Can Robots Replace Professional Photographers? 5 Technologies that Make Humans Obsolete.

If Martin Ford’s new book “Rise of the Robots” is to be believed, in the near future, many professions around the world are in danger.

Why? He theorizes that soon, robots and computer software will be able to do jobs better than people. Already, many consumer goods are made by robots. In Ford’s world, future cars will be driven by computers putting taxi drivers out of work, medical procedures will be administered by machines replacing many doctors, and burger flipping jobs at fast food joints will be completely replaced too.

According to the book, it’s not only repetitive manufacturing and service jobs that could go extinct… jobs held by lawyers, desk jockeys, and creative professionals are in danger too, as intelligent software learns to think critically and even create art.

Robot Painting by AARON / Harold Cohen

And we see these changes in our everyday lives too. Already, magazine articles in some major publications are written by software programs and supercomputers like Big Blue and Watson beat the best chess and Jeopardy! players in the world. Symphonies are written by programs too, and the music is so convincing that most people can’t tell the difference between human and robot generated songs.

Additionally, artists have been using computer artificial intelligence to paint works and now tech companies like Facebook and Google are working on algorithms that allow computers to make art by themselves.

If you think all of this is impressive, just imagine what kind of art computers will be able to create in 10, 25, or 50 years.

Vision of the Future? A drone from the movie Prometheus autonomously images a cave

Vision of the Future? A fictional drone from the movie Prometheus autonomously images a cave


But we don’t have to wait for the future… already, technology has commoditized photography to a great degree. What was once a complicated science involving all manual settings, sensitive film, and darkroom chemicals has become trivial thanks to digital technology, and you guessed it… computers.

Now a new generation of technologies is emerging that makes complicated photography jobs simple and automates even more of the jobs currently performed by photographers. Not only can these machines replicate human tasks, they can do things that people can’t (like fly hundreds of feet into the air to snap aerial photos).

I’m not saying that the robots will be are overlords in the near future, but it’s inevitable that machines will get smarter each year and technology will get better over time… so as the years pass, they’ll definitely replace some of the less skilled photography jobs.

What technologies are we talking about here?

5 Technologies Replacing Pro Photographers

1. Automated product photography studios

Companies that take lots of product photos don’t need to hire a professional photographer anymore. For the price of a dozen or so photo shoots, they can take an unlimited number of perfectly lit product photos… no knowledge of advanced lighting or photography required. For companies that take a high volume of product photos, this is a no brainer.


2. Automatic Photo booths

Party and wedding photography is the bread and butter of many professional photographers working today. But fully automated photo booths require minimal skill to set up and operate are eating into the event photography business. These photo booths take DSLR quality photos, and many feel that this is all they need to document their party, getting rid of the need to hire a relatively expensive event photographer.



3. Auto follow drones

One way that photographers have evolved their skill sets is to stay up to date on the latest technology. In recent years, drone based aerial photography has provided a new vantage point for photos and a new source of income for many pros. But now, even that industry is becoming automated, as drones learn to pilot themselves – negating the need for a skilled (and expensive) human operator.



4. Automatic panoramic cameras

Automated 360 degree tours have also been a boon for photographers in recent years. Real estate agents and local businesses use virtual tours to give potential customers a better feel for a building, and this new vantage point has even been integrated into Google Street view. But now, it’s becoming more trivial to create panoramic images through devices like the Bubl camera. Very soon it will be very simple for average joes to simply push a button to capture a beautiful immersive 360 image.



5. Artificially Intelligent Robots That Can Learn Photography

The end game for robots replacing people as photographers is a versatile general purpose humanoid machine that can actually learn about photography, like a person. Already, a robot has been programmed to learn photography. The NAO robot is an intelligent machine that in addition to photography, has learned to dance, mimic emotions, and grasp objects. Who knows what he’ll be capable of in the future?




Should we be scared of the rise of the machines?

While a future dominated by robo-photogs sounds terrifying, realistically it’s going to be a while until that happens. Humans are resourceful and creative, and for now we have the market cornered on imagination. There will be a place for photographers in the industry who can think of new, innovative, and marketable things to do with a camera. As long as we can stay one step ahead of the machines that automate human tasks, there will be enough money to go around for at least some of us to follow our dreams of making a living off of photography. The key will be to constantly evolve as a photographer and come up with new products that people are willing to pay for.

But if I’m wrong, I’m hedging my bets. I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome our new robot overlords.

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