It’s Tuesday, and we have yet another example of one of those pesky technology solutions doing something that previously was done by humans.
Computers keep changing the photography world, and Square has introduced Square Photo Studio, a new service offering from a company known for its payment processing and POS systems. In an effort to make it easier for small businesses to have and use product photos, Square’s new service charges $10 to provide three product images.
This is a studio environment, and should work well for many products that are straightforward tabletop items. A business ships their item to Square’s studio, the photos are created, the item is shipped back, and the business has the images within a couple weeks. Square retains copyright on the images but gives the client a license to do as they please.
Commodities Get Automated
One of the reasons that Square can offer this service so cheaply is that the camera operation is automated via a robotic arm. Given that many products are going to be of similar size (there are some maximum size restrictions), I would imagine that Square has a few photo areas set up and lit, such that all that needs to happen is to have the product placed onto the focal location, and then the automated camera system can do its thing.
This isn’t going to result in the most creative images, but if we’re talking about traditional standard catalog-style product photos, that creativity probably isn’t required for most shots.
This is Not the End
While this represents a notable service offering at a low price, I can see this service getting more automated, and further reducing the human effort. Square notes that currently the image selection is being done by its workers, but even that aspect is a candidate for artificial intelligence. In 2017, AI engineers at Google released a paper on Neural Image Assessment that explores how AI was used to identify which images a human will find more pleasing. If AI can be trained in an academic setting for those purposes, surely it’s only a matter of time until AI could be trained to identify ideal product photography examples.
Photographers who want to remain relevant need to offer value for their clients that goes beyond studio lighting and pressing a shutter button. Those who can will succeed. Those who can’t… risk being automated out of work by something like Square Photo Studio.