Gear and Software Innovations Photographers Want Now: Part 3

July 19, 2016

By Greg Scoblete


The final part of our 3 part “Gear and Software Innovations Photographers Want Now” feature reveals many of the yet-to-be-invented equipment, software and other tools that would make photographers and filmmakers more productive in the studio, on location or in transit. PDN asked image-makers who work in various genres what innovations they would like to see in the future, and we also asked PDN Technology Editor Greg Scoblete to weigh in where alternatives and workarounds might already by available. Here’s the final bunch of responses we received; use the following links to read parts 1 and 2. (And for any manufacturers or developers reading this, remember to give credit—and stock options—where they’re due.)

“I wish there was a fluid, standardized payment platform that publications would use to pay their freelancers,” says photojournalist Amanda Mustard. “Getting paid on time is critical, especially for journalists working in conflict [zones] that need the money to afford good translators, drivers, insurance, etc. to keep them safe….I spend a frustrating amount of hours writing emails and making calls to follow up late payments, month after month.” She’d prefer to spend the time shooting, and says the problem frays her relationships with photo editors, who are often caught between her and the accounting department. “A professional, clear process that all publications could follow to get us paid on time isn’t just a fix for sanity, but a matter of safety too.” 

“I want there to be an app (with a desktop version) where you can plan out your Instagram feed visually,” says Tara Donne, a food and lifestyle photographer. “Let’s be real. No one just posts whatever is happening in the moment. I always want to be better at making sure I post daily and that the content is varied. Basically I want this app to allow me to slide images around like tiles (or images in Squarespace) in the grid, maybe even filter them there, write my captions, and be able to pull from them to live post into Instagram each day… I think it’s important that my feed is my visual voice and written voice, and I don’t want to leave the organizing up to an assistant or intern. But currently it’s really time consuming to visually plan it out and keep caption info at the ready, so something more seamless would really save me time and allow me to have more fun with my feed.”

“I use Pinterest a lot to make mood boards for test shoots, cookbooks and other collaborations,” Donne says. “I love being able to organize my thoughts so easily and share with collaborators. All I really want to be able to do is to have the option to slide the images around in the grid, so that I can organize my visual thoughts better, and to hide the captions. I like having the captions so you can refer to why you’re pointing to a certain image, but it’d be nice if you could just roll over to view [the caption info] rather than have it junking up the mood board. 

I also want it to be possible to download a PDF version that’s printable. This would make my life a lot easier, because currently I’m screen grabbing …things in Photoshop because they never print well or transfer to a PDF layout well.”

“I’ve used every image archiving software known to mankind,” says photojournalist and video and multimedia producer Richard Koci Hernandez. All of them, he says, lack a search function that will quickly find a specific image in his archive. “Let me play out a traditional scenario: A magazine would like to feature ten of my images in an upcoming article, and they have emailed me their selections based on my Instagram account. Now, I suspect that I’m not the only photographer in the world who doesn’t methodically sit at programs like Lightroom upon ingestion of hundreds and often thousands of images from my iPhone and diligently tag and categorize them. I just do a complete transfer or dump of images from my iPhone camera roll every two to three months—which is often thousands of images—and move on to shooting more images. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could tell Lightroom to find an image that looks exactly like the [one the magazine is asking for]?… It would basically be a feature like Google [image search] where you could just drop an image into the software’s and it would find all of the images that look exactly like it, using image recognition, not filename.”

“After chatting with some photographer friends in the photojournalism world, this was the one thing we all agreed on: Aside from driving to assignments and fighting traffic, and packing up all our gear at the end of the day, captioning photos is probably the most tedious,” Patrick Smith says. “While editing is an easy crop and tone, captioning hasn’t become easier over the years. With code replacement for sports and such, it would still be nice for a program like Photo Mechanic to be able to pick up a number from a jersey and already have a majority of the caption done. Or maybe use the voice caption of the file to generate a caption. The downside is that we’d probably be spending more time making sure it was all spelled right and accurately explaining the scene.”

“I am in the midst of rebuilding my website and moving my archive to a new hosting service and have noticed one surprising gap,” says Benjamin Drummond, a photographer, producer and designer who is one half of a documentary filmmaking team. “Where’s the Vimeo for image hosting? It seems the tools available to manage online slideshows, host searchable archives and serve beautiful responsive galleries to any page or CMS platform are remarkably underdeveloped. Sure there are services that do one or two of these things reasonably well. But the web has become a diverse ecosystem and photographers could use a more flexible and multi-use tool that would allow them to publish optimized images as easily as we can embed a video.” For their new site, Drummond and his partner Sara Joy Steele hired “a great developer” to build a custom image gallery management and serving solution with SmugMug’s API.

“I basically want a camera with the dynamic range and cinematic quality of the most modern RED camera, with cinema lenses, but that’s about the size of my phone,” says expedition filmmaker Renan Ozturk. “A lot of my shooting is trying to keep up with athletes on remote expeditions and adventures, so the smaller and lighter the better.”

“I wish there was a smartphone app that streamlined filling out your timecards and tax forms,” says director of photography Aaron Platt. “Every person on every job has to fill out this tedious crap for payroll companies. It would be a GAME-changer if there was a way to just click a few buttons and submit your hours and all your verification paperwork, rather than spending 15 minutes on every job to fill out the paperwork.”

As Montreal-based photographer Alexi Hobbs was doing his taxes this year, he says, he wished he had “some sort of app with which I could photograph all my receipts [that] would read the info on the bill and separate the amount paid, the taxes and then sort it out according to the type of expense it is.” Hobbs says he’s also like the app to “input [the information] into accounting software automatically so that I don’t have to do it all manually and lose so much time doing so.” 

It might not have the exact functionality Hobbs is looking for, but Wave’s Receipts app works roughly like that if you use their accounting app.

Related: Gear and Software Innovations Photographers Want Now: Part 1 

Gear and Software Innovations Photographers Want Now: Part 2 

From Inventor to Entrepreneur: Three Filmmaking and Photo Startup Founders on How Their Ideas Came to Life

Five Technologies Shaping Photography and Filmmaking Today 

Should Photographers Jump on the Virtual Reality Bandwagon?