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Is AI the end of photography ?


a photographer half robot and half human taking a landscape image with a camera and tripod
This image was machine generated by AI !!!

AI is now spreading to all aspects of our life, and if you use a computer at home or work, you will find the 'Terms and Conditions' for all major software is now being updated to cover AI. Microsoft has just updated their T&Cs and added many references to AI tech in all its products.


So AI use is one topic on many photographers' minds right now and how that affects them. On the one hand, it's a scary prospect, the end of creative Photography. On the other, it is a game-changer that opens up a whole new world of unique compositions that were previously unattainable.


For the past couple of months, I've been exploring the latest AI tools in a beta version of Photoshop as a starting point and gathering the opinions of fellow photographers. With AI-generated content, backgrounds, and other elements, the possibilities for creativity are endless. It's nothing short of awe-inspiring. But is it the end of Photography?


Consider:

  • Was the introduction of colour film the end of B&W prints? No!

  • Was the introduction of digital cameras the end of Film? No!

  • Was the introduction of Photoshop software the end of the camera skills? No!

  • Will the introduction of AI be the end of Photography? - I think not!


AI tech is already commonplace; you have likely been using it for years without realising it. Autofocus in your camera was an early form of AI code in your camera software using maths to work out the best focus, likewise for auto exposure and auto white balance. So unless you manually set every element of your camera, you have been gradually handing over control to AI for some time now. A smartphone camera in auto mode is essentially a 'baby AI' that, in recent years, has been growing up and getting smarter and more intelligent.


Generally, to create unique content in Photography, we start with a photo you've taken using a camera (any type). From there, we utilise Photoshop or your chosen editing app to layer in other photo content, materials, or artistic effects that align with our creative vision. Now including AI content can be simply part of this post-processing activity. You are just using a powerful new tool that allows you to make decisions and fully express your unique style. With the ability to transform your Photography into stunning works of art, you can confidently showcase your creativity and impress your audience.


half human, half machine

Why not use AI-powered assistance to produce exceptional content for your work, just as you would with stock photos, pre-made content, and course materials?

You should explore these tools and techniques if they interest you. Remember, however, that using this tech is only the beginning and that you should use it as a foundation to create something entirely unique and your creation. This is where you'll find complete satisfaction and success as an artist.


There are those vehemently opposed to AI tech, of course, but that is like saying you don't want to use electricity, the motor car, or have clothes made from machine-woven thread. The evolution of tech has been with us for hundreds of years, but today the pace of change is getting faster and more widespread.


So while most of the population will be swept along into the new AI-enabled world of smartphones and digital cameras, where do you go if you want to keep hold of the old skills of Film, analogue images and print?



Roll of Film

Find a local camera club; there are loads up and down the country. As a member of these, you will likely meet a wide range of skills and opinions, including those who don't approve of digital images or consider Photoshop cheating. You will also find groups keen to explore new ideas and tech. However, most clubs will offer a home for those wanting to treasure and hold onto some of these traditional skills, so go along and meet up with like-minded enthusiasts and enjoy the various topics and ideas you will get in these places.


A photo Gallery

How will the use of AI affect photo competition? Previously, judges may have faced challenges in determining the authenticity of the sky and background in an image, but this new development will likely exacerbate their difficulties.

When is a photo your creation or that of a robot? To rightfully claim an image as your creation, you must take action beyond just relying on AI to generate it. If competition bodies ban the use of AI, they will miss out on all it has to offer, so why not create new categories for entries that allow AI, just as they did in the past for colour and black and white or prints and digital? Creating classifications that allow AI content and those that don't is a simple solution to a complex problem, at least.


The debate on using AI in your Photography will continue and be the topic of many competition judge's discussions for a few more years. Still, I can't help but escape from the fact it's just a tool, and if we did not use new tools and techniques, we would all still be painting images on our cave walls; technology and progress will keep moving us along.


In conclusion, AI should not be feared as a danger to Photography. Instead, it can be utilised as a valuable resource to elevate the creative process. However, it is essential to recognise and honour photographers' artistic skills and inventiveness and understand the importance of traditional techniques.
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