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Computational Photography: The New Mainstream

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Computational Photography | Tuna Traffic

Girl with Smartphone
We rely on our phones for everything, because really, is there anything they can’t do? Our phones have become our calendars, our GPS, credit cards, cameras, and everything in between. In fact, I went to a friend’s wedding where the professional photographer was replaced by 75 smartphones. The day was documented through the guests’ photos and shared via social media with a hashtag.

As technology in smartphones advances, the role that photography plays in our lives increases.

Lytro Light Field Camera

Image Source | Lytro Light Field Camera

Remember the days when photography was a 1:1 relationship? The final photo was an exact replica of what the camera lens saw. A photographer would adjust the camera settings, choose the proper equipment, and construct the right setup to take the perfect shot. When SLR cameras became digital (DSLR’s) in the 1990’s, photo editing became part of the process. In 2011, the Lytro camera was introduced, which was the first light field camera that eliminated the need for a lot of equipment, and really spotlighted the concept of computational photography.

Computational photography is where the final photo generated is actually a reconstruction based on multiple imaging sources. It’s the ability to simulate any lens, adjust depth of field, change what is in focus, and process an image through machine learning algorithms. Essentially these photos are built. And the coolest part is that your smartphone does this, eliminating the need for equipment and post-production.

The high dynamic range (HDR) feature on your phone is an example of computational photography. If you’re photographing landscapes or portraits in sunlight, you want to turn this on. With HDR, multiple images of a scene are taken with different exposure settings. Your smartphone’s software combines the best areas of the multiple images to build a new image that captures the scene perfectly.

If you have an iPhone 7 Plus, you get to shoot photos in Portrait Mode, which is the best way to capture a single person or object. The phone’s dual cameras build a rough depth map of the scene and figure out which parts of the frame are closer to or farther away from its lenses, resulting in a blurred background. Android phones are a bit behind Apple, but the software smart features (computational photography) like Google Lens can remove objects and other imperfections from photos.

iPhone 7 Plus

Image Source | iPhone Portrait Mode (right)

Computational photography and smartphones are re-shaping mainstream photography. Professional photographers are even turning to their smartphones to get incredible images without all the equipment. Don’t worry, no judgment here if your smartphone is your best friend.

From a marketing standpoint, brands are noticing that it’s easier than ever to create visual content and leverage user generated content (UGC). Ninety percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Visual communication speeds up comprehension and retention. It also influences emotion, thus soliciting action, which is really the end-goal for any marketer, right?

Starbucks is a good example of this. If you look at their Instagram, you’ll quickly notice a couple things: the amount of portrait-like photos where a cup of coffee is the star, and the amount of UGC shared. Starbucks’ visual brand has a way of exciting customers and building a sense of community among coffee-lovers. The technology in smartphones allows both Starbucks and the members of its community to share like images that have defined the brand’s simple look.

The #watermelondress craze that hit Instagram is another way computational photography and smartphones have affected the marketing industry. For a hot minute, everyone seemed to be sharing #watermelondress photos on their social channels. Brands like Dulcinea Farms were able to leverage the trending conversations and invite quality UGC that was created by picking up a phone.

 

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As the importance of UGC in the marketing industry grows, so will the impact of computational photography. The ability to build incredible photographs by picking up a smartphone is becoming mainstream and is seen everywhere from your social feed to wedding photography. Though wedding photography isn’t exactly our thing, the Tuna Traffic team does have some mad creativity and building skills.