The Trend Toward Real Time Photography

wedding photos
Brides waiting three weeks for photos is a relic of the past - by Joxemai

Justin Ng is a photographer with over 130,000 people on his Facebook page, numbers that would make some Fortune 500 companies blush with envy. What’s funny is that Justin didn’t even start out life as a photographer, he started out as a Windows developer and PHP programmer.

Now he’s getting between 50 and 60 inquiries a month to shoot weddings.

But Justin managed to hit on a trend in wedding and event photography that has been building for some time; the trend toward real-time display of event images, as the event is happening.

Justin Ng developed a smart phone app that guests and those unable to attend the ceremony can download and watch the wedding photos pop up in real time. There’s even a feature that allows guests to download high resolution copies of the images they like.

The trend is not a surprise and anyone in wedding and event photography should be educating themselves about the technical realities of how such a setup might work. While you may not be able to develop your own smart phone app, you could still use an assistant with a laptop and wifi connection to do almost the same thing.

Other options may include gadgets like Eye-Fi’s wireless SDHC cards. There are also attachments for your camera that will transmit files wirelessly. The tech pieces are out there and the market will belong to those adaptable enough to figure out how to use them.

The trend is making itself known in subtle ways. One feature many brides are opting for are monitors at the reception that play slideshows of the wedding photos. Other services, such as having a CD or DVD with wedding images ready for guests by the time they leave, are gaining popularity.

Social media options are also gaining popularity. Having at least a few of the wedding photos up on Facebook and other social media sites the same day, is almost an expectation with many tech savvy couples today.

All of these real-time inroads will put pressure on everyone in wedding and event photography to step up their tech game, both in terms of real time photos and turn-around times for image processing. The days of waiting three months for wedding photos are a footnote in history, even waiting three weeks is out of the question for many brides. Many are calling about their photos in three days and are annoyed they have to wait that long!

Regardless, the time to start exploring your technology options is today. Waiting until the services are pre-bundled and available commercially could well be too late.

Passing Down Photos In The Digital Age

wwII photo
My dad (far right) with his flight crew on Christmas Eve, 1944 - No digital image would have survived that long

A while ago my mom found a box that had a stack of pictures that dated back to World War II.  There were my mom and dad as teenagers involved in a war.

It got me wondering about how that same scene would play out 50 years from now in the digital age?

When I used to work as a research scientist at a government lab out in the desert there were rooms full of data reels containing data from nuclear bomb tests and reactor tests going back years and years.  But there were no longer any players that could read the data on the tapes and instead I had to go around to all the old timers collecting printouts that were stuffed in old filing cabinets and, in one case, were being used to line the bottom of a storage cabinet in an attempt to recover and digitize that old data.  Even with that recovery effort, reams of data were lost, some of it forever.

I’m concerned the same thing will happen in the digital age.  For some of you, JPG images have been around as long as you’ve been alive, but on the grand scale of photography, it’s a short time.  The standard has only been around since 1991 and while it may be hard to picture a world where there’s no device around that could display a JPEG, technical history is full of examples of just that type of thing happening.

Future-Proofing Your Images

There are few good ways to insure your images are going to be around 100 years from now.  Even film has a tough time making it that long in storage, unless it is temperature and humidity controlled.  But prints are still the best way to have photos around long after you’re gone.

Metal Prints

Metal prints come in two flavors: Paper with metallic inks embedded in the paper and prints on actual metal plates with photographic coatings.  Both of those boast lifespans of nearly 100 years, but since the processes that create them have only been around for 10, it’s hard to put a lot of faith in that claim.  Still, metallic prints seem to be the best method of preserving your personal photographic history on a time scale that long.


Photobooks are another good choice for long term storage, provided they remain in some reasonable range of temperature and humidity.  The advantage is they can be put in storage and discovered, and still viewed, by family decades later.  Provided it doesn’t get wet or moldy, there’s a good chance your kids could find a photobook in 40 years and still view it.

Digital Storage

There are few digital options that will provide generational continuity unless they are upgraded regularly. File formats change, operating systems come and go.  You can’t dump digital images on any kind of storage media and expect it to be accessible in 40 years.  If someone handed you a pancake platter from the 70s would you be able to read it?  With a lot of searching, you might find a data archive company that could read the data, but it’s a long shot.  That’s likely the same situation your kids would face with hard drives of today.

It may seem bizarre to suggest that the best way to preserve your photographic memories is to get prints made, but that, unfortunately, is still the technical reality.

Adobe Burns Photoshop Users With Upgrade Pricing

Adobe Photoshop Logo
Photoshop users get a lump of coal from Adobe

I always thought Photoshop was expensive for what you get, CS5 at almost $500 is enough to drive anyone to a second look at GIMP tutorials. Now Adobe has given current CS2, CS3, and CS4 users something to stew about.

The latest comes from Adobe’s own blog:

With regards to upgrades, we are changing our policy for perpetual license customers. In order to qualify for upgrade pricing when CS6 releases, customers will need to be on the latest version of our software (either CS5 or CS5.5 editions).

So, if you don’t have the most current version of Photoshop, the best Adobe is going to give you is 20 percent off CS6 and that only through December. Take that loyal customers!

You’d think that scoring a slew of new customers for Premiere Pro CS5 from Apple’s bungled FCP update by offering aggressive discounts would have pointed to the wisdom of lowering the barrier to entry on expensive software, but somehow that lesson didn’t sink in at Adobe.

Your other option is to spend $49.99 per month, which translates to $600 a year, on the Creative Suite Master Collection. For a lot of people that’s more than they’re paying for cable and internet for access to a software package.

Some people have argued that the pricing is not excessive when compared to other enterprise level software packages, but the majority of photographers are not an enterprise. It’s one person struggling to make ends meet and Adobe just kicked those people while the economy already had them down.

A lump of coal in the stocking of millions of small business people is Adobe’s way of saying happy holidays!

Polaroid Back In The Instant Game With Z340

polaroid z340
The Z340 has an internal printer good for 20 shots between charges

Polaroid is back with a new instant print producing camera before the holidays, but this time without the smelly chemicals associated with instant film. The new Polaroid Z340 has a built-in, low-profile printer that churns out the same 3×4 format as the original images.

The printing technology is made by Zink – Zero Ink Technology, that was also found in the short-lived PoGo Bluetooth portable printer. The ink is actually embedded in the paper and heat-activated to develop the image.

Weighing a little less than a standard DSLR, the Z340 is also a digital camera that stores images in its internal memory.

Coupled with the internal printer is a 14-megapixel camera and, like any other digital camera, has an LCD screen on the back so you can preview your photos.

Unlike the old style Polaroid cameras, the Z340 allows you to print the pictures right away, or run various edits and corrections before printing them out.

Don’t expect much in the way of manual controls, white balance and ISO are all you get, everything else is automatic, though there are 30 different built-in scene modes such as Portrait, Sunset, and Backlight for different shooting situations.

The camera can hold 10 sheets of print paper at a time and the replacement packs of 30 will run $19.99.

The Polaroid Z340 is available now for $299.99 from Amazon.

The Future of Digital Photography Is Connected

picture of telephone poles
The future of digital photography is connected

Whether you’re shooting snapshots of friends and family with one of the new wifi-enabled Panasonic Lumix FX90s (review) or professionally with your trusty Canon 5D MKII, the biggest trend in digital imaging right now is connectivity. Whether your camera is set up to enable real time connectivity or not, it’s a trend that’s going to influence both the selection of cameras and how you do business as a professional.

You can blame improving camera phones for raising expectations for immediate sharing, but the trend has been developing since the world wide web came into being.

Another part of the equation is the trend toward social media and the democratization of news reporting. People expect news and information almost as its happening.

With the digital camera market basically saturated at this point, everyone who wants a camera already has one. From here on out the deciding factor for many consumers will be the features of the camera. As cell phone cameras get better, the impact will be most immediate in the point-and-shoot market.

I think the big picture impact on the low end of the camera market has been overstated. Camera phones have been getting better for a long time and sales of point-and-shoot cameras have remained fairly healthy. What will make the difference for consumers is connectivity. Phones have that feature built in, cameras will need to catch up to stay competitive.

These trends will combine to put pressure on professional photographers to start looking for ways to satisfy the customer’s desire for immediate gratification. While it’s unlikely the low end of the digital camera or cell phone camera market is going to make a dent in high end camera sales, there is already a push for more immediate delivery of product.

In the highly competitive market of digital photography, I believe this presents an opportunity for the technically savvy to set themselves apart with value-added services such as live blogging weddings and trade shows and packaging content quickly so guests can make product selections on the spot.

If you wait until the systems are pre-packaged so anyone can use them, it will be too late. The opportunity is there now, you just have to figure out the technical details.