that makes it better than an amateur one.

This same argument can be applied to the music industry. In the Sixties, the Beatles were experimenting with four track tape decks and were rubbing the tape reels with their palms to slow and speed up tapes to cause flanging effects.
Over the decades, so much gadgetry has come on to the scene, to the point that anyone with a Mac can open Garage Band and do stuff that the Beatles never dreamed of. But there is no doubt that there are artists in the music industry, and people continue to go to expensive schools to learn music.

Why wouldn’t this also apply to photography?

I think there’s a distinction between skill and talent. Technical advances like Lytro may lower the skill level needed but it doesn’t touch the talent level.