Future focus... or not

Rain (via lensbaby) - 062711
I first heard about it from a photographer friend on Facebook.  Another friend asked me about it over the weekend.  Today I read an article about it at Slate.com.  It is being touted as the biggest evolutionary jump in photography since... the beginning of photography.  It is called Lytro and soon you wont have to focus on whatever you photograph.

Looking about isn't a techie-gadget blog, but some things catch my eye and Lytro is one of them.  In current digital and film cameras, the photographer composes the shot, focuses, and shoots.  The depth of field is regulated by the aperture and determines how deep the focus goes into the scene.  Inside the camera, the image is captured on a single plane of film or sensor.  Lytro is a completely different way of doing that.  The photographer composes the shot and pushes the button.  No focus or depth-of-field to worry about.

Lytro does its magic by taking multiple images at the same instant.  When you download the photo package to your computer, the software lets you decide what is in focus and what isn't.  This works really well when your image has details in multiple layers of depth.  This technology can also work for 3D images as well.  You can watch the silly video below or play with some Lytro photos at this site.  It is fun.

Some professional photographers feel threatened by this.  All those years of study and thousands of pictures learning how to master depth of field, special focus, and technique are useless because this camera takes care of that.  Now everyone can take a photo and have the power to adjust the focus after it is shot.  Amateurs are going to think they are pros because of these new powers.  As a professional photographer, I am not worried.  I believe this is good for the art.

First, my digital camera is a 13mp full frame camera that creates large RAW files of a single image that I focused to the way I want it.  The Lytro will create a photo that has the same focus, but its resolution will not be as high.  This makes the Lytro more of an amateur camera with users not expecting to make large prints of fine detail.

Second, my choice of focus and depth is important, but regardless of whether it is film or digital, most of the work occurs in post processing.  I touch up the photo (But not overly so.  I hate waxy-skinned perfection), dodge and burn, adjust saturation, crop, and perform other bits of my magic on the image.  The focus was only the beginning to making it a finished image.  I enjoy having that control over the process.  I doubt amateurs will do much more than select focus, maybe de-saturate it and call it good.  It will not be a refined and finished image.

Third, the old adage, "The tide raises all boats." is true for photography.  By improving the quality of amateur photographers shots, it will force the pros to improve as well.  I know I always have room to improve my craft and art.  I welcome the challenge.

Finally, I have to add that most amateurs don't consider composition of the image.  They don't often think of how a certain shadow, texture, color, or expression will work with the overall photo.  They take snaps of their friends at parties and put them up on Facebook.  I know this sounds elitist on my part, but I've earned a right to differentiate my work from the masses.  That is what separates it from amateur stuff.  Lytro is going to change how we photograph things, but it want necessarily make every photo art.  It is the artist that does that.

Video Note - This video is from a memorial concert for George Harrison.  It is great to see the Clapton, Starr, and other great musicians having fun singing this song.  George's son Dhani looks like a young version of his dad.


  1. Karl, I love that song, first of all, and good for Ringo! He still rocks. In fact, I have never seen him so confident, and his voice sounds great. And you're right about George's son. I had no problem recognizing him.

    The photo technique is fascinating. It makes me think of the 360 degree photography used on hotel's websites to show their spaces. And then there's the 360 degree theatre theatre in Aromanche, France, where they show the film footage of the D-Day crossings.

  2. Carla, I love that song too. I know George helped write the songs Ringo sang and made sure they were in a comfortable range for him. It must have been hard for Ringo to have to sing with Paul and John standing by. I've written about the bond between John and Paul before and am now wondering about the bond between George and Ringo.


So,what are you thinking about?