Note: For the sake of this post let’s define a serious photographer is one that uses any camera that is not part of a phone to take the majority of their photos.
With Instagram’s announcement of new editing tools yesterday and Apple’s expected Photo app announced at WWDC, it looks like photo editing, sorting and storing is an integral part of every phone, tablet and computer. OK, nothing new there. Photo editing tools are constantly becoming easier to use. Anyone can edit and enhance photos in ways that, only a few years ago, only seasoned graphic designers paying hundreds of dollars for PhotoShop could do.
The problem is that all these great new tools are not easy to use with photos taken on non-phone cameras. Viewing and editing are difficult on the camera and transferring them to a computer is awkward. Users need to either connect the camera, take the SD card out of the camera and insert into a reader, or buy a third-party Wi-Fi connectivity card. Either way, transferring the photos to where it is easy to view and edit is a process that takes time. And it’s a process that’s extremely fast and mostly seamless on phones.
When I look at Nikon’s DSLR product line, one thing jumps out at me immediately: the features list focuses on (no pun intended!) pre-click options. Most, if not all, of the features are intended to help the photographer take the best possible photo. Once the photograph has been taken and saved, the camera’s work is over.
On the other hand, almost all of the photo editing/filtering apps are post-click, taking the photo taken by the lower-quality phone cameras and improving it. These are the photos that are beautified, shared, and backed-up in the cloud.
The problem is that for the “serious” photographer (i.e. one that lugs around a DSLR) the phone photos are not the important photos. Those are the ones taken on the DSLR, and they don’t get the benefits of those amazing, easy-to-use photo apps (again, the Mac is an exception here.)
Ideally, the solution should include two parts.
First, the camera manufacturers need to understand that it’s time to be connected. One of the Google tools I really like is auto-backup of photos taken on phones. This can be done over Wi-Fi, so there’s no need to get mobile connectivity for the phone. That said, mobile connectivity would be great for backups when traveling. Speaking as someone who has had their camera stolen in Barcelona with ALL photos taken on the trip lost forever on its memory card, this is a feature I would have loved (if it were not for exorbitant roaming data fees. But I digress.)
Eye-fi is doing a good job trying to get DSLRs connected but having connectivity as an integral part of the camera instead of a workaround on a SD card can be easier to use.
Second, the desktop apps and cloud need to step up. Desktop apps, like Picasa, need to be as good as any mobile app out there. The cloud should not be just a backup solution and a “final repository” for the photos. It can offer great editing and filtering tools that are just as good as the mobile apps. Photo editing, enhancing, filtering, and curating should be an extension of these apps just like they are for photos taken on the phone. To that, add Google’s incredible Auto Awesome tools and my ideal photo package will be complete.