A lesson from Drywall

Yes, photographers can learn something from sheet rock

“Most often, those who are against the advancement of new technology are the businesses that are fully invested in old technology.”

A long time ago, interior walls in homes were covered with plaster rather than drywall.  Anyone who has built a home in the past 60+ years knows that drywall is what separates them from the wiring, plumbing and insulation in their home. While drywall was originally invented somewhere around 1916, it didn’t take off as the wall covering of choice until after the 1950s.  Plaster was considered an art form (and probably was) and society simply wouldn’t accept the cheap substitute offered by drywall.

Back then, there was also a “Plasterers Union”. If you wanted your interior walls finished for your newly constructed home, you would be forced to used a professional plasterer and you would have to pay Union prices driving the price up on your home.

Photography is rapidly advancing

I bring up drywall as an example to introduce a new company.  Light.co is focused on creating portable cameras that can match (or exceed) the quality of a DSLR. Let’s be honest for a second. Camera design has not changed much in the last 100 years. Sending light to a capturing method and creating an exposure is largely the same. The capturing method (technology) advanced.  Focus has gotten better. Memory has grown.  But the size of cameras hasn’t gotten much smaller.  All the while companies like Apple are creating very high quality cameras for a very low price.

In my opinion, we are reaching that tipping point. We are reaching our drywall moment where society accepts the small camera and the “art form” gets lost by advancement. You see, plasterers were the “artists” who knew how to apply plaster onto walls.  Their practice and skills were difficult to replicate because plaster was tricky to apply.  If done incorrectly, plaster would look terrible. The same is true with photography…especially during the days of film. Before the screen on the back of the camera (Yes, that’s pretty new) photographers had no way of seeing what they just took.  They had to rely on their knowledge, talent, and skills.  And a darkroom.  They would anticipate what it was going to look like and if they were a pro, they would have an idea prior to taking the shot.

Today, DSLRs, phones, mirror-less cameras and portable cameras give the user feedback. Today, it’s less about skill and more about speed and feedback. Sure, there are photographers who KNOW their craft very well and used digital cameras the way they were meant to be used, but there are a lot of non-photographers producing some pretty great photos……even, dare I say, for money!

Watch this quick video:

Dr. Laroia makes some great points

After watching the video, Dr. Laroia has me pretty convinced. Not so much in how Light’s camera will perform, but for the need for a camera like this to be in the marketplace. None of us know yet how it will perform because nobody has used it. (other than employees of the company) What we can do, however, is ask ourselves the hard questions.

    1. Is there a place for this type of camera?  For me the answer is without question a “yes.”
    2. Will this camera produce DSLR quality images? I don’t know yet
    3. What will happen to the photography industry? Wedding and portrait photographers? My guess is that it would be good to study up on those making money off of drywall. Plasterers are no longer because their craft was overtaken by technology. What about your “craft” of photography?  Where is it heading?
    4. Should I buy a Light camera?  While I have only positive opinions of what I have seen on their website, I won’t be an early adopter.  I also won’t write a review until I have one in-hand.  That being said, if you have an additional $1,400 and the patience to wait, then by all means, buy one.

Some Photographers are Against Advancement

I read a lot about photography and it is inevitable that pros will poo-poo the ideas put forth by companies like Light. Similar to the fight the Plasterers union put up against drywall, photographers are disgusted that there is the possibility that a camera would take great photos without any real skill involved. Sure, composure will still come into play.  But if a camera really shows up in the market place where a user doesn’t have to have any clue about f-stop, shutter speed or ISO what will that mean to them? What will happen to someone who knows how to properly apply plaster when drywall is faster, cheaper and more efficient? I would suggest that technology can, and often does, replace human skill. With that said, those who rely on their skills to make them money may find themselves out of work.

One of Light’s photos

Here is one of the  photos from Lights’ website. While I couldn’t find a statement saying it was taken with one of their prototype cameras, I am going to assume that it was.

What do you think?

I would love to hear your opinion on the state of the industry.  Specifically, on what you believe will be the future for professional photographers as more and more products like these enter the marketplace.

All photos and videos in this article are “Courtesy: Light (http://light.co/)”