Some thoughts about the future of photostreaming

Photostreams are now just a commodity for any social service, and has improved dramatically for the last months. Facebook and Flickr recent improvements may be two obvious examples. Let’s list first some trends in 2012:

Bigger is better
That’s obvious: the experience improves with the picture size and photostreams are now able to display much bigger pictures.

Adjust to your screen size
Services like Flickr allow you to see a given picture of a stream, by clicking it, at the maximum size possible. Cool.

Endless stream
That’s also obvious, we hate clicking on “next page please”, and, freaking consumers that we are all like to see as many pictures as possible in the shortest time frame available.

Mosaic and no blank space please
Similarly, photostreams are now more and more mosaics without any blank space between pictures. That’s sound obvious nowadays, but that’s something actually recent. However, how and if you must crop pictures to display the stream is something yet not so clear:

Square crop
Square crop has become very popular, but for some, like Flickr, who are still preferring a justified streaming. Unlike some, I am not a fan of square crop, even if I do understand its usefulness, and to be more specific, for mobile device.

Present limitations
I understand my pictures must be cropped, but right now, it is far from being ideal. And browsing my Google Picasa albums with front page badly square cropped is just depressing for a photographer. Intelligent cropping tools are now starting to be available, so hopefully, this will improve soon.

Another problem with streaming is actually the search. We mainly browse mainly by either “time” or “tags”. This experience can be really frustrating, as pictures are now counted by billions, and you don’t want to see most of them for many reasons. Actually, it is becoming a real challenge to find the kind of pictures you are looking for. The trend – more and more pictures taken every year – will make the search experience on pictures more and more frustrating without some dramatic innovations.

That’s why I am sure, or at least I hope, that many new intelligent tools will be soon available. There are many ways to find what you are looking for and that’s how photostreaming may evolve: you can already give an aesthetic number to a picture. That’s very arguable, though. But I prefer from far missing some good pictures because the tool miscalculated their aesthetic value and browsing only “nice” pictures than browsing tons of uninteresting pictures for me. Yes, interestingness is really something photostreams are taking care of in a very basic way so far. Other tools are now providing a context to pictures, trying to avoid not only the tagging tasks, but providing some semantic to a picture to let people browsing it the way we want.

On top of this, there are now many ways to push your content to different channels and one person can post a picture to many streams. So services like Pictarine look to me a great way to display photostreaming by person. This dimensions does matter too. Search & display by people is really something still at its infancy for photostreaming. But let’s go a little bit further, I would love being able to look after a kind of photographer. Right now, finding new photographers that you like is a challenge, as we have all very different tastes. And photography has become so popular, there is no such thing than discovering new skilled photographers lost in armies of photographers you can’t care less about. Anyway, tha’ts something else I would discuss in another post.

Conclusion: how to handle an exponential volume of pictures?
So to make a long story short, the main challenge of photostreaming, in the future, would be to take care of “volume”. I believe that several business will be extremely successful if they will be able to improve the photostreaming experience of users. Welcome to a digital world of billions and billions of pictures… and counting.

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Mirrorless cameras: are Nikon and Canon too greedy?

We, photographers, don’t care about profits and shareholders objectives. We want better cameras. We do understand that is make sense for a company to improve its financial results. But too often, the self-proclaimed leaders can become somewhat arrogant and are forgetting the “golden rule”: make good products for your clients, and they are no cash cows. The objective is not, at least not the prime objective, to make money. It is to be better than the competition, to innovate and to produce over-the-top quality products. Thanks to that, a company will be able not only to make money, but to literally print money! It is simple, but it is not easy. That’s basically Apple’s philosophy, it’s no secret – and I am not an Apple fanboy!

When they released Nikon J1 and V1, I understood Nikon main objective was to prevent any phagocytosis of their entry-level DSLR by their mirrorless new cameras. They obviously broke the golden rule… Not that the cameras are not good – I mean they are great and quite unique point-and-shoot high end cameras – but, because that was not what the Nikon’s fan were waiting for.

Similarly, Canon preferred to release a new high end compact – the G1 X instead of some mirrorless, again, I assume, to protect its entry-level DSLR. And they are charging us much more for a somewhat not so innovating camera.

Now Nikon seem to continue its blindness rationale. I am quoting Nikon’s executive from the (excellent) techradar: “we want pros to be buying our DSLRs“, and don’t seem to be so keen avoiding the competition of high-end mirrorless cameras like the great Fuji X Pro 1. They may release an enthusiast/pro mirrorless in the future, or maybe not… to protect their revenues. Am I dreaming?

I have been a fan of Nikon and Canon, and have owned cameras from both manufacturers for years but come on guys, you can be better than that: come back to the basics, please. We will decide which cameras we want to buy, and so far I just know I will buy a mirrorless camera from your competition. Too bad, but one should never broke the golden rule. Client’s first, not profits.