As photographers we are now being faced with a new type of image revolution. It’s one that is so serious it could change the way that images are created, bought and sold. So what is better a real or CGI image?
This new revolution threatens the very professional photographic industry that each of us aspire to be a part of.
We have faced this before though, right?
Being an old school photographer, back in my University days I trained in stock photography.
Many of you reading this may be completely unfamiliar with such a term as stock, or you’ll immediately think of the many websites that offer free stock photographs!
Stock photography is a term used for film and the stock chemicals that are involved in the processing of photographs. Of course, since the inception of the digital age, Photoshop has completely replaced all of the stock processes that take place within the legendary darkroom. At the time of this transition/revolution, many photographers would debate over which they deemed to be better, digital or stock? At that time, some 15 years ago, I hate to admit it, but I was an advocate of stock processes. Nevertheless, I certainly wasn’t alone.
I had mastered the art of processing color film, which unlike black and white would have to take place in complete and utter darkness, as the slightest particle of light could ruin an entire batch of film, it goes without saying that this film was expensive. Stock photography was deemed an art form. There you were; walking in the footsteps of Ansel Adams and Robert Capra! One of the many beauties of stock photography was that you never knew what the quality of your images would be until you came out of the darkroom; it was exciting, smelly and fun!
But as the digital processes slowly started to overtake the old school ways, the prices really began to increase, as less and less photographers coming out of college were willing to part with $10 for a roll of film that contained 30 shots, all of which you had to make damn sure that the set up was perfect.
Soon after much deliberation, and the fact that I could no longer buy photographic paper from my local processing shop, I learned to give in to this passing phase of computerized post-production, because apart from the initial cost of a DSLR (my first one cost $3000), I quickly learned that photography is a skill and an art form, no matter the processes involved.
Enter The New Debate…
Moores Law, which states that computer processing power doubles every 18 months, is a phenomena that has remained since the late 1940’s. The phrase was coined by a computer scientist that noticed a repeating pattern in the number of transistors that get added to microchips. But, what does this have to do with photography?
Many of you with design backgrounds might have heard about the awesome design software Keyshot. The software started as a simple design platform that enabled the CGI’ers of the world to produce CGI (Computer Generated Images) characters for live action films and television shows. But due to the rate that computing power doubles and has increased since the 40’s we are now at the stage where images are starting to look real. I mean, really real!
But like anything, the more powerful a software platform gets, the more external industries want to get involved! Keyshot is now being used by CAD designers all over the world to replicate products and people within their advertising films and posters with the aim to make CGI better than real photographs.
This is worrying many photographers. Certainly not the amateur Sunday afternoon in the park photographer, but the ones right at the top, at the cutting edge of photography, where there are maybe ten photographers that fight for that $1 million brief – these people are scared, but what is better a real or CGI image?
But which produce a better image??
The briefs from the world’s top advertising agencies are getting far more demanding, and in the fray competing with the photographers, are these CGI designers; They can answer the brief in half the time of a photographer, if the final image requires changes it can be done in seconds, and these designers price tags are almost half the amount of the photographers.
The images are only going to get better and better. Currently I don’t think that a computer generated image looks better, but then these designers are being used so often, that it’s difficult to even tell at a glance if the people within a photograph are even real.
I have to admit that Keyshot is a very impressive item of software that is certainly both creative and inspiring. My personal thoughts on this new digital image revolution are that it will only really affect the top tier of photographers.
People want to see the real the thing, however Photoshop is certainly getting used more and more. Are we simply getting to a stage where Photoshop will one day have a feature to add people into the image, where you can position them however you like?
Unlike the stock vs digital debate, the CGI vs photography issue has one less factor that will affect it; “what’s that” I hear you say?
Money. I imagine that some of “the would be” future photographers prefer to stay in their rooms and generate a load of people onto a screen, move them around with the rule of thirds, set up different lighting techniques, a fake location backdrop and ta da! An awesome photograph that’s fake, but looks real.
However, there’s also going to be the other photographers, that for them, it’s all about the process. Time isn’t a factor and spending the money on such shoots, is all part of the joy that is photography! Getting out on location, casting models. For me, and many of my other photographer friends, that is what makes photography so amazing. Digital replaced stock because it was cheaper; sure, the darkroom was replaced with a computer screen, but the processes are almost the same:
- Buying the best kit
- Getting your head around it by reading the manual
- Hunting for the perfect location
- Waiting for that perfect shot
- Building the set from a simple drawing that you did off the back of a napkin
This is what makes photography so romantic for many.
But is saving time far more important? Working with people can be a drag at times? As many of us know, not all models are great to work with. Let’s continue the debate below! Leave your comments as I’d love to hear the thoughts from the community.