Since their introduction more than a decade ago, smartphones have been equipped with cameras, allowing users to capture images and video without carrying a separate device. Thanks to the use of computational photographic technologies, which utilize algorithms to adjust photographic parameters in order to optimize them for specific situations, users with little or no photographic training can often achieve excellent results. The boundaries of what constitutes computational photography are not clearly defined, though there is some agreement that the term refers to the use of hardware such as lenses and image sensors to capture image data, and then applying software algorithms to automatically adjust the image parameters to yield an image. Examples of computational photography technology can be found in most recent smartphones and some standalone cameras, including high dynamic range imaging (HDR), auto-focus (AF), image stabilization, shot bracketing, and the ability to deploy various filters, among many other features. These features allow amateur photographers to produce pictures that can, at times, rival photographs taken by professionals using significantly more expensive equipment.
Covering the dawn of photography in the 19th Century and moving into the 20th Century, a new exhibition called Britain in Focus charts how photographers have documented and interpreted the UK. The images span the genres of documentary, landscape and art and were taken by a mixture of professional and amateur photographers. From black and white to colour, and back again, here is a select history of British photography. Polymath William Henry Fox Talbot began the history of British photography with the invention of his "calotype" process, patented in February 1841. By exposing chemically treated paper to light, and then "fixing" it with a chemical such as hyposulphite of soda, he managed to start publishing his first book of photography, The Pencil of Nature, only three years later.
A set of stunning photographs that reveal the natural beauty in science are set to go on show to the public. The 100 incredible images are the shortlisted entries for the Royal Photographic Society's International Images for Science competition and highlight how important photography is for academics. The shots form a dazzling display of the world's best scientific photography from various disciplines and from scientists all over the world. The competition has been running since 2011 and has proved very successful. This year the society received more than 2,500 entries from students, amateur and professional photographers and medical photographers.
In 2012, I wrote an essay about the shifting nature of photography in an era of unprecedented image overload. Back then, Facebook users alone were uploading 300m photographs a day, while the number of images posted on Flickr and Instagram had exceeded the 11bn mark. I quoted the American artist and writer Chris Wiley, whose 2011 article, "Depth of focus", in Frieze magazine, had expressed the anxiety of many practitioners about "a world thoroughly mediatised by and glutted with the photographic image and its digital doppelganger". Wiley's conclusion was pessimistic: "As a result, the possibility of making a photograph that can stake a claim to originality or affect has been radically called into question. Ironically, the moment of greatest photographic plentitude has pushed photography to the point of exhaustion."
From the primitive scratchings of ancient cave dwellers, to the super-high-resolution images of far-off galaxies captured by modern telescopes, human beings have always been obsessed with pictures. The history of photography is the progression of society's ability to freeze an image in time, using technology to gradually improve its quality. The word photography is based on the Greek "photos" and "graphe" which together means "drawing with light". While decent-quality photos today are instantly available with the touch of a button on any smart phone, early photography was a laborious process that often delivered poor results. Picture-making dates back to antiquity with the discovery of two principles – camera obscura image projection, and the observation that certain substances can be altered by exposure to light. Camera obscura, the phenomenon that occurs when an image is projected through a small hole onto an opposite surface, was found in the writings of Aristotle and Chinese scholars, dating back to the 4th century BC.