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Automated Studio ‘Live’ Is Set To Take Photography Jobs In Product, Catalogue, & Fashion

By Kishore Sawh on February 23rd 2017

The writing has been on the wall for ages, and loosely translated it reads: much of photography will be automated by the time you wake up tomorrow. But if you’ll forgive me for saying, photographers aren’t too often a group that adopts and embraces a shifting tide as the wave forms, as much as a group that does so as it crests then crashes.

The moment photography shifted from analogue to digital it became susceptible to tech’s evolution at a Moore’s Law’s rate, and many photography jobs, jobs you could once have built a career out of, just aren’t viable anymore, and we’ve only been in the digital age solidly for what? a decade? In 2013 an Oxford Martin School Study estimated that by 2030 an astonishing 47% of all jobs could be automated.

Our findings thus imply that as technology races ahead, low-skill workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerisation – i.e., tasks requiring creative and social intelligence. For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills

It would seem that product photography, catalogue work, and certain fashion photography is next in line, and StyleShoots is taking the next leap with ‘Live’. It’s a photo studio that aims to cut out the middle man, the photographer, by automating the ‘technical’ tasks. What it is, essentially, is a studio that aims to have the only necessary people involved be the talent (model) and style director.

The studio can be manipulated in terms of backdrops, walls, and floors; it has a Canon 1Dx Mark II as a camera (hidden), and has a depth sensor and lighting and all the rest of it built in. But it’s actually much more than that because it’s not automated to simply do the things a photographer would do, but also the things not all photographers are good at, and would typically not want to do and/or charge for, and take time to do. It does video at the same time, it automates the editing of those videos, and then it takes the images and automates all the formatting and so on necessary for it to be shared on all the necessary platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, websites, blogs, and the list goes on.

[REWIND: The Sony A99ii | Pro Sports Photographer Davey Wilson Pits It Against The D5 & 1DX Mark II]

Is this going to be the end of the product, catalogue, and fashion photographer? No, there’s always room at the top and in niches, but could this disrupt those vocations and usurp some working pros? Sure. Photographers would do well to understand that not all companies that require imagery need your artistic input, your preset look, or how you interact with clients and talent, and for them, this could really cut costs. This is owning the means of production for them. Frankly, if you’re looking for a way to make money in photography, email me and let’s talk about buying 2-3 of these for New York and LA and renting them out – and I’m the furthest thing from kidding.

Sources: Endgadget, Oxford

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Stephen Jennings

    Yeah.. I don’t get it.. there would still have to be someone looking over the files, editing the files, setting up the studio, adjusting the lights, directing the model… I mean, this is essentially an idea where you’d put a cheap canon camera (I can see they are using a Canon 24-105 f/4 lens) on auto and take super spectacular fashion shots? I really doubt that. Honestly, for the cost of this ridiculous setup you could hire 10 craigslist photographers with their Neewer Studio getups, $30 roll of paper and Canon EOS Rebels and have a full on fashion photography creative orgy.  I suppose I can see in some distant future something like this working, but honestly the companies that employ photographers I don’t think they’d see anything interesting about this at all. 

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  2. Anders Madsen

    Hmmm – I still see this needing a photographer who can help direct the model, choose the lighting pattern, choose the background, store and backup the images etc., unless the stylist has experience in this.

    However, the sheer quantity of images and videos that can be produced in a relatively short amount of time may push down pricing while the cost of the setup probably will cause the providers of this service to market it much more aggressively in order to keep downtime to a minimum. 

    Around here (Denmark) we have already seen pack shots being a very specialized product done by high-volume photographers that setup studio in the very same warehouses that provide transport, storage and logistics services to the clothing companies, so I don’t expect much of an impact on “ordinary” commercial photographers business – it will be an infight between the pack shot specialists, where there will be those that have one of these devices and those that don’t. 

    For the rest of us, I expect it to be pretty much business as usual: Small batches of pre-production products that needs to be finished and shipped yesterday, products photographed on location and products photographed in a very particular style with very elaborate lighting and custom made sets. 

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  3. Shawn Thomas

    I don’t really see this as being much of a job stealer as the costs and footprint (9.8’x16.7’x20′) means that few companies are going to rush out and get one.  To me it seems more that StyleShoots is building machines aimed at streamlining and increasing efficiency of photographers rather than trying to replace them.

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  4. Andy Chang

    Great article! I’d seriously consider getting one of these (after weighing costs/benefits) to fill in dead seasons and venture into other genres of photography for extra income. It seems like working from home would skyrocket. 

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    • Kishore Sawh

      I truly do see this as having real utility for a lot of people/companies, Andy. 

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