Stock Photography - The great leveller / Do we need the latest model?

Above is a sample of the images I have been uploading to picture libraries over the past week or so. The images were created from around 3 years ago to last week. A variety of cameras were used including Blackberry Q10, Leica SL, Nokia Lumia 1020, Fuji X-T1, Panasonic G8, Samsung K Zoom smartphone, Canon 5Ds, Sony A7r II, Leica T, Leica Q. The eagle eyed amongst you will be able to spot what kind of camera took many of the pictures, using the depth of field achieved. However, the libraries who sell my work and the clients who buy it won't be so concerned.

These days stock images are 50% likely to be published on the internet and in terms of print reproduction,  6MP is fine for A4, 12MP fine for A3, so to a large extent what camera was used is largely irrelevant. Which is why stock photography is a great leveller in terms of gear. Buyers look for sharpness sure, but more importantly for content, composition and colour. Yes, the three C's. 

On the photographic internet people bang on about small differences in sharpness that any editing software can compensate for in seconds. What they miss is that people who buy and publish images are much more likely to be looking at what is actually in the picture and how it relates to whats being written about, since photography is usually far less important than words in most publications. However, the photography has to have an impact, since it has to make people want to investigate any article or feature.

There are few places where photography is centre stage. Weddings albums and advertising campaigns being prime examples. But the vast majority of stock photography is used for much more mundane purposes. But no matter how images are used, one thing is for sure, they have to be focused, concentrated on their subject with no distracting detail and most important of all, catch the eye. Some people on the photographic internet may be surprised to learn that there is very little demand for pictures of brick walls, toys with limited DOF and still life images with lots of charts. And yet so many people seem to use these subjects to test and review cameras. 

Because I can, I buy cameras and lenses I like using, but if I was making purely economic decisions about what I use I would probably still be using the Panasonic G1 and 14-45mm zoom lens I bought back in 2008, since that would still do the job now. I know many stock photographers and yes some are like me, buying and selling many different kinds of cameras, but many don't. A new addition to my family is a medical photographer shooting the interiors of people eyes. For that she uses a Nikon D200. I also know a travel photographer who shoots school portraits as his day job and he still uses a 13 year old Fuji S2. 

Innovation and improvements in technology are very welcome, but I'm convinced that many of the camera manufacturers have led to their own imminent demise by upgrading too often, releasing too many cameras too often and promoting pointless features that amuse for a few hours but then just add to 'camera bloat'. I, like many others, have some pretty old lenses which still perform seriously well today, but we don't seem to have the same attitude towards cameras. 

It's true to say that the smartphone market has to a large extent eaten into the market for stand alone cameras. And yes new models are released all the time and a lot of chopping and changing goes on. But unlike digital cameras which now offer marginal improvements, smartphones have been developing at a high pace in recent years, particularly with their camera technology. That is starting to wane these days as the improvement curve in smartphone tech. is very obviously levelling off. You only have to look at how Apple talk up very insignificant changes in the features offered in their new iPhones. Much like the camera manufacturers in fact. 

To a large extent my camera changing habit also seems to be levelling off. Part of it is buying Leicas. I buy one and I tend to keep it for a long time. And of course Leica have always gone for a much longer product cycle that most other manufacturers. Leica also don't push their camera specs. to grab headlines. Some have commented that the SL (Typ 601) has 'only' 24MP. However as I have tried to show above that really isn't that important. Also because the SL is so good and produces seriously high quality files I can upsize without any problems. I've recently started uploading SL files to libraries upsizing them to 50MP. These files are very similar to the native 50MP files from the Canon 5Ds I owned for a while and not far behind the Sony A7r II at 42.5MP. 

All of this means that I won't be availing myself of the MF quality of the new Fuji and Hassleblad cameras. I simply don't need them (and more importantly don't want them). And in terms of achieving the depth of field I need for the bulk of my work, they would actually prove to be a handicap. One day I suppose the review sites, forums and all of the other photographic internet feeders might actually start to seriously question where all this camera technology is going and why the focus is all about specs. rather than ease of use in creating images. There are camera brands I might like to consider, but I'm put off by complication, poor layout and the aforementioned 'camera bloat'. Because unlikely as it seems, the quality of what I produce has more to do with the few inches behind my camera rather than what's inside it.