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We need a new photo file format

Photos are too short and videos are too long. Photos say too little and videos too much. In an age where we can link data so quickly and easily, it is amazing to see that photos are still just the online equivalent of their printed version : A flat 2D representation of the offline world with a little editorial text around it. It is an aberration that in 2015, photos still need text captions to explain their content.

Photos should not only be able to carry and display all related data automatically (GPS location, identities, social media, Wikipedia entries, etc) when published, they should be able to reveal emotions, energy, sounds, as well as their social media heat.  Those wouldn’t need to be captured at the source as the image, once published, would automatically seek out all related information and link back to it. They could even reach out to viewers, wether because they are included in the photograph or just following the topic, to let them know of their existence and location.

For a viewer, being able to automatically and easily access the large volume of meta information included in every photograph  would be priceless a priceless experience. For publishers, it would allow each image published to become a portal for an enhance interaction, automatically displaying and linking to a variety of additional information.

File format
None of the current file formats help exposing value metadata.

While companies have been working on trying to replace the jpg compression format, none have tackled the issue of a brand new format that would allow the conversion and display of much more than variations of light.

Companies like Lytro, with light field, or Seene, with 3 D photos, are already offering new ways to capture photographs but have to rely on proprietary players to be displayed. Cinemagraphs, Gifs, photos with soundclips also offer new ways to display photos but demand more time to be assembled. Finally Thinglink or Kiosked also allow for the seamless integration of interactive metadata directly in the photos, but as a manual process for now.

Thinglink makes images interactive, but it is a slow manual process that does not travel with the image
Thinglink makes images interactive, but it is a slow manual process that does not travel with the image

None, however, offer the possibility to have a photo, once uploaded, to combine all these extraordinary features as well as automatically fetch all associated metadata and display it in a non-intrusive way: Include photos, videos, metadata and related emotions in one file format that would travel with the image.

Brands, of course, would be delighted with such a format as their products, if featured in a photo, would automatically be linked to a point of purchase, creating an additional source of revenue ( via affiliate marketing) . Photographers would enjoy the persistent attribution feature that would not only protect their copyright but allow them to track usage and location of their images, automatically.

Progress has been slow, so far, at liberating photography from its 2D cage. Most efforts are into reducing its footprint, via a variety of compression scheme, instead of seeking to crack its shell. However, with mobile consumption fast becoming the prime location for image digestion, it will not be long before tech companies realize that a fully loaded image will be far more valuable than endless text explanations.

Photo by Davidag

Photo by zubrow

Author: Paul Melcher

Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, consultant with a strong background in licensing, copyright, sales, marketing and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo based companies with two successful exits. Named one of the “100 most influential people in photography” by American Photo magazine.

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