What is AI Photography?

If you asked me about AI Photography or AI-generated art a year ago, I certainly would be asking the same question. What is it? It sounds awful! Are we just going to replace the human photographer with some AI-generated nonsense? What about painting, same thing?

I didn’t like the idea of it but being the naturally curious person I am I also knew I had to see for myself. There is no way some computer can just create realistic photography! Right?

/Imagine prompt: street photography, 3 woman, bizarre moment, full body image, detailed features, realistic, Street photography, Leica 35mm camera, 28mm lens, Tri-X film, 1200 ASA, expired film, light leaks

3 Woman, bizarre moment, AI Street Photography – No Edit

Yikes, not going to lie, AI Photography is better than I imagined! Now, just to be clear, NO, I do not think AI Photography is actually photography and they are not the same, at all. To me, AI Photography is just a term like AI Painting. It’s just AI art made to look like another medium.

So I went for old street photography on film look as you can tell by the prompts. Definitely not today’s modern digital camera. Honestly, I have not tried that many prompts aimed at street photography. From the few I did try I was very impressed.

What do you think? Here is another crack at it with modern camera prompts and I actually try to see if I can generate a man that looks like Leonard Cohen.

/imagine prompt: Leonard Cohen, man in hat, smoking, full body image, detailed features, realistic, Street photography, canon r5, 50mm lens, shallow dof, f2.8

AI Street Photography - No Edit
Leonard Cohen but not really, AI Street Photography – No Edit

So we have a man who I guess sort of resembles Leonard Cohen. The featured image of this post is also some variation of this prompt.

In this particular image, the depth of field is shallow as specified in the prompt. The aesthetics of this image vs the previous one is definitely more modern. I mean it feels like a modern digital camera took this image. I’m impressed, what do you think?

I think, Let’s try an AI Photography Portrait.

/Imagine prompt: hyper detailed, hyper realistic, photorealistic, girl with a smeared flower in her eye, dark complexion, black hair, freckles, dark hair, detailed eyes, symmetrical lips, smeared crushed flowers, photography, photo taken on Canon R5, 85mm lens, 8k, octane render, volumetric light, crisp, sharp, cryengine 6 –testp –ar 2:3 –upbeta

AI Photography Portrait – No Edit
AI Photography Portrait – Edit

Here you can see the original, straight from the AI’s mouth, and the edit. This is actually part of a collection of AI Portraits I’m working on called ARTIFICIAL.

As a photographer, I wanted to create a collection of AI Portraits that challenged perception. How close could I get to photography? How close could I get to awakening the artificial soul? You can view the whole collection using the link above.

Personally, I’m kind of blown away by the results. It’s kinda good right? I mean, sure the eyes could use some work but if this is the kind of work it’s spitting out now what’s AI Art going to look like in 10 years?

Are we in trouble? Is every artist, photographer, painter, and creator on this planet about to be replaced by anyone with a keyboard and a pallet of words?

the answer is no

Probably not but when it comes to technology, the one thing that remains constant is that it is always evolving. It’s adapting and improving and truthfully, it does not care how you or I feel about it.

AI is simply here to stay and the only thing that really matters is how we plan to use it and what the perceived value is.

AI’s Perceived Value

No doubt, AI is going to take some jobs from artists. I just don’t see a scenario where this does not happen.

Example: Let’s say Gary is writing a book and going to self-publish on Amazon but he needs a book cover.

Before, if Gary didn’t have the artistic merits to give his book a professional-looking cover, he would have to rely on someone who did.

But what if Gary only had a head full of ideas and very little money?

Now, with the aid of AI, Gary might just be able to trial and error his way toward something that will work. Is this bad? Did it steal work from another artist?

Maybe, but also, maybe not!

Technology is constantly tearing down doors, removing obstacles, and placing your dreams just a little closer, maybe even within reach.

Some people create roadblocks for themselves. They think, “I can’t write a children’s book because a children’s book needs a lot of pictures. I can’t draw. I could hire someone but I have no money.”

So, they simply tell themselves they can’t do it. They put their dreams up on a dusty shelf for years and years until one day, they are too old to dream.

Why? Because they could not tackle all the parts of the equation alone. They didn’t have the money or capacity to know how to seek help.

I know, it’s kind of crazy. It’s a horrible way to sacrifice your life’s dreams away but nonetheless, I think it happens. I think it happens a lot.

With AI, maybe Gary writes his book. Maybe Jessica launches a fun T-Shirt business branded with the cute character she dreamed up. Maybe Kevin who works at the comic book store decides to pen his own comic with AI art.

Even better, maybe they actually make something others relate with and want. They earn some money on their creative ideas alone. I mean who knows where that leads right?

Jessica, with a little bit of success and money, might be feeling brave and adventurous. She might decide that it would be fun to see how an artist she admires reinterprets her brand, character, and vision in her next series of T-Shirts.

Because yes, I believe the perceived value of traditional art vs that of AI art will always be greater. I personally feel AI art is similar to the table you buy at IKEA. There will be mass production with a similar feel between pieces, especially when left unaltered.

Traditional art is more like the extraordinary handcrafted table you buy from Bob who is making the table from scratch. There’s a certain reverence to the process. This means that documenting that process probably becomes more important than ever before.

Additionally, Bob’s creations might be slow to come but this creates scarcity. With fewer people able to own Bob’s work, demand drives their value higher.

Plus, what about that feeling of ownership? Bob will always have a relationship with his table. You cannot pour blood, sweat, and tears into a physical piece of art and not create a deep personal connection with it.

Now, this isn’t to say you can’t form a connection with AI art, however. Certainly, there are those taking the table from IKEA, breaking it into its parts, and creating something altogether new and fantastic.

Likewise, I didn’t just spit some words into the computer and out came the thing I wanted and I immediately felt ownership of it. I had to work at it. I had to find just the right combination of words and maybe a little bit of luck.

Then, I had to add my touch. I had to work with the results given to me and alter them a bit in Lightroom and sometimes Photoshop. I developed a theme, and story, to try to bring the results together in a cohesive fashion. I think the more time you spend on something the more you start to feel and take ownership.

Of course, I still do not feel the same connection I feel to some of my photography. However, at the end of the day, I think every result has an audience and an appropriate market. Furthermore, I think every tool has a place in one’s arsenal of creative expression. This leads us to the loaded question. Is AI Art really art?

Is AI Art really art?

Guided by Passion – AI Photography/Edit
Perseverance – AI Photography/Edit

This topic can elicit some heated exchanges which is kind of funny to me because Photographers are still fielding the question to this day! How old is photography again?

Here is an article from 2021. Is Photography Art? https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/is-photography-art-debate/

So we can expect this question about AI art to get visited a healthy amount of times with varying perspectives. Let’s look at some.

Generally Against AI Art

Generally For AI Art

The “Is AI Art plagiarizing human artists without their consent?” Debate

As you can see, the water is murky and depending on how far you wade it can get pretty deep on both ends of the spectrum. There are definitely conversations to be had. It’s not one or two artists crying about AI art plagiarizing human artists without their consent.

Instances of watermark artifacts, including Shutterstock logos, have been observed in AI-generated images. It’s essential to clarify that AI isn’t directly slicing and assembling stock images. Rather, it learns from them, and if trained on a dataset containing watermarked images related to “women’s tennis player,” it might attempt to incorporate a watermark in its generated output.

The conversations over copyright are legitimate and will continue to evolve with AI’s advancement. The question, “Is AI Art really art” still stands alone however on a more personal level.

Is AI Art really art? Are AI Artists really artists?

I can’t really tell you how to feel about AI Art in regards to “Is it Art” or “Are AI artists really artists?” There is only your internal truth.

Maybe I’m just pushing a button on a camera and maybe Jackson Pollock was just throwing paint on a canvas? Maybe Collage artists are just cutting up pieces of Art past, and gluing them on a board. To me it’s all art where the artist and the final vision become the most important fingerprint.

I personally believe if someone finds an outlet to express their creativity and his/her audience identifies with it then what’s the problem? Does it make that person the next Salvador Dali? Of course not! How the AI tools are used and the overall story is gonna have to be a lot bigger than that.

Plenty of people will play around with uninspired AI prompts that won’t really lead anywhere. They won’t have the vision that propels them into a bigger story. It was just fun and that’s about it. So rest assure, I think traditional artists and photographers are safe.

I mean, am I a well respected famous painter if I take a photo and turn it into a painting via an app? Of course not. For the most part, I’m someone playing around with the creative merits of technology.

To sum this conversation up I would say, Your fingerprint, your personal touch, your vision! Everything else is just a tool.

You can read more about AI Art and devolve deeper into the question, Is AI Art really art?, from our friends over at Jams2blues.

“It is art, but the quality and prestige varies from person to person embellishing and manipulating the outputs, just like any wielder of any medium.”


Final Thoughts on AI

To summarize, I really think AI is just another tool in an arsenal of tools for creative expression. This brings us to the real reason many artists are excited about AI. It serves as a great starting point for any idea. It’s a great tool you can use to dream and find visual representations of your thoughts on the go.

AI – just another tool in an arsenal of tools for creative expression

If you are anything like me, you enjoy mixing media and seeing what you can create. Maybe you enjoy taking photographs and mashing them together with other forms of art, creating collages, etc. You just love to experiment and see where your experiments will lead you.

For the first time ever, instead of sourcing material for your creations, now artists can just go out and create their own unique material. They can create exactly what they are looking for. Not going to lie however, it’s going to take some patience.

Pictured below is a girl I photographed in a studio setting blended with AI-generated digital assets. This is something I enjoy experimenting with.

In this image, the girl is studio photography mashed with AI-generated assets using Photoshop.

Share your thoughts on AI Art below

I’m not here to tell you how to feel about AI Art. I’m sharing my perspective and my perspective alone. You can tell me how you feel about AI art in the comments below. I’m equally interested if you have tried Midjourney or DALL-E. Leave a link or explanation in the comments about your dive into AI art and I will approve them.