Photographers: You’re Being Replaced by Software
The image above is one-hundred percent fake. It has no connection whatsoever to the world of things. I created the bolts, lights, textures, and everything else in a free, open-source, relatively easy-to-use software package called Blender. It’s easy enough that even a novice user like me is able to make a pretty convincing image. If you are a photographer that makes a living shooting still-life photos, this should scare you.
There are many aspects of this workflow that are superior to anything you can do with a camera. It is resolution independent; it is simple to manipulate any aspect of it (including composition and light) after the fact; it requires no physical space to create, and needs only inexpensive, off-the-shelf hardware. And the subject doesn’t need to be present at the shoot, it doesn’t even need to exist. You can create imagery for advertising, public relations, and market testing before a prototype is built. The one thing it doesn’t have that a photograph does is a connection to the real world.
For the first time in history, photography is about to lose control of its monopoly on affordable, convincing realism and it’s time for us to understand that realism has never been the most important feature of the photograph. Although we rarely think about it, we understand this intuitively: a computer rendering of your daughter’s wedding will never be the same as a photograph even if both are equally realistic. The photograph is defined by its causal, mechanical connection to the real world. Academics have studied this aspect of photography for a long time (for a very clear overview see Kendall Walton’s Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism), but almost from the beginning photographers have stayed blissfully unaware of theory and have systematically ignored and even undermined their medium’s connection to the world.
And yes I downloaded this to see for myself. Good thing I committed to HD video for commercial clients. Stills just ain’t it anymore.