AI versus Photography

In General Stuff by Patrick

AI (artificial intelligence) is here to stay and can do remarkable things with digital photographs and art, but does it replace photography.  Let me explain.  AI cannot physically hold the camera, AI cannot focus, AI cannot depress the shutter, AI cannot set ISO, shutter speed or aperture, AI cannot compose at time of capture.  All of these thing are basic tennants of creating a photograph and in my humble opinon cannot be replaced by AI.  Perhaps I am to old school in my thinking, but photography, true photography, is a craft.  One that should continually evolve over time.  

Having said that, todays cameras use AI in their software.  My main body, the Nikon Z9 uses  AI-Based Subject Detection and Tracking along with facial recognition.   AI is in post processing as well and with free open source tools like Dall|E -v2 that can virtually erase any mistake that may have been made at point of capture, exptrapalate and build it items that were not there, the incentive to master a craft may diminish.  In photography, AI is used for everything from selecting objects to choosing a preset, from working out what to focus on to optimizing the camera settings to suit a scene. Other software is doing the same. Photoshop has its own AI sky replacement feature and Lightroom has an extremely effective sky and subject masking tool that’s uncannily and unerringly accurate.  It’s about making a machine do something so that we don’t have to and to me, therein lies a concern for potential dimishsnment of our craft.

I can see the argument of AI in some aspects.  For example, AI can, indeed, do a lot of complicated things a lot faster than we can. This can mean focusing on a human eye, or a bird, or a aircraft (soon, probably) faster than we ever could. It’s easy to see how that could be useful.  It’s quite popular in sports and wildlife photography and the ability to track fast moving subjects and keep them in focus.

Are we really so lazy, insecure, fame-hungry and ignorant that we will happily let a machine do our thinking for us? Nobody wants to take a bad picture, but surely that’s a risk worth taking compared to the alternative – surrendering to an AI-driven universality where your best pictures are the same as everyone else’s and you happily trade your individuality for popularity.

As today’s digital imaging products get smarter I think that the AI can be used for fun and it can feed creativity, do I think it is as good as photography, no. I appreciate that it will evolve but for now it’s all a bit to perfect. I have no doubt that it will be a tool,  and that is the key, a tool in the box but it won’t replace the whole box in my view.



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