The Impact of AI on Photography: Embracing Creativity and Navigating Boundaries

In the world of photography, there is currently a lot of buzz surrounding artificial intelligence (AI), and it’s not without reason. AI has the ability to accomplish remarkable feats, but it also poses a threat to what many consider the essence of photography. As AI increasingly permeates the field, it’s bound to stir up diverse opinions and divide photographers. However, one thing is certain: we cannot ignore its influence, as it is poised to play a significant role in the creation of images.
Take, for example, Adobe’s recent release of a beta version of Photoshop featuring an AI-powered feature called Generative Fill. While purists may not appreciate this development, as a graphic designer, I believe it has the potential to revolutionise my approach to working with photography.
Let’s consider the nature of photography itself. Even without AI, capturing an image with a camera is already a departure from reality. It freezes a single moment, compresses a three-dimensional scene into two dimensions, and relies on post-processing to determine colours, clarity, and sharpness. So why should an image be a strict representation of real life? Isn’t the enjoyment we derive from images more important? Should the means of creation matter? For most people, drawing the line will depend on personal preferences, but I believe in maintaining an open mind and pushing that line at least a little.

Personally, I appreciate creating “real” images while also exploring the possibilities offered by AI. However, I’m not yet comfortable fully merging the two approaches. It’s important to note that other advancements in photographic technology have felt like tools that operate under our complete control, yielding results within our intended scope. AI, on the other hand, introduces an element of chaos. Although we provide input, the output remains unknown until we witness it. We can refine our input to approach our desired outcome (a skill that requires more finesse than some might think), but in essence, we are relinquishing some control to an entity that feels like another contributor to our art.

When it comes to graphic design work, I feel entirely at ease incorporating Generative AI. Often, the most efficient and high-quality method to achieve results is the best approach. However, I feel less comfortable sharing images on social media or my personal channels when AI has been involved. In this context, it boils down to how we wish to be perceived by others. There is inherent value in the effort expended to create an image using non-AI tools, as it represents our individual artistic contributions without additional interpretations from AI.

Ultimately, photography involves using tools to capture light and create an image. AI, on the other hand, generates images through digital input, bypassing the need for light altogether. While these two practices are related, they are not the same. Photography has always been a distinct form of image creation, but moving forward, the distinction will become even more pronounced, emphasising the creation of images solely through the manipulation of light. Generative image creation will emerge as its own genre, encompassing elements of photographic image creation within it. Furthermore, I predict that the resurgence of film photography will continue to gain momentum, much like the comeback experienced by vinyl records in the age of digital streaming.
As the realm of photography evolves alongside AI, it’s important for photographers to embrace the new creative possibilities while also understanding and navigating the boundaries that align with their artistic principles. By doing so, we can continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in image creation and explore the fascinating intersection of AI and traditional photography techniques.

Check out my video on Photoshop’s new beta AI feature – Generative Fill.

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