Innovation Sighting: Multiplication in Photography

by | Dec 19, 2011 | Ideation, Innovation Sighting, Jacob Goldenberg | 0 comments

Pick up a camera and see how many innovations you can find in it. That shouldn’t be hard. There are lots of them. The camera, like all inventions, started with a core idea. From there, it continued to evolve and improve though time. It might surprise you that a single innovation pattern, Multiplication, formed the premise of all photography. The cameras you use today evolved from multiplication. The entire photography industry continues to benefit thanks to this powerful pattern.

Multiplication is one of five simple patterns innovators have used for thousands of years. These patterns are the basis of Systematic Inventive Thinking, a method that channels your thinking and regulates the ideation process. The method works by taking a product, service, or process and applying a pattern to it. This changes the starting point. It morphs the product into something weird, perhaps unrecognizable. With this altered configuration (we call the Virtual Product), you work backwards to link it to a problem that it addresses or new benefit it delivers. The process is called Function Follows Form.

Photography, in essence, is multiplying the subject onto a piece of paper. Something unique happens when light from an object passes through a pinhole. A small image of that object will be projected on any surface on the other side of the pinhole – only upside down. This “pinhole effect” was discovered thousands of years ago. Aristotle noted in 4 BC that “sunlight travelling through small openings between the leaves of a tree, the holes of a sieve, the openings wickerwork, and even interlaced fingers will create circular patches of light on the ground.” From that humble beginning, we have photography. Hardly a day goes without looking at an image of something: a framed family photo, a magazine cover, an outdoor billboard. Images are all around us.

Let’s get back to cameras. Were you able to find these innovations?

  • Red Eye Reduction: In 1993, the Vivitar Corporation patented a novel way to beat red eye. The solution: a camera with a dual flash. The first flash constricts the subjects’ pupils. Then the camera shoots off a second, “multiplied,” flash that provides sufficient light for the actual photograph. Since the subjects’ pupils are slightly closed from the initial flash, no red eye appears in the final image.
  • View Finders: Modern cameras have not only the traditional viewfinder to line up a shot, but also an LCD version. This allows you to compose your image while seeing more of what’s going on around you.
  • Aperture: Pull out your smart phone and you will see one camera aperture on the back and another on the front of the phone facing you. Why? It’s seems obvious in hindsight. The second aperture allows you to photograph your favorite subject…you!
  • Stereoscopy: Oliver Wendell Holmes invented the stereoscope viewer in 1861. It creates the illusion of depth in an image by presenting two offset images separately to the viewer’s left and right eyes. Think about that next time you see a 3D movie.
  • Panorama: Thomas Sutton patented the first panoramic camera in 1859. By taking multiple photos of the same scene, he was able to merge them together to create a wide screen, panoramic view.
  • Film Negatives: Developing paper film creates a negative of the image – the colors are reversed. When the negative film is developed again using the same process, images come out as “positives.” The two-step process allow photographers to create multiple copies of the positive film.
  • Color Film: Taking three photos of an image but each with a different colored filter – red, green, and blue – allows them to be combined to yield a color image.
  • Lenses: Photographers use a variety of lenses depending on the particular effect they want to achieve: close up, far away, wide angle, and so on.
  • Movies: In 1878, Eadweard Muybridge used 24 cameras to photograph a galloping horse. Each camera captured the horse in a different state of motion. When he combined the images, the horse appeared to be galloping. Muybridge created the first “moving picture.” Multiplication launched not one, but two global industries.