AI – New tools aren’t the enemy but the opportunityAI

AI – New tools aren’t the enemy but the opportunityAI

“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”

― Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

In the last year, Artificial Intelligence (AI) art has become a ubiquitous presence in our lives, affecting the way we work, communicate, and create. Since I am primarily a photographer, I see and hear the concerns of photographers when it comes to AI. While some photographers and other creatives may feel uneasy about the rise of AI art, it is important to recognize that it offers a new opportunity to create new audiences, new business and new avenues of expression.

Why is it that in the last 10 years, people have been so quick to focus on the negative that they don’t even have time to look for the positive?

I’ve been playing with AI Art for more than six months now. It’s truly fun, inspiring and helpful in my work.

One of the most significant benefits of AI art is that it allows artists to explore previously unavailable creative avenues. AI tools and techniques can help photographers generate new, exciting and original ideas. These can lead to the creation of unique and innovative works of art. It can help set them apart from their peers and give them a competitive edge in an increasingly crowded market. Additionally, AI-powered tools can be used to enhance traditional photographic techniques. These can enable photographers to create images with greater precision, detail and depth than ever before.

When Adobe announced its entry into the AI art space (Firefly — watch Terry white demo the new tool above, which is still in BETA), I saw yet another dust up in the photography community. People who don’t even know what Firefly is started complaining. All they could think about is that it’s “coming for their art.”

I am an old man so I have seen this before — many times. In photography there was concern when we started using color film instead of black and white film. Then, concern again when we started using digital cameras instead of film cameras. Once more when we started using digital darkrooms instead of wet darkrooms. Then, again when we started using mirrorless cameras instead of DSLRs, etc.

It’s frankly a little mind-numbing to me that each time there is a sea-change, a large group of creatives focuses only on the negative. They worry about being disintermediated. They are so fragile that they believe they are completely fungible. Well, guess what — if you act out of fear, you probably are (fungible, that is).

Why not turn the other way and look for new advantages? Here’s an advantage of AI art that you may not have considered. It allows photographers to tap into new audiences and markets. With the advent of social media platforms and other digital marketing channels, photographers can reach a global audience and connect with people who may not have been exposed to their work otherwise. This can help to build brand recognition, create demand for their work, and increase revenue. 

You don’t have to get hung up on whether or not to still call it photography. Call it whatever you want to call it. I tend to call it “AI Photo Art.” I am primarily mashing up traditional digital photography with AI Art and having a blast. I can tell you that people like it because I have already had two commissions thanks to my AI Photo Art.

AI can help in so many ways. It can help photographers scale their production capabilities, producing high-quality images at a much faster pace than traditional methods would allow. This can be particularly useful for commercial photographers who need to produce large volumes of images in a short amount of time. By using AI-powered tools, they can produce high-quality images at scale, which can help to streamline their workflow and increase profitability.

Furthermore, AI art offers a new way for photographers to collaborate with other creatives, including printmaking artists, designers, and other photographers. AI-powered tools can help to automate many of the more tedious and time-consuming aspects of the creative process, allowing artists to focus on the more important aspects of their work, such as developing new concepts and ideas. This can lead to more collaborative and productive working relationships, which can benefit all parties involved.

AI art can be used to test ideas, even new compositions for instance or to judge the impact of different color themes in a project.

Finally, AI art can help photographers to stay competitive in an ever-changing industry. With the rise of AI-powered tools and techniques, the creative landscape is shifting rapidly. Those who fail to adapt will find themselves left behind. If you’re digging in your heels saying, “I’ll never…” Well, you’ll be left standing at the train station.

How do I know? Because I have seen it over and over and over. As I described earlier in this article. I have seen photographers and other visual artists refuse to embrace technology before. In almost every case, those people dropped off the radar, went out of business or just gave up.

I have lots of friends who are Marines. Their motto is “Improvise, adapt, and overcome …” Artists can and should learn from that line of thinking. I sure have. How do you think a washed up, crippled up, fat, ugly old man like me has managed to stay at least SOMEWHAT relevant in this space for a period of 50 years? When I see new tech or trends, I embrace them. I learn all I can about them. I dive in and become an evangelist for them. It keeps me young and it keeps me working. I bet the same would be true for you too if you can just open your mind, put away your bias, and give this new tech a chance.

By embracing AI art, photographers can stay ahead of the curve, continue to produce innovative and exciting work, and grow their business in new and exciting ways. It’s not a threat. It’s an opportunity!

I have been using most of the popular AI art tools. But, Firefly from Adobe is the one I have been waiting for. I am betting that if anyone will get it right and make it user-friendly enough for everyone, Adobe will be the company to pull that off.

I plan to write more often about this topic and maybe even teach a class in AI art for photographers. For me, it’s fun, fascinating and exciting. Stand by for more.

3 Responses

  1. Interesting perspective, but I don’t think you touched on why so many photographers are concerned about AI. I don’t think there’s much rub on AI enhancement tools for noise removal and sharpening. Even cloning out objects with AI replacements is acceptable in some cases.

    There is concern that AI can be used to create altered reality to the point that one has to question whether it is really the work of the photographer or the programmers that developed the AI software. I can accept your point of view, and I can accept it as “AI Photo Art” so long as it’s understood that’s what it is. But, what about AI generated fakes that can upend photojournalism and the news. Certainly, that is the chief concern of many. Just as AI can make up stories, it can also be used to produce fully photorealistic imagery, and no one would know. While that may be OK as “art,” it cannot be allowed to be considered a depiction of reality. Additionally, many photographers submit imagers to photo competitions where many categories are reality-based and demands that the production image is essentially from the camera file without alteration. While AI is acceptable for sharpening and noise reduction, once the photographer starts cloning out undesirable features, inserting a new sky, or other reality altering effects, then those image cannot, or should not, be entered in reality-based competitions or be presented as factual information on newsfeeds and media.

    I fully agree that AI can be a tool to produce fine art, and I don’t think it matters what you call the end-product. However, it is essential that it’s understood that this product is a creative form that goes beyond what you would obtain from the original photograph using more conventional digital darkroom tools.

    1. I don’t think YOU have touched on why so many photographers are concerned about AI. They are worried that their work is so boring, so bland, so disconnected that it is a commodity that can be easily replaced by AI. I don’t know a serious photographer who appropriately values their work who is worried. I have been a professional photographer for all of my adult life and don’t feel threatened. People made the very same arguments you are making when Photoshop hit the market. It’s always like this when there is new tech. People can lie about their work and if they do, they should be shunned. But your notion that there is a level of “acceptable” AI is downright scary. Who’s gonna be the arbiter of what’s allowed? You? Me? Sorry, I don’t think so. I also completely reject the notion that photographers have the most to fear from AI ART – I think people who draw and paint and illustrate by hand or by computer will be much more impacted. As I have said, painters said the same things you’re saying now when cameras came on the scene. Photographers said the same things you are saying now when we switched from film to digital…and again, when Photoshop came out. It’s time to stop screaming at the sky and figure out how to use these tools and how to keep your work viable enough that it cannot be replaced by an AI. Thanks.

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