Join us each week for a conversation with insightful and entertaining guests. From gear and technique to history, science and art, we discuss the topics most important to the contemporary photographer.
Photography in the Age of AI, with Stephen Shankland
How much can you edit a photo before it stops becoming true? That’s the question CNET tech reporter Stephen Shankland recently asked in the opening lines of his story, How Close is that Photo to the Truth: What to Know in the Age of AI.
The article, which examines digital photography and advanced smartphone image processing in the era of AI, reaches beyond the polarizing visual minefield of generative AI by delving into aspects of this technologythat’s been quietly pre-baked into most every camera on the market these days.
The sophisticated processing under the hood of your digital camera is our jumping off point for a wide-ranging discussion with Shankland that touches on many aspects of the digital workflow, before scaling the slippery slopes of generative AI.
A few of the many points we cover include: Comparing the three primary generative AI platforms and discussing their differences, an assessment of AI manipulations and deepfakes, the ways in which a proliferation of camera phones can serve as a buttress against fakery, and the factor of a social contract in weighing the veracity of an image.
Today’s AI landscape seems to be morphing by the minute, a reality that’s reflected here with bonus content! Barely a week after our original discussion, Open AI’s new text to video application, Sora, was released to a tidal wave of interest, so we got Shankland back on mic. Stay to the end to hear our first impressions of this new technology and listen closely to discover how an AI bot got the last word in our chat.
Guest: Stephen Shankland
Top shot © Allan Weitz, https://www.allanweitzdesign.com
2:22: How much can a photo be edited before it stops “becoming” true? Plus, the digital processing that goes on under the hood of your digital camera.
7:06: The sophisticated processing in your camera phone and how the resulting images compare to pictures made with a 35mm digital camera.
13:02: How much digital editing is too much and what’s the least amount of image adjustments possible before a photograph stops “being true.”
18:22: The matter of generative AI manipulations and deepfakes, the democratization of altering images, and how the proliferation of camera phones can serve as a buttress against fakery.
23:24: Comparing the three big generative AI platforms Stephen has worked with—Open AI’s Dall-E, Google’s ImageFX, and Adobe’s Firefly—and discussing how they differ, plus Allan’s impressions about working with Adobe Firefly, and how much of an AI-generated image is truly one’s own.
31:58: Prompt engineering, the bias of training data, the role of having fun when assessing the creative aspects of generative AI, and the factor of a social contract into reading the veracity of an image.
40:22: Episode Break
41:30: The potential for career opportunities in prompt engineering, new educational programs to arise from these new technologies, plus reasons why illustration is the creative area most threatened by AI.
48:27: The democratization of creative tasks due to computer technology, and the value of having a unique style or vision to creative success, plus the advantages of AI for stylistic
52:08: Ethical considerations, intellectual property rights, and copyright concerns in relation to AI generation.
57:03: In-camera authentication, content credentialing, and following the provenance of an image to be assured of its trustworthiness, plus whether this technology will ever show up in camera phones.
1:04:24: Episode bonus: Stephen’s first impressions of Open AI’s new text to video application, Sora.
Guest Bio: Stephen Shankland has covered technology, computing, and digital imaging as a principal writer and reporter for CNET since 1998. He’s also a professional photographer who’s particularly intrigued by new trends in AI. Stephen stumbled into journalism as a fledgling scien
B&H Podcast: Chat with Inventor of the CMOS Chip, Professor Eric Fossum
How did a space-age invention become ubiquitous in today’s digital imaging landscape? Learn all about it here in our latest podcast, featuring pioneers of photography and digital imaging.
In 1993, noted physicist and engineer Eric Fossum led the invention of the CMOS active-pixel image sensor as part of his work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Then, as part of JPL’s mandate to seek commercial and consumer applications for emerging technologies, he was active in the transfer of the CMOS sensor’s “camera-on-a-chip” technology to industry.
In our informative conversation with Professor Fossum, he makes distinctions between solid state CCDs and his more efficient CMOS sensor that would come to dominate the marketplace. To transform high-level science into layman’s terms, he uses the analogy of a bucket brigade collecting rain on a football field.
In a similar down-to-earth fashion, we touch on metaphysical issues like wave particle duality, and how this is demonstrated every time light enters a camera and you take a picture with your phone.
Join us to marvel at the wonders of science amid fun food references—from the way deep space radiation degrades CCD chips so they start to act like Swiss cheese, to the synergies between high-level scientific measurements and delicatessen lunch meats, both marks of a creative scientist and visionary educator.
Guest: Eric Fossum
Above photograph © John Sherman Photography, https://jshermanphoto.com/
2:31: Eric Fossum’s beginnings in hands-on science explorations, computer programming, and his love for launching model rockets, plus the role photography has played in his life.
9:26: Fossum’s early research in CCD sensor technologies, his interest in trying to marry cameras to artificial intelligence, and his invitation to join NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1990.
14:00: The differences between CCD and CMOS sensors, and a description of how they work using the analogy of a bucket brigade to collect rain on a football field.
23:35: A history of active pixel sensor devices, an explanation about two kinds of image noise, the metaphysics of photons, plus how the wave particle duality from quantum mechanics is demonstrated every time you take a picture with your phone.
33:10: Fossum’s role in the transfer of CMOS sensor technology to US industry, co-founding his company Photobit, and negotiations for licensing the technology with CalTech.
43:23: Episode Break
44:36: The sale of Photobit to Micron, Fossum’s move to New Hampshire, consulting work on 3-D imaging sensors for Samsung TVs, and the beginnings of his teaching career at Dartmouth.
50:00: A book chapter on the future of image sensors, and the evolution of this idea to a university project, which led to Fossum co-founding the start-up company, Gigajot, with his PhD students.
52:30: Explaining the difference between the operation of CMOS and Quanta image sensors.
54:03: The resulting applications of CMOS image sensor technology, and the positive use of CMOS image sensors for social justice purposes.
57:22: Fossum’s thoughts about STEM education, and connections between academia and applications in the wider world.
1:01:32: Parting thoughts about AI and the ability to authenticate images at the source, plus Fossum’s newest award: The Trinity College President’s Medal for Science & Innovation.
Eric Fossum, a Queen Elizabeth Prize Laureate and recipient of a 2021 Emmy Award, is one of the world's experts in solid-state image sensors. He developed the CMOS active pixel image sensor while working at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Today, this “camera-on-a-chip” technology is used in almost all cell-phone cameras, webcams, many digital-still cameras and in medical imaging, among other applications.
A serial entrepreneur, with a career that has spanned aca
Picturing World Cultures: Joshua Irwandi - Indonesia
While Joshua Irwandi was born and raised in Indonesia, the early pictures he made during his first visit to the region of Asmat, in the province of West Papua, were less than satisfying to him. Yet his fascination with the people and the place stuck, inspiring him to embark on the long-term project Not a Blank Canvas.
In this third installment of our monthly series, Picturing World Cultures, we speak with Irwandi about his experiences documenting the people and landscape of Asmat, which offers a window into long-held traditions and the sweeping changes he’s observed there over the past 10 years.
Listen in as Irwandi describes how tapping into the region’s rich history through museum collections holding Asmat art proved an important part of his background research. We also discuss the connections he forged with the local Catholic church, and how the many years an American missionary spent learning about and embracing local ways led to a blending of Catholic celebrations and iconography with traditional Asmat feasts.
Contrary to western holidays, Asmat feasts are celebrated for months on end, and Joshua sheds light on their mystical origins through dreams, and the performative rituals that he was privileged to witness and photograph.
In equal measure, he touches on the changing roles of a people who are essentially subsistence hunter gatherers within contemporary society, and the recent effects of transmigration and gentrification on the region’s native inhabitants, which also forms a part of his documentation.
Self-described as a naturally shy person, Irwandi’s approach to making pictures for this project is to play the long game, while planning for longer visits that allow him to be a “constant observer,” as he describes it.
“I don’t pretend I have all the knowledge,” he says. “But I guess it’s easier to come and connect with the locals when you walk in like a new blank piece of book, wanting to learn, rather than assume that you know about them already.”
If you haven’t already heard them, prior episodes of our podcast series Picturing World Cultures can be accessed at the links below:
Wayne Quilliam discussing Australia’s indigenous communities: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/podcasts/photography/picturing-world-cultures-wayne-quilliam-australiatasmania
Kiana Hayeri reflecting on her work in Iran and Afghanistan: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/podcasts/photography/picturing-world-cultures-kiana-hayeri-iran-afghanistan
Guest: Joshua Irwandi
Above photograph © Joshua Irwandi
For more information on our guest and the gear he uses, see:
Joshua Irwandi Website: https://www.joshuairwandi.com/
Joshua Irwandi Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joshirwandi/
Joshua Irwandi Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joshua.irwandi/
Joshua Irwandi X: https://twitter.com/joshirwandi/
Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress: https://asmatmuseum.org/en/
Joshua Irwandi National Geographic Explorers Page: https://explorer-directory.nationalgeographic.org/joshua-irwandi
Joshua Irwandi’s story for The Globe and Mail: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-how-to-move-a-capital-city-an-exclusive-look-at-indonesias-plan-to/
Pulitzer Prize page for Irwandi’s Photo The Human Cost of COVID-19:
Holding to Truth: Radio Encryption & the Press, with Todd Maisel & Lloyd Mitchell
Press photographers have faced tough workplace challenges for quite some time. Yet, according to recent headlines, their job is about to get even tougher, due to current plans by many law enforcement agencies—particularly the NYPD—to encrypt radio calls, making live transmissions of breaking news inaccessible to common citizens and members of the press.
Besides being a devastating blow to meddling old biddies and law enforcement buffs, this change has huge implications for photojournalists and news outlets, who depend on such communications as part of their workflow.
Joining us to shed light on this matter, as well as to provide a general update on newspaper photojournalism today, are two generations of accredited newspaper photographers, Todd Maisel and Lloyd Mitchell. As a current board member and past vice president of the New York Press Photographers Association, Maisel has worked tirelessly to investigate and mediate the NYPD’s encryption plans.
Among the many topics raised in our discussion are a shift in press accreditation from the NYPD to the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment, competing interests within news organizations that prevent broadcasters from taking law enforcement to task, distinctions between police and fire departments when it comes to radio encryption, details about radio encryption rollouts in other US cities, and much more.
Towards the end of our chat, Todd Maisel offers a compelling insight into his mission as a photojournalist, which speaks to the high stakes involving the matter at hand. “What I’m doing as a journalist is a sacred obligation. It’s a God-given right to do it, and to continue to do it, and to do a great job at it. And so, I made a promise to protect it, to protect freedom of the press.”
Guests: Todd Maisel and Lloyd Mitchell
Above photograph © Todd Maisel
For more information on our guests and the gear they use, see:
Todd Maisel Website: https://www.toddmaiselvisualjournalism.com/
Todd Maisel on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/toddmaisel/
Todd Maisel on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/
Todd Maisel on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ToddMaisel
Lloyd Mitchell Website: https://lloydmitchell43.photoshelter.com/
Lloyd Mitchell on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lloydmitchellphotography/
Lloyd Mitchell on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/randymitchellwritesandphotographs/
Lloyd Mitchell on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lloydphoto
NYPPA Website: https:// www.nyppa.org
Todd Maisel on the Deadline for Newspaper Photojournalism Episode: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/podcasts/photography/podcast-a-deadline-for-newspaper-photojournalism
Picturing World Cultures: Kiana Hayeri: Iran / Afghanistan
Kiana Hayeri was born in Iran, and this was where she launched her career as a photojournalist and visual storyteller. Yet after traveling to Afghanistan for a 2014 assignment, she decided to relocate, spending the next eight years covering both the frontlines of conflict and everyday lives of the Afghan people.
In this second installment of our monthly series, Picturing World Cultures, we speak with Hayeri about her experiences living and working in a region mired in cultural upheaval, failing infrastructure, and rife with political violence.
Listen in as Hayeri shares insights about her early work documenting youth culture in both Iran and Afghanistan, while revealing subtle differences in how each society approaches a division between public and private life.
When it comes to making pictures, Hayeri’s first concern is for the latent potential of her photographs to endanger the lives of her subjects. She elaborates on making conscious calculations in her head related to every small detail to mitigate this risk.
Working as a woman within a patriarchal society involves great challenges, and we broach this subject, as well as the advantages she has when photographing culturally sensitive subjects.
While Hayeri has little problem maintaining focus on the frontlines while immersed in her work, we also discuss the tolls of making pictures in traumatic situations, and the importance of taking breaks to reestablish a sense of normalcy and maintain health and sanity.
Hayeri has worked with an extensive network of local contacts to arrange access for the stories she tells. She avoids using the term “fixer” for these essential collaborators, pointing out, “The credit for a lot of the stories that we work on goes to our local colleagues, because they are the ones who put themselves on the front of everything. It’s their reputation, their lives that they risk. I have a lot of respect for that.”
Check out the first episode of our new podcast series Picturing World Cultures, featuring my interview with Australian photographer Wayne Quilliam, here:
Above photograph © Kiana Hayeri
Guest: Kiana Hayeri
For more information on our guest and the gear she uses, see:
Kiana Hayeri Website: https://www.kianahayeri.com/
Kiana Hayeri Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kianahayeri/
Kiana Hayeri Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kianahj
Kiana Hayeri Ted Talk: https://www.ted.com/speakers/kiana_hayeri
2023 Photo Gear of the Year with Kevin Rickert
2023 has certainly come and gone in a flash, meaning it’s time once again for us to reflect on new photo offerings in our ninth annual Cameras of the Year episode, now renamed Photo Gear of the Year. We’ll be talking with B&H Camera and Lighting Senior Sales Trainer Kevin Rickert. Featured in our discussion are 25 new releases from Canon, FUJIFILM, Leica, Nikon, Panasonic, Ricoh Pentax, Polaroid, and Sony.
In addition to insights about each camera on our list, we also examine broader topics, such as manufacturers’ attempts to regain market share lost to smart phones through a growing crop of cameras geared toward content creation.
Instant cameras are a popular trend, leading us to diverge from alphabetical order when discussing this growing product category. And with two monochrome models among this year’s offerings, we zoom in on the visual differences between pictures shot with these specialty cameras and those made by converting from color files.
For listeners who enjoy a good debate, whet your appetite for the main course as we consider this year’s most touted technological advance—the global shutter.
Finally, as an antidote to overindulgence that’s so common during this time of year, Rickert offers some practical advice about avoiding GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) with the tip “You date your cameras, marry your lenses.”
Guest: Kevin Rickert
For more information on our guest and the gear he uses, see:
B&H Photo Video Website: https://www.bhphotovideo.com
B&H Photo Video Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bhphoto
B& Photo Video Twitter: https://twitter.com/bhphoto
B&H Photo Video YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@BandH
B&H Event Space YouTube: https://bhpho.to/BHEventSpaceYT
B&H Photo Video Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bhphoto
B&H Photography Podcast Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1001107823418353
A great start
This is a good step for beginners, keep up the work & thank you for the insight.
Wonderful and diverse
My favourite podcast. Interesting and insightful with incredible diversity - your guests cover such a broad spectrum of photography subjects with a perfect balance between accessibility and intellect. Thank you!
Keep up the good work