My article, "The Future of Photography," was published in the LPA's June 2012 edition of "Desert Exposure." Unfortunately newsletter articles must, by necessity, be brief and I had so much more detail to offer. This is my workaround. For completeness and to make it easier for those readers who haven't read the original article I'm including the text of that article here with my additional notes.
The Future of Photography (as published in the LPA's June 2012 edition of "Desert Exposure")
Photography has been changing since the day it was invented. But what the future holds for photography was a mystery to me until Scott Roberts, at our March workshop, made a comment about where his profession is today. Scott said that, until the rise of the digital cameras, it was enough to get "good exposure" because that was enough to separate the professionals from the amateurs. But with digital cameras anyone can do that. Looking through FLIKR and all those other online photo sites it's easy to see the truth in this. And within just a few minutes of gazing at the billions (yes, billions with a b) of "good" photos available from around the world it's easy to become discouraged and leave the camera on the shelf. After all, who can compete with all those.
Scott also had a solution. You create your own style, your personal trademark. He does this with his own combination of warm, slightly low-key lighting and staging his subjects in his own personal style of thought provoking positions. His images are beautiful, imaginative, and, most of all, unique to him.
For many of us it's enough to take "good" photographs and to be able to say "I did this." But for those who want to stand out in the crowd of photographers then we too must create our own style. With all the millions of other photographers we're competing with this may be a challenge, but one well worth accepting. Of all the LPA photographer's photos, look for the ones taken with a fish-eye lens, usually from a low angle, and you'll quickly realize that they're all made by the same photographer. His style is simple, fascinating, yet unique.
Through years of leafing through photo books I've learned that there are some styles that have not been pursued by the masses on FLIKR. For example, Film Noir has a long history and copious historical examples but few recent advocates. Add a little personal style and you've trademarked yourself. Another style I found fascinating, but under utilized, is the art of splitting the image. For example, the right half may be sharply focused on a stand of trees with the left half a contrasting rocky cliff or water. The list of possibilities is endless.
If you want some inspiration then go to your local library or peruse the magazine racks at the big book stores. Find something that appeals to you, put your own personal twist on it, and you too can become unique among the masses.
Style based on subject and/or creative use of standard camera equipment:
Looking Out The Car Window: This style I found in only one magazine. In that magazine the photographer was driving around town taking photos of people and things along the road while keeping enough of the window frame in view to give the proper perspective. Some of the photos used fast shutter speeds while others were obviously panned giving focus to one person or subject while blurring the rest. I tried using Google Image and found almost none of the photos like I saw in the magazine which is a good indication that few people are doing this making it a good opportunity for a personal style.
Creative Focus: There are rules of thumb for focus such as "for landscape photos everything should be in focus" and "for portraits the background should be out of focus." Create your own style by breaking the rules and doing things with focus that other people aren't doing. This may be by focusing on the distance with something up close out of focus, an unusual way of capturing motion, or just zooming your lens while taking the photo.
Hi/Lo Key: High and Low Key photography has been around for as long as photography but most people stick with life-like exposure. Movie stars are often shot in high key because it's easy to burn out blemishes giving the stars a more glamorous image. In fact, glamour shots are often done in high key. Low Key is typically used to add drama through greater emphasis on shadows. In one recent book I found the author uses high key on light colored flowers to give his images a look similar to Japanese paintings. And he does this mostly by overexposing the shots. Another fun activity is self portraiture where you can dress yourself as you like and adjust the lighting to suit yourself.
Tilt-shift and Bellows: These are great for straightening the lines on buildings and placing the lines of focus in unusual places. These are often used to give a real-life scene the look of a model. Amazon.com has an aftermarket bellows for most cameras for as low as $40.
Plastic Lenses: These sound cheesy, and they are if you are a photographic purist, but if you want to make your photos look like they were taken back when Brownies and Instamatics were popular then these inexpensive lenses may be the way to go.