The Future Of Photography Will Be Nothing Like How We Imagine It

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Interestingly enough, every year I’m asked to bid on a still photography assignment for a tourism client.  Yesterday, I received the bid packet and there was a profound change.  They were not asking for a quote for still photography.  They were asking for a quote for video – and not just video – but video shot on a RED camera so that they could pull frame grabs from the footage and use those “still images” in their ads.  Now, that’s a game changer.

via Journeys of a Hybrid.

There Are 30 Comments On This Article.

  1. Shooting “stills” at X fps counts as motion in my mind and has been a capability of DSLRs for some time now. So a lot photographers have been doing this pulling stills thing without even know how new and revolutionary they are. A just RED makes the spray and pray approach much easier.

  2. Now that is upgrade. 5D’s to a RED with ALL the extras to go with it. Try paying for that in your 3 year program. LOL
    Sounds fun though.

  3. One of the bottlenecks is that stills & video generally require different shutter speeds for optimum quality. In an article published on the newsstands last winter in Resource Magazine, I reflected:

    Stills and Video Require Different Approaches, Shutter Speeds, Etc.

    A salient fact that one must honor while capturing simultaneous stills and video is that the two mediums generally require different shutter speeds for optimum quality. This is especially important when motion is present—either at the camera’s end, such as with a handheld rig, or when the subject is moving. When I was shooting Kelly Slater’s journey to victory at the Hurley Pro, exposure times for the Nikon D4 stills were generally between 1/2000s to 1/5000s, thereby freezing his action in mid-air, while the exposure for the video was around 1/60s to 1/120s—well over a magnitude of order difference!

    A touch of motion blur in video frames is more pleasing to the eye, while sharpness is generally sought in photographic stills. For this reason, the Red cameras are limited, even with their 4K and 5K image sizes. If you optimizes the shutter speed for sharpness with speeds of 1/2000s or just 1/1000s, the video will appear “stuttery,” like those old black and white WWII film clips. Should you optimize the shutter speed for video at around 1/60s to 1/120s, motion blur will creep into the stills, showing up in handheld shots or when the subject is moving. When photographer Kevin Arnold used a $65,000 Red EPIC rig (now around $40,000) to shoot skiers at Whistler Mountain, he concluded, “The EPIC’s sensor, while amazing for video, just isn’t on par with top-end DSLRs and certainly not even close to medium format digital cameras when it comes to still images. The bigger challenge—especially when shooting fast moving lifestyle or sports action—is achieving fast shutter speeds. The great majority of the frames we shot were soft due to either camera movement or subject motion blur. This is the single biggest issue with pulling stills from video.”
    read it all:
    http://45surfer.wordpress.com/

    • I think there are two different theories/approaches to using something like a RED for stills that people are talking about (and doing). One is shooting with video as the main end product in mind, and grabbing some of the frames for stills as an added purpose if possible. But the other, more recent one, is using a RED or the like just for stills, with no intention of using the frames as video. The second is obviously very expensive and time consuming, but as I mentioned, it is the ultimate “spray and pray” approach.

      • Well, if one is shooting stills, and as the Nikon D4 shoots 11-12 shots per second, is one really gaining by spending tens of thousands more for a heavier RED setup which hogs more resources/memory and which is more difficult to use with strobes?

        :)

        • Yep, that’s the notion I was mentioning above. Buffer issues aside, 12fps IS shooting motion and grabbing stills. Plus, you can assemble those frames into a video, too, if you want. But all these futurists talking about the RED and how it’s the future for shooting stills always seem to leave out the grip truck part.

          • Don’t forget the super widescreen format of the sensor, lack of support for flashes (word on the street is that you’d need special flashes and / or their new motion mount to work with the Red sensor read out), and the biggest issue of all: zero stills mode development. The company hasn’t really done anything to enable the still side of the camera much less develop it. It’s motion first with Red cameras.

          • Yes, originally I saw RED ads claiming that one could shoot the movie and the movie poster at the same time. But this is generally not true, for, as we have seen, optimum stills and video generally require different exposure times, which I report on above and in my article How Will You Shoot Quality Stills & Video @ The Same Time? http://45surfer.wordpress.com/

            Thus, if one person is to shoot optimum stills and video at the same time, they will generally wish to use two or more cameras. Personally, I use around five cameras ever shoot, with three video cameras set up on tripods in the sand, and one video camera (a Sony NEX-6 these days) mounted on my DSLR. Thus one gets three different angles from three stationary cameras, and a moving camera too which has the advantage that it always follows the model and also optimizes the field of capture according to the photographer’s judgment. The five cameras can all have different depths of ield/fields of view/angles, thusly making for an interesting final cut. And the great thing? All five high-quality cameras/dslrs together cost far less than a RED! :) You can see the three stationary cameras setup halfway down here: http://45surfer.wordpress.com/ as well as the Sony NEX-6 mounted under the Nikon D800E DSLR. I mount it below for numerous reasons, including the fact that I oft need a fill flash out there. :)

      • A big question is… ‘Can you compromise and shoot in a way to get decent stills from frames and decent video clips’? If the subject is sports with video at 120fps or so (and the right shutter speed, which would be another compromise) maybe a frame could sort of work okay as a still image? Personally, I’d rather put the right attention to detail and creativity in a still photo or a video shot separately. There’s too many variables to compromise one or the other and expect an amazing result in my opinion.

        • Hello Pat,

          We would all like to see this, but I have a Ph.D. in physics specializing in phototranistors and photodiodes, and there is no way around the physics. :)

          When you are shooting sports actions, such as surfers, you want exposure times around 1/1000 s or faster. Many of mine are at 1/2000 to 1/4000 s so as to freeze the action/sea spray/etc. for the better photos.

          When you are shooting video, you want exposure times around 1/60 s to 1/120 s, to allow for a bit of motion blur which is more pleasing to the eye.

          As you can see, this is a magnitude of order, or factor of 10, difference!

          Long story short, to shoot optimum stills and video, one is going to need two cameras–one shooting stills, and one shooting video.

          :)

          • Yes, that’s been said, a lot. I know this since I shoot both video and stills, separately. Shooting sports isn’t all about high shutter speeds, especially if you’re using flashes. With mountain biking for example, shooting at high shutter speeds like 1/1000 will usually result in static photos without wheel blur.

            A video camera shooting at at high frame rate…like 120fps with a shutter speed of 1/250 could possible be close to compromise (depending on all the other variables), blur wise. They still wouldn’t be as sharp and detailed as with use of a still camera due other things like tracking a moving subject. I have actually used frames from my 1D (60fps, 1/125) a few times for small web images that don’t need to be perfectly sharp such as vimeo covers with graphics overlayed.

            • Yes, yes, you write, “A video camera shooting at at high frame rate…like 120fps with a shutter speed of 1/250 could possible be close to compromise (depending on all the other variables), blur wise. They still wouldn’t be as sharp and detailed as with use of a still camera due other things like tracking a moving subject. ”

              Well, not to overstate the obvious, but why would someone wish to spend $50,000 – $75,000 for blurry photos, when one could get tack-sharp photos with a Nikon D4, Canon 1DX, or even the 7D or D800 for a fraction of the price? Add a video camera or a second DSLR for video, and one could get both stills and video, at a fraction of the price of a RED.

              It is only a matter of time until the industry realizes this and everyone starts using dedicated cameras to capture stills and video @ the same time, like I do with every shoot: http://45surfer.wordpress.com. :)

    • I very much agree! As amazing as Red’s are, I still don’t see Red frames as a substitute for shots from a still camera. I printed a frame from a Red Scarlet of a me (from a snowboard shoot, while I was shooting stills). It came out decent, but it wasn’t quite up to par in sharpness and detail compared to a properly shot still photo. Resolution isn’t everything. I could see using Red frames for smaller web images, but they will still lack the sharpness of a camera meant for stills and be mediocre in quality (too a point… which maybe only professionals will notice depending on size?). Not to mention all the different techniques that are used to produce an amazing still photo vs. an amazing video clip.

  4. I already use stills pulled out of C100, should I have need for it. And sometimes, it’s all you really need, as far as file size/resolution is concerned. Now, that everyone is doing it, what’s the point of keeping it secret.

    I was asked today to photoshop good weather back in my sunny California (today hugely overcast) because client does not want to wait and their 4 meter size print needs to be ready ASMP.

    Pretty soon there will be a need for survival/adaptation courses for photogs. Today I showed my Samy’s rep (Best ever rep in SoCal, by the way: Barry Evans, Santa Ana store) my Nokia 1020.

    He only said: ”
    Now, that scares me.”

    And I agree. I was just contracted by Veteran Affairs in San Diego for their event. Together with an assistant I found through San Diego ASMP we were shooting 4X5 Type 55 Polaroid portraits of the veterans. Just to make it interesting I would back each pose with my Nokia 1020. Later in CS6 and Exposure I produced images that were suppose to emulate the large format/ wet plate look:

    http://blog.slavzatoka.com/post/61644696789/portraits-of-veterans-at-national-veterans-summer

    My wife just told me today I should use my NOKIA on my next real estate assignment and I think I will. It is hard to get people to behave with such pride and presence in front of an iphone/Nokia phone (people usually do thumbs up, peace sign, Hawaiian surfing sign, or they flip you off if they are really, really close friends, right?), but if you attach that 40 million pixel phone camera to a bigger tripod with a huge 4×5 and a Linfof lens….magic happens.

    “May you live in interesting times.” – Chinese proverb/curse

  5. ‘Client’s’ have lost touch with reality. They want everything now at a price. They only believe in their genius for creativity. They have no inclination whatsoever for understanding what it takes.. to deliver a quality product.

    Its that “One size fits all tee shirt approach”. Great if you don’t mind that the Tee Shirt does not fit. But devastating if you think you can foll all the people all the time…

    you can’t.

    • I see both sides. Any business wants to pay for a service for the least amount possible. It’s hard when they look at something like images (still or video) and have no idea how much thought and technical work can go into it, with purely the price in mind. You’re not just pressing a pressing button. As another commenter said, being able to clearly educate them is huge (though not always easy). Doing graphic design has really taught me to clearly explain my decisions and how certain elements of a work communicate (rather than clients telling me how a design should look.)

  6. The real issue regarding pulling stills from video is how one lights and directs for video/film. Just watch a classic movie — the lighting can be more atmospheric — you can have very dark segments because a story is being told with many images. For stills, the approach is different. Sure there will be occasions when the light and approach will work for pulling stills. But, stills and motion are different animals.

    Now if one has the budget to shoot video, and with a RED, then shooting some stills separately shouldn’t be a budget buster. And deciding on a Red for video for the option of stills only makes the video costlier to shoot — and do we really want to store and edit terabytes when gigabytes will do?

    And when shooting video and stills all in one, stills will be the unwanted step-child — even when the end use is significantly more still biased.

    That said, for a tourism client shooting with a RED to obtain stills at the same time, might be a good match. We’re talking shooting with natural light, scenic shots and such. If the client is paying for the RED rental, and increased storage and editing needs — sounds like fun.

    • A lot of photography now–most notably fashion—is directly influenced by film. Basically, editorials and some campaigns today look like they could be stills from a film—not in a technical sense, but aesthetically. Composition, lighting design, sets and locations, direction, color grading (aka filters)…there’s often little difference between the two in terms of look. I don’t know why there ever was a divergence in the first place, but still photography has caught up with the visual language of film.

  7. I don’t really care what medium we work in, but pulling stills from a video stream is going to result in disappointment, especially if you hope to use them where you’d put a nice clean high res still image.

    Clients don’t always make reasonable or well informed requests. I’ve had to explain the difference between high definition and high resolution more than once. Part of the job is education.

  8. A client who asks specifically for Red to shoot video so that they can pull stills is a client who needs educating.

    The shutter speed requirements for video and stills are completely different. If the client wants stills with lots of motion blur then by all means give them what they want. If they want sharp stills then tell them they need to stop being such a bunch of cheapskates and hire in a dedicated stills guy.

    BTW, I’m a video guy and I often get clients asking me to shoot video and stills on a job. I have to tell them that it’s one or the other. It dilutes the focus of the day and just means that neither is done to the quality that it should be.

    • I agree! If you’re trying to do both at the same time as one person, they will both suffer. Everything goes smoother if your focus is one or the other.

    • Hello Simon,

      I always shoot stills & video @ the same time on every shoot, using five different cameras, with a Sony NEX 6 mounted on my Nikon D800E shooting video throughout the shoot with a 50mm F/1.8 for nice bokeh, leveraging the Sony NEX’s face-detection/autofocus. :)

      http://45surfer.wordpress.com

      Stills and Video Require Different Approaches, Shutter Speeds, Etc.

      A salient fact that one must honor while capturing simultaneous stills and video is that the two mediums generally require different shutter speeds for optimum quality. This is especially important when motion is present—either at the camera’s end, such as with a handheld rig, or when the subject is moving. When I was shooting Kelly Slater’s journey to victory at the Hurley Pro, exposure times for the Nikon D4 stills were generally between 1/2000s to 1/5000s, thereby freezing his action in mid-air, while the exposure for the video was around 1/60s to 1/120s—well over a magnitude of order difference!

      A touch of motion blur in video frames is more pleasing to the eye, while sharpness is generally sought in photographic stills. For this reason, the Red cameras are limited, even with their 4K and 5K image sizes. If you optimizes the shutter speed for sharpness with speeds of 1/2000s or just 1/1000s, the video will appear “stuttery,” like those old black and white WWII film clips. Should you optimize the shutter speed for video at around 1/60s to 1/120s, motion blur will creep into the stills, showing up in handheld shots or when the subject is moving. When photographer Kevin Arnold used a $65,000 Red EPIC rig (now around $40,000) to shoot skiers at Whistler Mountain, he concluded, “The EPIC’s sensor, while amazing for video, just isn’t on par with top-end DSLRs and certainly not even close to medium format digital cameras when it comes to still images. The bigger challenge—especially when shooting fast moving lifestyle or sports action—is achieving fast shutter speeds. The great majority of the frames we shot were soft due to either camera movement or subject motion blur. This is the single biggest issue with pulling stills from video.”
      read it all:
      http://45surfer.wordpress.com/

  9. The blogger makes a good point. I believe that the number one problem that photographers have today is that they are imagining a future based on the past. We can never know exactly where technology is going to take us in exact detail. However, we do have tools of generalization about technology today that did not exist in the 1800s. For example, Marshall McLuhan’s media theory has been very successful at predicting the digital as it exists now although it didn’t exist at all when he made his predictions in the 1960s.

    According to media theory, digital will constantly converge occupations. This means that the classic definition of a photographer as a person that specializes in taking still photographs cannot continue. Instead, still photography will just be one small part of a larger multi-media experience. The individuals that can create that multi-media experience will not be specialists. On the contrary, they will be multi-taskers or jacks-of-all-trades types. Consequently, the quality (in terms of form) of digital media will decline while it’s use (or function) will be more responsive to the needs of the public than ever before.

    It’s important to distinguish that what separates the arts from advertising is the difference between function and form. The “bottom line” of advertising is it’s utility and it’s usefullness. Meanwhile, the essence of art is it’s disinterestedness or it’s existence solely for itself without any purpose but itself (a.k.a. art for art’s sake.)

    Digital will conquer all areas of the media that are based on function. Meanwhile, traditional areas of the media (like film photography) will be freed from their utility in advertising to find a new home in the proper arts. Digital is creating the conditions for film photography to be consecrated with other mediums (like painting, sculpture etc) as a proper medium for the fine arts. The only specialized photographers that will still be working exclusively in stills will be NON-COMMERCIAL artists taking stills for their own sake and devoid of any useful function whatsoever.

  10. Hi Mike (Moss),

    Thank you for grasping the point I was trying to make. If we predict the future, based on what we know now – we won’t even be close.
    Still photos will continue to exist – I’m just not so sure that “still photographers” will – or at least people who “just” shoot still images for commercial work.

    Some bad predictions from the past:
    1880: Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure – Henry Morton, President of the Stevens Institute of Technology, passing judgment on Thomas Edison’s light bulb.
    1936: A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere – The New York Times
    1943: I think there is a world market for maybe five computers – Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM

  11. Some time ago, I worked in an ad agency where we actually tried to pull stills from a video, and it’s quite time consuming, and not quite what you might want most of the time. The issue was as said above, the shutter speeds, but also the concept… it was shot for flow and continuity, not iconic stills.

    I suppose that some agency account execs think their own staff can be billed out for this video spelunking find-the-right-frame timesink at a more favorable rate to the agency than just hiring a photographer with a DSLR to shoot stills.

    That freedom to choose exact frames gives an illusion of control, that some AD’s may feel they lost when they contract a still photographer….

    But also note that, if we still-photographers who also shoot motion bid on motion/still shoots, we may be able to pitch that our previous still mindset can help us make video that is shot in a way that makes still-frame-searching much less of a spelunking expedition than it would be if the footage was shot by somebody with a “pure cinema” background….

    • “Video spelunking”–brilliant term for it! And finding that perfect frame requires the same eye as taking one with a stills camera, making looking through it all pretty much the same activity as shooting it live, except live you can adjust things like composition and posing.