Cloud computing’s effect on digital photography

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Photos by Sarit Sotangkur

The photography industry has been revolutionized multiple times throughout its history. In the beginning, black and white photos were recorded on plates, then celluloid film, then color film and now digital files. In each of these revolutions, we see a fundamental shift in the way photos are captured, processed and displayed. Although we are now in the digital age, I believe the cloud has only shown us a glimpse of where digital photography will go.

The cloud as photo backup

The digital age has brought us fast, compact and non-fading image permanence, but it has also brought us crashing hard drives, hackers and computer viruses. With that in mind, backups are top priority with any professional or serious photographer. And since shipping DVDs or hard drives to your relatives for off-site backups gets old fast, backing up your photos in the cloud makes a lot of sense. That’s why many commercial backup offerings like Carbonite or Dropbox have a large focus on preserving your photos and can do so at a fairly low cost.

The cloud as a sharing tool

Its always great to review your own photos, but let’s be honest, we all take them to show other people, right? That’s why sharing photos is the one feature common to every social site. Twitter limits you to 140 characters, but a picture is worth a thousand words–you do the math. Also, any photographer who wants to make a name for themselves is going to want to display his or her work for the masses to see, and what better way to do it than an online photographic community in the cloud like Flickr or 500px.

The cloud as a sales model

Considering how much we consume as information today comes from the cloud, it makes sense that all those stock photos you see there also come from the cloud in the form of microstock companies. Microstock photography is essentially the cloud-based version of the traditional stock photography business. However, instead of just one company contracting with a few photographers, a microstock company accepts millions of photos from tens of thousands of people from around the world. In the fine art world, we also see art galleries transform from little boutiques with high startup costs in affluent shopping centers to cloud-based galleries that offer high quality print on demand and even custom framing services like at Fine Art America.

The cloud as the future

I believe ultimately, cameras will upload photos directly to the cloud and all the old image editing, organization, backup and sharing that we do from our computers today will be a relic of the past. Except for some advanced photo editing capabilities, we can already do everything we do today with photos completely in the cloud. Probably the best known photo editing software out there is Adobe Photoshop, and they are now only selling it as subscription to their “Creative Cloud”. Although it’s still a software download, I think its only a matter of time until you can actually use Photoshop in the cloud.

Do you have any thoughts about cloud and the future of photography? Share them in the comments below or contact me on Twitter @ssotangkur.

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