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Image engineers

Jorgen Udvang

Subscriber Member
It's not my expression, I read it in an article by Erwin Puts from 2007, "The changing character of photography in the age of the electronic media." (Changing_character-photography_2007 | Rangefinder). He has been proven right, and the difference between what was (film) and what is and will be (computer science) is increasing.

I'm trying to follow a discussion on the medium format forum around the 100MP Fuji monster. If I didn't know that the discussion was about a camera, it could mostly have been about any computerised device. I feel totally disconnected, which is fine. It's not a camera that I need or will need. And I'm not an engineer.

There's another side of this that is fine too: the further digital imaging technology advances, the more relevant film becomes. The distance between the two methods is already so large that I won't hesitate to call them different art forms. While they, like painting and drawing, are both visual forms of expression, the technical perfection of modern digital images, particularly the vast post processing options, increases this gap almost on a daily basis. So I'm using more film, and thereby reducing the time in front of the computer, making me even less of an engineer.

I've been shooting a bit with "old" devices the last few days, Fuji S3, Olympus 7070, Nokia 808, and I'm surprised to see how far technology has developed in less than 15 years. There's no reason to believe that the development won't be even faster the next 15. For a long time, I resisted the idea that photographers, also professionals, will shoot with devices the size of a mobile phone or small tablet in the future. I now see that I was wrong. That is exactly what will happen, and although there will be traditional cameras available, they will be niche products. Like the Fuji monster and other specialised equipment.

Recent high end cameras are selling used for dimes on the dollar as manufacturers and photographers struggle to keep up with the development, and that process is going faster too. I will probably buy one of those dinosaurs at some stage. They are still great devices and fun to use. But I'll probably also buy an Xperia 1 to shoot 21:9 format 4K video, not for hobby but for professional use. Less than 200g and $1K including three lenses, a great display and full wireless communication. If that is where we're going, I'd better start converting. I'm too old to wait.

Just a few thoughts in the middle of the night. Please don't take it too seriously.


Well-known member
Are you less of an engineer? The photochemical process was developed (no pun intended) by chemical engineers. Could you simply be substituting one form of engineering with another?

Jorgen Udvang

Subscriber Member
Are you less of an engineer? The photochemical process was developed (no pun intended) by chemical engineers. Could you simply be substituting one form of engineering with another?
There ar two big differences:

- They way photography is done today includes a large degree of post processing, changing the nature of the image from something immediate to a largely processed depiction of reality. Yes, editing of photos was done in the past too, but it has gone from being the exception to becoming the rule. Because current digital photos look much "closer to life" due to their superior technical qualities, the editing also becomes more powerful as well as more deceptive.

- When photography is being run by preprogrammed algorithms like we are starting to see in mobile phones already, much of the responsibility and also the aims of the editing is being preprogrammed by the supplier of the hardware and software used. Since most of the algorithms aim to make a beautified, technically perfect image, beautiful, technically perfect images is what we are getting. And since most people, amateurs in particular, will be using similar devices with more or less the same firm- and software, the beautification will largely be standardised.

One can claim that photos of the past lied mostly due to the imperfect technology behind them, in addition to human interference. Photos of the future will lie because of the perfection of technology. It will not be a question about "if" a photo is manipulated, but "to what degree and with what aim".

Example: many mobile phone cameras automatically enhance colours and contrast in a way that makes it look as if most photos are taken under ideal circumstances and in nice weather. That has always been possible to do for a skilled Photoshop editor (digital) or an even more skilled film editor in the past. The difference is that it's becoming an automatic feature applied to all photos. There will undoubtedly be automatic "people editors" that beautify skin and other human features in future camera phones. Those features are already available in semi-automatic computer software, and since many people want to look beautiful in photos, it's only a question of time until it ends up as an automatic, integrated function.

The result is that we'll end up with a beautified, sanitised image of the world and its people. If photos have any influence on how people think and how they perceive reality, and I believe they have, programmers and managers at Sony, Apple, Huawei, Google and other companies will get an unprecedented way of shaping our future and the way we see our reality, probably not in a dramatic way as a singular tool, but in combination with all the other electronic tools that shape our everyday lives.

In protest to all this, I'll burn off a roll of HP5 today :lecture: :ROTFL:


Well-known member
I am just going to have to disagree. From 19th century Pictorialism, post processing has been used extensively. And today it is so much easier to get a well-exposed white-balanced photograph right out of the camera which require no manipulation at all (I have posted a few myself in the Fuji forum). Certainly that is true out of a cell phone. As far as computational photography, it simply makes a manipulation easier that has been common for all of photographic history. The more things change, the more they stay the same. But like the highly manipulated images of the past, the future ones will be regarded in the same way--some will like them, some will not.

In reference to Mr. Puts, my photography is no less photography and I am no less a photographer because I use a photoelectric method of photography rather than a photochemical/mechanical one.


I suppose Mr. Puts would have us believe that Richard Avedon's photos of the Beatles, Ansel Adams's Moonrise Over Hernandez, Daido Moriyama's dark and gritty works or even Andy Warhol's various Marilyn Monroes are pretty much the literal truth.

It seems to me that in fact, people have been using photography as a means of personal expression pretty much from the very beginning of the medium, using techniques as basic as selecting a slow shutter speed and panning the camera to follow a moving subject in order to convey a sense of motion. Such images may be a reflection of reality, but they aren't reality itself. The only thing that's changed with digital photography is that we have a bigger box of crayons to choose from.

As for what the future will bring, who knows? Gigapixel resolution and 10K video may be part of it, but not necessarily the most interesting part.

Jorgen Udvang

Subscriber Member
Nobody disagrees that photo editing and manipulation has been used extensively in the past. What is new is that it's being done as a matter of routine, and to an increasing degree automatically based on algorithms rather than as a result of choice by the photographer.


Active member
Post processing is something that is done after the image leave the sensor. It does not matter if done by the computer in the camera or the computer on your desk, they are all computers and the image off the sensor subject to someones software along the way. Many talk of baked RAW. Its just post processing at an earlier stage before the jpg. You are already and always were at the mercy of someone elses pipeline design. Even the hardware CPU that takes the image from the sensor has a software component and is re-arranging your data.

A chemical engineer once told me, that they "chemical engineers" could rule the world. I guess they do.

As humans we invent technologies and rarely dump them never to be used again. Some still draw with pieces of charcoal, even though the pencil was invented, some draw with pencils even though paint was invented, some paint even though film was invented, some use film even though digital sensors were invented and on it will go. Someone on another forum is banging on about their old digital cameras and how they prefer the output of small sensor. This is ok by me.

What would concern me is when film cameras dry up, will someone make some ? Hope so