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The Future of Photography - Computational Photography

by Editor Wicher Bos

Ever thought about it?  Probably you have, because there are many articles discussing technological developments. Today, the step towards mirror-less is hot.

I started thinking about it following the latest iPhones' announcement, more exactly their portrait capability to create a depth of field – bokeh – without any user intervention. So, the bokeh is just calculated, no need for large apertures any more.

What are these developments?
The technology is referred to as computation photography. It stands for digital image capturing and processing using digital computation.

computational photography:

  • computational imaging techniques that enhance or extend the capabilities of digital photography
  • output is an ordinary photograph, but one that could not have been taken by a traditional camera (tentative) definition by Marc Levoy, 2007; Computer Science Department Stanford University

What I like about this definition is that it refers to the output, “is an ordinary photograph.” It makes you wonder even more…

A whiter shade of pale” by Lus Joosten

Today, a first, a general overview of the field.

The photographer has always been in the front line of technological change:
In the 19th century it was the invention of chemical photography. That ignited a revolution in image-making. Some people were thinking that painting would become extinct ... and it almost did for some genres like portraits, yet, painters found a new way to excite the world.

Followed by another huge step when in the 20st century digital photography was invented. Photography became even better, now you can have instant feedback during a photo shoot, copy and distribute pictures super-fast and post-processing options are mind-blowing: easily clone out things, changing colours, etc.

And now, the 21st century, we see a rapid development of computational photography. Camera’s able to produce images by calculation, based on image data collected by multiple lenses, and sensors. Multiple images combined to create a High Dynamic Range, large Depth of Field by focus-stacking, blurring a background when shooting a portrait, large mosaic pictures, etc.

Where will it end? Start dreaming…
Suppose you would have a complete 3D-capture of a situation for a brief moment in time… and by computation alone you are able, to relight, change focus (plane), zoom in or out, etc. It would mean total freedom for the photographer being back home… an ideal world?

For sure, the possibilities to correct and enhance images will increase even further. Yet, it seems just to be the perfecting of our present tools… however extrapolation of the current abilities is never a good prediction. I believe that in the era of computational photography we will see new and unexpected things developed by true artists who will be applying the new tools in new ways...

What would that do to photography? Would it still be fun? Absolutely!

What remains unchanged:
1. Bringing the camera to the “situation”
2. Staging - in front of the camera
3. Imagination - seeing beyond the factual

Look at these pictures I have selected… these are not just ‘captures’ of a situation these are personal representations of a vision, believe or an experience or emotion…

“Alien Discussion” by Jacqueline Hammer


“Future of Nature” by Mohammad Rasool Fahmani


“a day trip” by silkandfire


“behind the window” by Carmine Chiriacò


“Heartless” by Christophe Kiciak


“Me too” by Ekkachai Khemkum


“Future Ahead” by Petri Damstén


“...secret...” by Sandra Ulfig-Panta ARPS


“Outlander” by Sergey Parishkov


“Fall of Liberty” by Øyvind Gregersen


“Love” by Stefan Eisele


For me this is the essence of photography.
Finally, do you think you would enjoy photography in that new world just as much?

Would Artificial Intelligence software take over?
Science Fiction: “Camera, please capture this building, in contrasty light, so it has a suspense and mysterious mood” - “OK, sir but if you step 2 meters to the right, we get a better composition”

Who knows – step through the elevator-door, join the future and let’s explore!
“Let your love and not your camera draw you to your subject.”  - ~H. Steward Wallace 1902 ~


Excellent article, wonderful photographs, well done Wicher & Yvette. Thanks for publishing.
Great article, good thoughts! Thank you Wicher!

Well, in fact you could think that if there were perfect lenses, going from 6-1000mm always sharp back to front, there would not be the slight obstacles of optics to enable us doing artistic photography.

Computational images would not imitate our usual sense for real photography

So in effect our world would be more sad, photography not such a fantastic hobby or profession.

BUT we still have RAWs :-) So we're still the computational part ourselves if we insist, haha! Well, with all the tools having sliders, of course....


Thx Mike! "So in effect our world would be more sad, photography not such a fantastic hobby or profession." Indeed exactly my thought...
Historically, the great divide between the vision of the artist and that of the photographer was that the artist could image the world as he wanted to see it. The photographer had to image the world as it was. The artist could paint in, or paint out, anything he wanted. He could manipulate his angles and colours in his imagination before reproducing that vision on canvas. The photographer could achieve a more accurate rendition of what he saw than the artist ever could, but to maximize impact, he had to physically change his angles, alter the time of capture and understand how his lens selection would affect the image of his vision. What he could not change with his technology, he had to accept. Technologies have made photography closer to art than ever before and provided the artist with easier, more realistic images. Increasingly, we are becoming "designers" of a visual world we want, free from imperfection, enhanced colours, greater (or less) sharpness. All we need is an image, good or bad, to manipulate. From that, we can create our perfect visions of an imperfect world, which may appear unrecognizable from reality. The price of that perfection may be our ability to see, capture and enjoy the little imperfections that make the world we see. To me, that is the ability which makes our work special.
I could not agree more!
Thank you for putting these very valid points in clear words! That's the imperfection of camera physics we love to play and somehow, maintain.
Excellent addition and fully comply with your views Brian! " The price of that perfection may be our ability to see, capture and enjoy the little imperfections that make the world we see. " I suppose that is what Japanese call Wabi-Sabi ;) worth some additional thought! Thanks!
Good words about this issue. I agree!
Brilliant article
love it !
Spendido article, very very interesting. Thanks Wicher for choosing one of my works. You have fully understood my thought. Being among these magnificent artists is an honor for me. Thanks also to you Yvette. Congratulations to all
A well-deserved honor in my humble opinion Carmine! Thx!
Thanks for this fine "study" and for including one of my images, dear Wicher! Congratulations to all the authors selected. Best greetings, Yvette
It is great to be in your editorial team Yvette, i truly like the challenge it brings to reflect on photography in its broadest scope ;) And your art is wonderful!
Yes, a lot of what I wanted to say, said Brian. I’ll just add that use of computer technology doesn’t turn analog and digital photography into computer photography. There is no such thing as computer photography. I would call it computer painting or graphics. Of course, the use of computer technology gave a second wind for the photograph, which we now call digital and which made life much easier for photographers. Digital photography will exist in parallel with other methods of fine art, and I hope that it, like painting, will exist forever. :-) Although there are fears that it is will evolving into holographic or into some other fixing the reality around us. Who knows... Big thanks to all. Vladimir.