In our most recent blog post, we looked at how the latest Canon EOS Mirrorless Camera, the R5, has been revolutionising photography. During my discussion with our photographer, David Fisher, we talked about the newest AI features in mirrorless cameras, and this led to a conversation about the ‘role of the photographer’ as cameras become smarter than ever.

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I started by asking David what he thinks the role of the photographer will be if cameras evolve to the point where they can do everything themselves?

DF: The iPhone has led the way in terms of producing a camera so small that can always be in your pocket and that produces amazing photos. With the iPhone 13, here we are thirteen iterations since it launched, and one of its newest features is that it’s capable of deciding what’s going to be in focus in your video even after you’ve shot it. It began when Apple introduced the portrait mode that could emulate shallow focus, and if you think it is going to stop there, it isn’t. The fact that the camera can determine that there’s a person in the frame and then understand what shallow focus is, what is part of the background in an image, is a massive leap forward.

What then, in your opinion, is the role of the photographer as we find more sophisticated AI in cameras? Because you could see, for instance, in film, a robot in which you set a number of coordinates and then it could completely re-enact what a cameraman does, without having to have a camera man to operate it.

DF: It’s hard to know. Without thinking too hard about it and without being too philosophical or mindful of never knowing what’s around the corner, I can’t see photographers being made redundant any time soon. And there’s a number of reasons for that. The main one is because it is essentially still a creative process which relies on human judgement, plus photographers have always been lured by the prospect of better cameras, faster cameras, sharper lenses, more amazing technology and have always thought that improvements in technology will create better photographs instead of being scared of cameras getting too sophisticated.

The mode of camera often dictates the type of result you get?

DF: Really good photographs have always been possible on the most rudimentary of cameras. If you start really critically evaluating a photo, then Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photos would not be well respected if they were all shot on a cheap little Pentax £100 camera. But that’s not to say that they couldn’t have been shot on one. It proves that it still relies on someone’s eye and someone’s emotion and that’s ‘creativity’. Creativity is far more than a technical construct.

Do you AI will ever be able to simulate that?

DF: To a degree, artificial intelligence – as the iPhone is showingm – is where the real advances are being made. Not in the lens technology, I mean, lenses are as sharp as they ever need to be. Even if they make them a little bit sharper, no one cares or sees that. It’s the camera being able to distinguish between a snake and a human face that’s really crucial. It’s going to take a long time, if ever, for a robot to actually think subjectively, creatively, in the way that a human being does. I don’t think we can underestimate what we as humans can do – we are still infinitely more capable of processing than a camera or a computer.

Final words?

I guess AI will help enhance what we do, and that will only become a greater enhancement, but there will always be the need for a human behind the lens.