|On her new VistaChannel.tv website, Elizabeth Carmel is breaking free from traditional prints and exploring new display possibilities.|
The advent of digital photography forever changed how we capture and develop our images, and made it possible to share photographs with the world via the Internet.
Making prints of our images has never been easier thanks to constantly improving digital printing technologies. This impending sea change in photography was barely comprehensible even 20 years ago. I believe we're on the cusp of another fundamental shift in how we'll experience and display our photographs. While some of this technology may seem like science fiction today, I think five years from now it will be much more mainstream.
I attended the huge CES show in Las Vegas this year to learn more about what's on the forefront of image display technology. As a gallery owner who specializes in the sale of my fine-art prints, I'm always on the lookout for new art display options to share with our customers. At CES, I realized that new television technology is rapidly advancing in terms of the resolution and range of colors that can be displayed. The new 4K TVs are simply stunning, and actually can look better in some instances than a printed and framed photograph. A 4K UHD TV display is 3840x2160 pixels as opposed to the current HD standard of 1920x1080 pixels. This new 4K TV technology will drive the convergence of still photography and video. As these new televisions become widely adopted, there will be increased demand for high-quality, high-resolution multimedia content. At CES, I was amazed that most of the new 4K TVs were displaying high-resolution time-lapse films and other still photographs in the demonstrations, rather than 4K video, due to the limited 4K video content currently available.
Of particular interest to me at CES were the 4K OLED TVs. OLED stands for "organic light-emitting diodes." OLEDs are solid-state devices composed of thin films of organic molecules that create light with the application of electricity. This display technology creates incredibly deep blacks and vibrant colors that haven't been previously possible on consumer displays. In addition, there's potential to make this type of display ultrathin and ultraflexible—imagine being able to roll up an 85-inch display and put it in any location!
Viewing high-quality photographs on a large-screen 4K OLED TV may soon rival viewing a high-quality inkjet print. External lighting isn't an issue with TVs as it is for inkjet or LightJet prints. Furthermore, we now can add high-resolution 4K HDR video to the mix to create a full multimedia experience. The photographer's artistic vision and technical expertise with HDR/ high-resolution imagery will become paramount with these new display opportunities. While the volume of photos and videos being shot worldwide has increased exponentially, how many of these images are worthy of distribution? As photography and video converge, it will be more important than ever to be a visual artist with a unique viewpoint and the technical skills to record your vision. There's still no substitute for compelling artistic compositions.
I think there still will be a demand for the signed, limited-edition photographic print in the future. It will be interesting to see if this new display technology reduces the demand for actual "wall art." I, for one, hope it does not; however, similar to the shift that occurred with stock image sales, I think it's important to be ready for change as it occurs instead of lamenting "the way it used to be." I think it's certain that visual artists will be able to reach a wider audience as people recognize their TVs can also be used as art displays.
The physical barriers to viewing and appreciating high-resolution imagery are disappearing and moving outside the realm of gallery walls. Similar to the challenges facing the music industry, photographers will have a new concern about the ease of copying their high-resolution digital content. I don't spend too much time worrying about duplication of my low-resolution, 900-pixel website images on the Internet, but I do have greater concern when a 4000-pixel-wide image becomes easy to duplicate and share. The same concerns arise for 4K time-lapse and video content. The question is, will we be able to realize an income from our work when it can be so easily duplicated and shared? Hopefully, future 4K distribution technology will allow for some form of DRM (digital rights management).
For photographers who make a living from their images, new media presents monetization challenges. Just as she does with prints, Carmel charges for full access to the VistaChannel.tv work.
My husband Olof and I have decided to step our toes into the brave new world of multimedia content by creating a series of videos showcasing our still images in combination with time-lapse and video clips. We created these in native 4K UHD resolution, but at this point have made them available for download only in 1080p format due to DRM concerns. We do make watermarked 4K previews available on our YouTube channel. We realized that this form of content creation requires a large library of images and a steep learning curve with video-editing software. In addition, there's no small investment required to come up with the computing power and gear to create and process 4K video. And we haven't even ventured into the world of 4K drones yet, but that's another opportunity (and expense) that awaits! You can see our videos at our new website VistaChannel.tv. We're excited about the opportunities this presents to share our work with a wider audience, and to make it more accessible to people who may not be able to purchase signed prints. There are other photographers also making the leap, including the people who inspired us to pursue video, Bob and Lori Schneider of ImageEssence.com.
The only constant in the business of photography is change—we've made a choice to embrace new technologies and display opportunities as they emerge. I'm interested in hearing about how other landscape and nature photographers are venturing into the world of multimedia. My hope is that nature photographers can use this new technology as a tool to educate the world about the importance of protecting our last vestiges of wilderness.
Elizabeth Carmel is a professional landscape and travel photographer. She and her husband Olof Carmel own and operate two art galleries in California, the Carmel Gallery in Calistoga and the Carmel Gallery in Truckee. You can get more information about her prints, galleries, workshops and books at ElizabethCarmel.com and TheCarmelGallery.com. For more information about her videos, go to VistaChannel.tv.