Ai in photography

The second in a short series of blogs looking at Ai and how it can help small businesses by enhancing your brand, reducing mundane, time consuming tasks and also a taking a quick look at any ethical concerns.

It’s well established that including images in your social media posts guarantees extra views but how can Ai help?

I began mulling this subject recently when I updated Adobe Lightroom – an app I use regularly to process photographs for my Instagram account. Adobe has added Ai features to help erase unwanted objects in a photograph – e.g a nice street scene ruined by an awkwardly parked  delivery van, a strangers face directly behind your own in a family photo – you get the drift.

But how could this benefit individuals and small businesses?

Well, as we know social media posts are vital in raising brand awareness and basically the more professional an image looks – the better. So you may post a picture of yourself – a business portrait – but you need to remove that unwanted plant pot in the background. You may want to promote a car but there’s a street sign behind or an advert for another company on a wall – Ai can easily remove these items in seconds – saving time and expensive retouching charges.

Ai-in photography-original before ai

Original shot

Ai-in photography-Ail

Ai removed the lamp post, shop sign and black car in less than a minute!

In a creative studio environment – a photographic re-toucher for example working on a large fashion account could use Ai responsibly to cut a huge amount of man hours on laborious tasks – such as correcting images of a model where the sleeves are too short on a dress – the dress may come in multiple colour ways – all the images would need correcting – Ai generative fill can fill in patterns within minutes so multiple e-commerce images can be quickly corrected. New Ai programmes can help restore old pictures that are faded, stained or blurred.

Image noise (grainy shadows) on underexposed photography can be corrected in no time as can extending backgrounds on multiple images – all time saving on dreary tasks.

The ethics of Ai generated images and the publics perception.

However, Ai used in image creation is eyed with far greater suspicion than when used to simply erase. We all shudder when we hear the words ’deep fakes’ – basically images that are lies – spreaders of mis-information. And we are left to wonder if Ai created images are really photographs at all – or just soulless computer generated outputs. And what about a photograph that uses part Ai to create certain elements within the image? The ethical questions are endless.

A recent exhibition in central London hi-lighted the suspicion some people have when they heard Ai had been used for image creation. In this case images were exhibited where an art director had used Ai as a tool to create his vision – in the same way he would have directed a photographer or an illustrator. Ai offered a style and an output but not the concept, idea or more importantly – the creativity… that was the human input – the soul, Ai was simply the means to an end.

The reaction was mixed – postcards of Ai generated images were snapped up by members of the public in their thousands – but others boycotted the show saying the gallery should be supporting ‘real’ artists not computers – perhaps using their fears and suspicion to misunderstand the creative processes involved or out of a genuine concern of where we are heading? It depends on your viewpoint.

Honesty and trust.

Ethically Ai in photography is down to the individual to decide – Ai obviously has no place in photo journalism where trust is key (look what happened to Princess Kate when she retouched her family portrait) but for personal use and your business it’s up to you. I would never go further than the odd removal of unwanted objects. I would never create an entire photograph using Ai unless I was using Ai as a tool of my own creativity and the end ‘photograph’ was clearly captioned as such.

As a tool to reduce laborious re-touching tasks and to give a more professional edge to your imagery I’m a big fan – and have no qualms in its use… but at the end of the day we have to remember the whole point of humanity is to emote, explore and create – and I think many people see Ai as a danger to these basic human traits.