Photography & Ai: The fast-paced world of Artificial Intelligence (commonly referred to as Ai) has found its way into almost every industry.
Artificial Intelligence is a branch of computer science that involves programming machines to stimulate human-like decision making and actions.
Artificial Intelligence requires programs to be able to process inputs and produce outputs. Programs can then store data and use this data to improve future actions and decisions.
Examples of Artificial Intelligence come in many forms including platforms like Netflix, Spotify, and YouTube. These three sites are among the many that use machine learning to store data on user preferences by keeping track of the user’s viewing patterns.
These platforms can then recommend tv shows/movies, songs, and videos that the site believes will engage the user.
Another relatively common use of artificial intelligence is found in Apple’s Facial Recognition System (also called Face ID) that was developed for the iPhone X and released in 2017.
Face ID uses a TrueDepth camera to capture facial data by creating a depth map and an infrared image of the user’s face and transferring it to a mathematical representation.
Face ID is just one of many examples of Ai based photo programs that have an impact on not just everyday iPhone users but also professional photographers.
Artificial intelligence will continue to affect the world of photography as technology progresses, leading some photographers fearing the change and some trying to embrace new artistic opportunities.
Photo editing software company Skylum (formerly known as Macphun Software), prides itself on having created “the first image editor fully powered by artificial intelligence” according to its website. Founded in 2009 by Paul Muzok and Dmitry Sytnik, Skylum’s mission is to “empower it [self-expression] through visual creativity”.
Skylum strives to accomplish this through their various photo editing programs including Luminar AI. Luminar AI can register an image’s contents and individual elements including people, faces, the sky, and water, and differentiate between foreground and background elements. The program can then suggest adjustments accordingly.
Luminar AI has a vast variety of features including realistic sky replacement and portrait retouching, two tools that have the potential to undermine the integrity of a photographer’s work.
However, current Skylum CEO Alex Tsepko has stated that Artificial Intelligence does not replace human creativity and instead that “human creativity, in the form of very talented professional photographers and retouchers, trains our AI to understand what a good image is…”.
Cool video on Adobe’s Smart Portrait filter:
Even since, Luminar AI, photo editing technology has progressed to an extent where it is possible to completely alter elements of a photo making the finished product nearly unrecognizable.
This technology is found in Photoshop’s “Neural Filters” that include Colorize, Style Transfer, and Smart Portrait.
Added this past October, Smart Portrait uses Ai technology to allow users to edit facial characteristics like head direction, gaze, lighting angles, hair thickness, and even face age. Smart Portrait is based on a deep neural network developed by NVIDIA Research that uses mathematical modeling to process data. The technology is impressive but
photographers debate whether making such advanced technology accessible to broad groups of people will homogenize or broaden the future of photography.
The increasing incorporation of Ai into the photography world invokes both positive and negative reactions.
Photographers in favor of Ai assisted photo editing find it helpful to appease picky customers and expedite the editing process by eliminating the need to perform tedious edits by hand.
However, those against Ai assisted photo editing feel that manual editing is a skill to be carefully learned, practiced, and maintained. They stress that automated photo editing has the potential to replace jobs by breaking down barriers and increasing competition in the photography industry.
Ai based photo editing programs increase competition in the photography world by making complex editing take seconds. More competition means an increasing struggle for photographers to make their work stand out in a world where almost everyone can take (and now edit) pictures.
For current photographers to maintain their status, they need to accept that the future of photography will undoubtedly be closely intertwined with the future of Artificial Intelligence.
Only through letting go of the notion that ‘art’ is a term that exclusively applies to work with physical materials can people begin to accept the notion that altering photos with Ai is an art form within itself.
Altering photos still involves making decisions for aesthetic or artistic purposes. Additionally, it requires a decent amount of technological skill to run programs such as Luminar Ai and Photoshop and learning them fully takes even longer.
Blogs written by photographers and intended for their peers suggest that photographers struggling to stand out take steps to improve their standing. Such as “find[ing] your artistic passion and strength” and “focus[ing] on the client experience” but the most effective way to avoid becoming lost in an increasingly technological world is to make the technology work for you.
Through learning the new art form that is Ai based photo editing, photographers open up their work to new possibilities and stay ahead as their field becomes more technological.
Written by Alexandra Donovan
Edited by Alexander Fleiss, Ramsay Bader & Calvin Ma