Photo-editing today is still an art form, a specialized and necessary art – and “endured” by prosumers. The great photography you see hanging on walls, on websites or in magazines, all have been edited digitally. Not necessarily to create some outrageous creative effect but because not a single camera accurately captures what your eyes see. Not since the invention of photography in 1870.
Camera vendors promise better results when their customers purchase a more expensive DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera, a better lens, a solid tripod, a new filter, and, while we’re selling: a new photo bag. Yet, none of those products do anything to change the fundamental difference between what your eyes see and what the camera produces. With a healthy growth of more than 60% worldwide in DSLR sales (according to new 2007 numbers from CIPA), most camera vendors are not in a hurry to out-innovate themselves as their current stance is feeding their business so well. So, the problem remains, camera output is far from ideal.
So today, the great results photographers strive for can only be achieved through editing, reproducing what you tried to capture. That editing today happens primarily on the desktop (less than 10% of the whole photography market edits online) and by digital SLR users with a great sense of quality and aesthetics. Products are plentiful, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Apple Aperture, and my favorite: LightZone. Yet none of those products completely hide photographic complexity to its new users, the massive numbers of DSLR buyers that just want to create great photographs.
Photo-editing should work as a car, simply put the key in the ignition and drive (without having to worry about how the engine and the transmission works). The editing tool of the future should embed photographic knowledge and make decisions or recommendations for you, rather than requiring its users to become proficient in the minutiae of color and light. Just like a car, photo editing should be able to go where others have gone before, enriching the experience of new users continuously. New editing techniques should be sharable through a language we all understand, a photograph. In short: edit “like-Mike” and me-too editing is born.
I believe photo-editing will move away from what it is today, a basket full of technology tools to a service through which the sharing of editing techniques will enable the new “language” of photo-editing. That dramatically simplified language will subsequently allow editing for the long-tail of the photography market, the massive market of point-and-shooters. New technologies such as Pixenate, Picnik, Adobe Photoshop Express already rush to deliver a fresh basket of tools for the consumer market. And many others will follow.
Today, plenty of opportunities remain in the prosumer editing space in which no vendor has amassed even close to 30% penetration. New editing capabilities are bound to drive the marketplace in which monetization of photographs and, eventually, a free-market for photography can flourish.
What’s left for the innovative camera vendor is to build a proprietary imaging pipeline that dramatically reduces the need to edit. With 90% of DSLR vendors using the same imaging pipeline (behind the sensor), the time is right to change the way a camera captures data before it reaches the sensor. In the same way, your eyes do very smart tricks before the light hits the retina.