Photography and AI – Opinions Abound

Photography and AI – Opinions Abound

The recent surge of photography and AI being combined has certainly ruffled some feathers, but what is really at the heart of this debate?

Cameras have always been seen as tools to capture reality, while artists, such as painters and illustrators, often present their vision or interpretation of a scene, adding their creativity to it however they wanted. With the combination of digital photography and generative AI, photographers now have the ability to inject elements into a scene in much the same way an illustrator or painter would, with considerable less effort, yet it seems that there is some resistance against photography that is not depicting reality or truth.

Take this scene from my local beach below. I’ve used Photoshop’s generative AI to insert an old broken boat into the photo at a place and size of my choosing. 

The original – and the AI augmented version with the old boat:

Which do you prefer, and why? 

I’ve always loved this photo of Ponto Beach, and after seeing it again recently, I thought “boy, an interesting foreground element sure would’ve been nice for this.” I then remembered that the latest beta release of Photoshop can do this, so I spent some time working on it and came up with the results I was most happy with (above). I still had to come up with the idea of what I wanted, how I wanted it to look, where it would be, how large to make it, and how it would be oriented in the scene. But after typing in all the details for what I wanted, it took less than 90 seconds to render the boat into the scene, including the surrounding sand and stones that all look perfectly natural and real, along with accurate lighting and shadows. Amazing, right?!

While some argue that using AI in photography is a form of cheating, even calling it “fake”, others more easily appreciate the creative end result. It’s also important to consider how a photo is being presented. Anything presented as documentary or photojournalism is expected to be free of unnatural edits or fictitious elements, but with digital art, nearly anything goes. 

The debate surrounding photography and AI is complex, and it’s likely only going to heat up, as AI tools become more advanced. While some may see it as a threat to traditional photography, others view it as an opportunity for increased creativity and artistic expression.

What’s your opinion? 

Do you value truthful images over images that are augmented for artistic benefit, or does it even matter? Which type of photo would most likely find a home in a picture frame in your house? Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear what people think about the blending of photography and AI.

8 thoughts on “Photography and AI – Opinions Abound”

  1. Steve,
    I appreciate your explanation of the ins and outs of creating that picture and the for and against on the use of AI in photography. I like both pictures, and am not sure how AI altered pictures will affect my decision in wanting to purchase one. But you have definitely given me the info to understand how an AI altered picture was created by the photographer. It seems it will be just another tool in a photographer’s tool belt and for many people they will now be able to have “the picture they want.” It will be interesting to see what happens with the issue going forward.

    1. Thanks for the comments Jen! You have a neutral and open-minded attitude. 😉 I will always be primarily focused (pun intended) on creating the best of what I can capture in the camera naturally, but I think it’s important to always be open to new forms of creativity and expression. I remember how disruptive digital cameras were when they first came to the market. Film photographers swore it was the end of true photographic art, but look how things turned out. Now that there’s a new disruptive technology in the mix with artistic benefits, the reactions to it feel familiar.

  2. Hi Steve, This is an interesting discussion. Look forward to reading others comments. AI is not going away so I will embrace it even with photography. It’s quite impressive what you did to this photo! I have to learn & practice AI techniques in photography. Your skills in photography still shine bright in this lovely photo.

    1. Thanks for commenting Julie! I think it’s important for artists to be clear about what they’re producing; being up front about artwork that genuine or augmented with AI. I think an honest approach will help people appreciate it with more of an open mind.

  3. Hey Steve,
    I actually like the AI photo better. Personal preference, but to me the boat adds a dimension and character that the original was lacking. If you hadn’t told me it was AI, I doubt I would have noticed.
    And when one looks back through the history of cameras, photographers have always used “tools” to help bring out something more in a picture. From lens filters, added lights, changed settings, camera angles, the list goes on and on.
    To me, I agree with what Jen said…in that it’s another tool for the tool belt.
    Wonderful work and I can’t wait to see how this allows your photography to expand even more.

  4. Melissa Pickett

    Hey Steve,

    AI is something that is going to change a lot of things and of course photography is one of the many. I do think of this as a new tool and like you mentioned if it is done with honesty it will be appreciated by many. I think the deceptive aspect is what turns most people away. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to the belief that things won’t change and compare as so. It’s like a change of class per se, it’s just different and unique. I appreciate each of the pictures differently as with the description of what was created gives the opportunity for the open mind to truly enjoy the beauty of both. Have fun with experimenting and I can’t wait to see what you come up with using all of your creativitiy!

    Much love,
    Melissa

    1. Thanks for your comments Melissa! It has certainly taken me awhile to figure out if using it at all in my own work is even an option. I’ve enjoyed tinkering with it but what I shared here is the first time I’ve come up with anything that I’d be proud to show off.

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