Software To Replace Photographers [The Ones That Deserve It]

photo mark_Petapixel_a1_mini on chase jarvis blog Photographer Mark Meyers just wrote up a nice enough story aimed at driving awareness fear in professional photographers … fear about the future of their career, their well-being, their jobs.  

Depicted in that article this image at left, which was completely generated by the author of the post using an emerging 3d modeling software called Blender. The quote that stands out from the article is this one:

“If you are a photographer that makes a living shooting still-life photos, this should scare you…”

Bullshit. Unless of course…

You take the kind of photo that actually requires no personal vision…or
you’re unwilling to evolve with the industry…or
you’re somehow deluded that photography should be bound to wait for it’s sectors that can’t evolve…or
you’re unable to comprehend the definition of photography expanding into new horizons.

In which case it SHOULD scare you because you should be replaced.

Because whether the camera is 6 megapixels or 60, it’s a point and shoot or a dSLR, or … gasp…the “camera” is a dude sitting at a desktop computer…these tools are JUST TOOLS and cannot create compelling content without a human driver, a storyteller, a visionary at it’s helm. And those photos are the only photos you should be aiming to create…unless of course, you’re ok being replaced by a lower priced pork belly.

This might seem like tough love if you’re hearing this for the first time. Apologies. But, get used to hearing no. If you’re an aspiring amateur or new pro, it’s fair to be disappointed, frustrated, or to find yourself in a position where what’s sitting in your lap is something different than you thought you signed up for. But it’s not smart for any of us to feel entitled — to complain about an evolving creative marketplace or desire to freeze an entire industry in time. Whether we like it or not, all industries march on.

Consider this your prime opportunity to start (or continue) to differentiate yourself, your work, your vision from that of your peers.

(via petapixel)

38 Responses to Software To Replace Photographers [The Ones That Deserve It]

  1. Dan May 17, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    Great read! Every so often we need to stop learning and just start thinking and creating. It is not the next editing technique, camera, lens, software…those will get you a few likes here and there from friends on FB….be you without fear of judgement.

    One Love.

  2. Derwin May 17, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    I read this somewhere….
    “Not everyone who owns a hammer is a carpenter.”


  3. Katie Marie May 17, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    Well said! :)

  4. Mike May 17, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    I think Chase’s outrage is misplaced here.

    Exactly why couldn’t standard, boring product shots (like much of the stuff done in magazines that pays good $$ to commercial photographers) be replicated much cheaper in software?

    The accountants don’t give a damn who makes the image, it’s about who’s cheaper.

    Seems easier to pay some guy in a 3rd world country to make an image than hire a commercial photographer and pay for his time, licensing rights, assistants, equipment rental, etc.

    Forget about what is artistically right or wrong, this is about commercial reality.

  5. Lars Holmgaard May 17, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    That is really old news and nothing that I worry about. I just use the tool that fits the job wether it being a camera or a computer. I started doing 3D graphics in 1999 and learned about the fundamentals of setting light. About 2005 I started doing photography and realized that the things I had been doing in 3D were exactly the same in the photographic world regarding spill light, soft boxes, color temperatures, DOF, focal length and so much more. The principles are the exact same.

    It is a lot faster to model a cogwheel in 3D and directly render a cool front page image than it is to set up a studio lighting just for that one object which also has to be post edited a lot to make it look as clean and nice as we want it to.

    In 2009 the Air Force One backup plane was flying over New York with some F16’s following it just to take an official picture of it. That was understandably a very frightening scenario to the citizens of NY after 9-11. My first thought was – why on earth didn’t they just send up a much smaller helicopter to shoot some background images on which a 3D model of the plane could be post edited on to? No man on earth would be able to spot the difference if it was made the right way and it would probably cost way less money and most certainly wouldn’t frighten any citizens.

    Don’t be afraid of new tools. New tools have always been invented and will always be.

    • Bryan May 17, 2012 at 9:35 am #

      ^ Totally agree

      I would disagree with Chase only on the point that Blender is emerging. It’s been around for a long time and it’s rendering engine has been this good for a while now. Other software has been around even longer (e.g. 3DS Max) but Blender is unique in that it is FREE.

      But that’s beside the point… this kind of stuff actually gets me excited because the tools available to us these days at very little cost are incredible. When you put this kind of capability in the hands of those with the creative vision to use and abuse it, it only pushes the bar higher as to what amazing imagery can be created. If you’re one of those that’s willing to evolve and grow with the industry it shouldn’t produce fear but pure excitement!

  6. Mathieu May 17, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    Great insight, thanks Chase!

  7. Gregg May 17, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    Yesterday’s great photographer is a “story teller and human visionary at the helm” of the creative process. This individual also had to possess a detailed knowledge of the technical tools and techniques developed over years and hundreds of thousands of frames to turn their vision into imagery.

    Tomorrow’s photographer is “story teller and human visionary at the helm” of the creative process. This individual can own no more than a $200 camera phone and an app with 18 preset processing filters.

    If you drastically reduce the barrier to entry more people will be able to turn vision into imagery and you will have more great imagery in the world. When you have more of something, the market value diminishes. Yes software is eating the world and this applies to photographers too.

  8. Tim Roper May 17, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    Before the camera, illustrators drew and painted products for advertisements, and I’ve always wondered how they must have cursed the cold, heartless camera mechanism for putting them and their art form mostly out of business. But now, with computers, the art form is back, better and stronger (if less organic). In the end, it’s all about what the clients and their budgets desire.

  9. Chi May 17, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    3D and photography. Christian Schmidt has been doing this for YEARS. I have been following him and I hate him in a very good way. Out of this world.

  10. John Andersson May 17, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    As a photographer and a CG artist I work with both medium and what many forget is that a “photographer” is still needed in cgi. Just because you know what buttons to push to make the product, texturise and render settings doesn’t mean that you know how to light, compose and sell what you make a picture/animation of.

  11. Jaymes Poudrier May 17, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    What is stopping anyone from creating an application that builds on the construct of human understanding to be able to create images with creative integrity. What does humanity, a construct made up of trillions of organisms living in symbiosis have that a machine or program could not in theory also have? With time I believe even creativIty can be replicated. We have the human blueprint all that’s left is to build it.

  12. einar May 17, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    Blender is amazing! Photorealistic Lux renderer, I see it as another tool to add to photography. Started to learn, thinking about building sets in 3D shooting green screen or expanding real sets with 3D. It’s will give us so much possibilities and it is only ours creativity that sets limits. I am not afraid!

  13. Mitch Connelly May 17, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    These are some good points Chase and I think you are saying almost the same thing as Mark Meyer, just emphasizing different aspects.

    It is nice to talk about creativity, but we should remember that there are large, profitable niches in this field where photographers have earned a pretty decent living with impeccable craft and hard-earned knowledge where shocking originality and creativity were not the most important thing. Open up a glossy fashion magazine this month and look at the exquisite photos (if they are indeed photos) in the Rolex ads. There is nothing particularly creative about them. But they are perfectly lit and composed, leave just the right amount of room for text, and are sharp in all the right places. They are impeccable and this is HARD to do. If this is photography, the photographer probably has some serious overhead in equipment and probably makes a pretty healthy fee for shooting these. To compete with this photographer you would need to dedicate some serious time and money,

    The same image can be rendered. The question is: who is going to do it and how much is that work going to be worth. Photographers who want to keep creating these images might evolve, but the difference in skills between shooting studio still life and rendering still life are pretty extreme. Many are not going to keep up regardless of how creative they are. Are established photographers going back to school? Also, the overhead is much lower for rendering. It seems much more likely that the ad agency will hire a young talented designer who has some Maya skills and give him the work. And maybe that’s okay, but it’s one more niche that no longer belongs to the photographers.

    I think the original article is right on the money—photographers need to understand what it really is they are doing. They need to understand that the camera isn’t just a tool for creating realistic images, it’s a tool, no THE tool, for capturing the real world and a creative way. Photographers who focus on that won’t be touched by 3D rendering at all because it is a different paradigm and a very important way.

  14. Alan Matthews May 17, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    I remember hearing about “code generators” that would replace programmers but I never saw that happen either.

  15. Nicolae Cioloca May 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    Software is a tool and someone has to put that tool in action. Like a camera is a tool. Yes.

    Nicolae Cioloca

    • Alan Matthews May 18, 2012 at 6:57 am #

      Code generators have to be coded. Plus, code generators only get you so far then you have to finish it out.

  16. Brad Calkins May 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    I tend to agree with Chase – just like in photography, there will be people that can put the tools to amazing creative uses, and those than can churn out simple work or copy what has been done. The creative artist will always be a step ahead of the latter group… To think that anyone with Blender can serves the needs of clients is to say that the client walks up to the plate with a fully formed idea they want implemented, rather than hiring someone to bring THEIR vision to the table.

    To me, the artists and professionals push the boundaries of what can be done with the tools, the clients fund that. Of course, none of this is to say that programs like Blender aren’t already impacting some areas of photography, but I think the article is a bit too sensational.

  17. Travis;-P May 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    I have heard this all before. “Oh, the robot is going to replace the human worker in a factory…” blah blah blah. Automation and software only push our human butts to do more with our brains. The simple worker of the past is now having to use his brain to repair the robot when it breaks. True, the days of the photographer simply showing up, setting up the lights and pressing the shutter on his nice camera are limited. There are hundreds of people with nice cameras now that are becoming “photographers”. Most of these people have limited knowledge of what to do after they press the shutter. Photographer’s world will end up in a computer, with more and more complexity after the shutter is released. THAT is what will set professional photographers apart from the AMWAC (Another Mom With A Camera).
    Blender isn’t a simple turn key software package. It has a learning curve just like Photoshop and some people will suck it up and learn it and some won’t. That decision will polarize who we are and what kind of work we do. The more customers that want a 3D rendered piece with integrated photography will find those that made the jump and pay them for that skill.
    If you really want to see where things are going, check out These guys are shooting photography and using rendering software together to make some pretty kick ass imagery. AND they are busy all the time. AND the just happened to have won 11 Addy Awards. I know what I am going to be concentrating on…

  18. Marc May 17, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    I’m not scared, I know how to make 3d stuff in the computer because i’m a GA but taking a dramatic shot… taking the exact moment that would last for a lifetime is something else… Yes you have the capacity or the passion to recreate the ones you took but nothing feels like taking and keeping the perfect moment with right light and the right drama as it happen…

  19. Andy H May 17, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

    To be honest I’ve been doing 3D work for years both in films and independantly, and I have to disagree if you shoot products for web site ecommerce web site which pretty much fit into your statement

    “You take the kind of photo that actually requires no personal vision…”

    It’s 10 – 100 times faster to take photos rather than to start modeling objects, this stuff does not just appear! It has to be modeled, textured and then lit, all of which takes time. There are A LOT of things you get taking photo that you get “for free” so to speak where anything in a 3D scene has to be created.

    I’m current working on a inhouse production where we have moved AWAY from 3D because of the time it would take compaired to doing things in camera in fact. :-)

  20. faisal May 18, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    Evolution is a must, software cannot replace humans but only decrease the dependance on them.

  21. Paul Pomeroy May 18, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    Anyone who has seen Alex Roman’s “The Third & The Seventh” – – and not understood the implications for sill life and architectural (and landscape) photography was probably unaware that 99% of this short film was computer generated. Anyone who hasn’t seen it should. While watching it, pay attention to what Alex was able to do with lighting, DOF and camera positioning (albeit virtually). He could pretty much do whatever he wanted, emulating any camera with any lens from any position with any lighting he wanted … which gets back to what Chase was saying, “these tools are JUST TOOLS and cannot create compelling content without a human driver, a storyteller, a visionary at it’s helm.”

    • Andy H May 19, 2012 at 1:51 am #

      totally agree and they are tools that take time to master and learn just like any other artisitic endevor if you can get it in camera…………………. get it in camera as the other method (3D / CGI) will always take a hell of a lot longer.

  22. BezOcean May 19, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    Each profesional photographer differs from others with his style and dedication he puts in. Meanwhile digital world moves quickly and give consumers so many tools, so only we decide what is worth of our time and money to continue stand strong in this business.

  23. Andy H May 19, 2012 at 1:55 am #

    Oh and if photographers moan now about the ammount of time they spend processing images in front of Lightroom, Photoshop etc……Wait until you enter the 3D world LOL

  24. Jens Kristian Balle May 19, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    Spot on. Great Read.

  25. Dan May 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Technology will never be able to completely replace humans. It might do some aspects of the human job, but never substitute humans. The human brain is too complex.

  26. Leigh M. Smith May 20, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    I just saw this article and it upset me as well. I am a 3D modeler as well as a photographer. I can not tell you how leaning photography as improved my understanding of light, composition and story. And as you said, the camera can be a computer too. You still need to be an artist no matter what tools you use.

  27. Mark Pritchard May 21, 2012 at 4:47 am #

    I have my feet in both camps, as a photographer, and a CG user (automotive specialism). I regularly read articles like this announcing the death of photograhy and how CG is the future. It’s a shame as what these journalists won’t see is the creative process and talent behind many of the CG images you see these days. They assume you can buy a bit of software and away you go. Similar to those who think you buy the latest camera and you’re suddenly a top photographer.

    Both industries need each other. We commision photography to sit alongside our CG work, and can’t see a time where we won’t. Whether for backplates, or for the main subject, photography will always be needed. CG, and photography have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, and if you can combine them, with a story, then there’s the wow moment!

    The companies currently at the forefront of CG realised 15 years ago that just because it’s CG doesn’t make it good. They quickly realised that it’s about what the image says and the emotions or feelings it generates. When hiring new staff, I’m more likely to hire a someone who enjoys photography in their spare time, than those who list that they have advanced skills in Maya/Max/Nuke etc etc

    • c.d.embrey May 21, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

      Got that right!

  28. c.d.embrey May 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    If you are a photographer, a product shot like this can be done in just a few minuets, and require little ‘Shop work. On the other hand, if you are just a button pusher, the shot could require hours and a lot of ‘Shop work.

    BTW a computer artists rates shouldn’t be any different than a photographers rates. Being done on a computer doesn’t = free!

  29. andi sudjana June 21, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Everyone talking about 3D, Megapixel, sensor system and I still shoot films and have no worry at all ;)

  30. E. Sharpe June 21, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Uh, this is no different than thinking the drum machine will kill off the drummer. Yes, a very, very good drum machine user can emulate a real live drummer, but it’s a really rare talent, and even then, won’t be able to catch all the subtleties of real live drums. This is the same thing. Art is art.

  31. John Sterling June 21, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    So, I think you missed the point of the article. It’s not aimed at driving fear. Instead it’s talking (eloquently I might add) about the nature of photography and why renderings will never replace real, connected photography. It doesn’t sound like you read to the end.

  32. Aaron Tyree November 2, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    This post is more than a year old, but still really relevant Yeah I can see some clients using CGi generated images for ads But not all of them will. I mean the guys that are skilled enough to create a scene, a person, place the product and set a mood, and get emotional connection in a CGI created image sound like the kind of people I would want to hang out with. Thats incredible vision. But I would be surprised to ever see a time when a person sees a good photograph and feels nothing. Or a time when every person who wants to create compelling advertising will always choose CGI over real images or video. I have an even harder time seeing where CGI folks will take over Weddings, portraits, journalism, etc. People with vision and skill will probably always have a voice. The medium will change, but who cares. Learning is fun. And besides, if it did take over, I would just learn CGI and use great photographs as reference.

  33. intag January 15, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    agree with some previous comments. there is many mamographers who shots P mode and as soon i little more difficult lighting situation appears are out of luck….machine will never completely replace brain and creativity. There still will be need for LIVE PERSON who can creatively analyze and make decisions and this still will be PHOTOGRAPHER


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