Is the still image dead? – video on DSLRs…

Last Friday I was invited to take part in an online discussion on the future of photography. Sponsored by the Pro. Photography Magazine, the debate centred around the question Is The Future Of Photography The Moving Image? It’s a contentious issue. The recent addition of video to DSLRs has created both derision and fear in the photographic community.  But how does it actually effect real life at the moment, and are we likely to see the end of photography as we know it?

2009 saw two feature films made on DSLRs and that is only the beginning. The big advantage of using an SLR as a video device is the creation of a shallower depth of field – that wonderfully artistic out of focus background that isolates the subject can be achieved on High Definition video with a camera costing £600 and a lens costing £100.  It also gives the videographer access to amazing quality lenses. Canon have beaten Nikon to making video settings changeable, so now filmers have almost the same control over their camera as filmers with a dedicated video camera. Canon have just released an entry level camera that shoots full HD video at 30 frames per second with full customizable settings…the Canon 550D.

(photo courtesy of DPReview.)

But how does this actually effect the photographer in practice?

My field is predominantly wedding photography. I have had several clients ask if I shoot video as well. Whilst there is a big industry of wedding videography it is interesting that clients view the skills as interchangeable. In the fields of corporate photography – for advertising purposes – and fashion, I think photographers will increasingly find themselves on the receiving end of that question. The big debate is whether, if you don’t shoot video on your DSLR, you will lose business. At the moment that is unthinkable, but in 5 years if a competitor can offer your client a service of the same photographic quality with video and stills at the same price, traditional photographers may find themselves losing business.

But video has been around for decades and photos are still here, why would the ‘still’ image die?  Be assured it won’t happen yet! Video on DSLR has a long way to go. The newer video DSLRs sport an external stereo mic jack, so the previous complaint of not being able to record good quality sound simultaneously is now gone. However the still photograph has the power to endure far longer than the moving image. One of the most famous photos in history was shot at the same time as moving images that captured the same scene.

There is only one way that the ‘still’ image will die. It is now possible to extract still images as frames from video that is shot. At the moment those images are of poor quality, but when, not if, the photographer is able to extract an image of RAW file quality from the video reel we may see video becoming the preferred medium. Do I think the still image is dead?  No, neither do I think it will ever die. Perhaps the way we record it will change – it may be increasingly extracted from a series of moving frames – but the power of the still image will remain.

What do you think?

Leave a Reply