Storytelling Potential with Light Field Camera Technology

It’s portrait time, and you’d better get the focus spot-on, because if you goof that up, your image is very likely ruined unless you can put a justifiable artsy spin on the image in post. But what if we told you that there’s a camera out there that would allow you to actually change focal points and fix your mistake?

Meet the Lytro ILLUM camera, a single lens light field camera that represents a whole new breed of digital imaging devices. To demonstrate the ILLUM’s technical capabilities, Lytro challenged five photographers to create “living” images that depicted various emotions with the ILLUM and then created this short film to showcase their work:

How Light Field Cameras Work

In order to understand how light field camera technology works, it’s important to understand how traditional cameras record images. Your standard DSLR is capable of recording a two-dimensional representation of a particular scene; it does this by harnessing the pixels along the camera’s imaging sensor’s x and y axes (length and width) to capture a photo.

The ILLUM was created with microlens array technology, which is a fancy way to say that the camera is equipped with about 100,000 microlenses in front of the camera’s 40 MP imaging sensor. When someone takes a photo, each of those microlenses captures a tiny image of the scene, and the camera composites all of those tiny images into one two-dimensional frame.

But while the ILLUM is capable of delivering high quality 2D images when used correctly, its real forte is 3D imaging. The camera records the direction, color, and brightness of light within an image and thus provides the viewer with unprecedented freedom to explore and animate the image by changing perspectives, focus, depth of field, and other previously-unchangeable technical elements after capture.

“The real power of LYTRO ILLUM lies in its ability to deliver compelling digital stories and immerse online viewers in the ‘living picture’ experience,” explains the company on its blog. “Its revolutionary potential is fully realized when artists capture images with the intent of displaying living pictures on the interactive Web.”

The Project

Ranging in genre focuses from diorama to action sports photography, the five storytellers that are featured in Lytro’s ILLUM video are portrait photographer Anna Webber, action sports photographer Brian Nevins, fashion photographer Roman Leo, fine art photographer Kyle Thompson, and diorama photographer Lori Nix. Charged with using the ILLUM camera to depict grief, hope, rage, fear, and love, the photographers each express fascination with the camera’s storytelling potential and the compositional challenges presented by its versatile focusing technology.

Here are some of their images and comments:

lytro illum light field interactive animation parallax anna webber portrait

“I really had to think through every aspect of the image. It’s about finding the depth, pushing the composition to really give the viewer something to explore.” — Anna Webber

kyle thompson fine art conceptual grief broken

“I was able to transform the environment and tell stories that I might not have been able to otherwise. You can see different elements that were hidden before and discover your way through the photograph.” — Kyle Thompson

roman leo fashion celebrity portrait studio

“The shoot required extra planning to make sure that all those layers were in place.” — Roman Leo

brian nevins action sports climbing

“You have to think differently about what you’re shooting. You have to be conscious of everything around you and the story you’re trying to tell. [The camera] adds another layer to the way that I’m able to tell stories.” — Brian Nevins

lori nex

“I’ve always struggled with depth of field in large format, but this camera [allows] me to focus on the foreground, middle ground, and the background. It’s definitely allowing the viewer to become more a part of the scene.” — Lori Nix

The Lytro ILLUM camera is expected to be released on August 20, 2014, but pre-ordering is currently available for $1,500.

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One response to “Storytelling Potential with Light Field Camera Technology”

  1. Kamen Zagorov says:

    Great new technology, yes. But pictures are good only to watch them on the PC or tablet, the resolution of the final JPG is not enough for printing.. I’ll wait to make the camera with at least 20MP resolution..

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