Move over photographers and photo colorists: a new AI-driven feature soon to be rolled out on Google Photos will satisfy everyone’s curiosity about what old black and white photos will look like in color. This means the next time you flip through your grandparents’ photo albums you can just snap them with your phone and Google Photos’ AI will render it in color for you.
Not so long ago, colorized black and white photos from many decades past made the rounds all over the web. These were made artfully possible by photographers and colorists who were evidently skilled at what they do. They spent considerable time making sure the final images look as realistic as possible. However, with the advent of AI-powered features, does it mean there won’t be any need for them? Is it no longer an undertaking for actual photographers and artists, but simply a novelty that can be achieved with a few quick taps on the smartphone?
I’d like to say that’s not going to be the case. At least, not until the next decade or so. Just as I believe nothing compares to a human saying you take great photos over an AI-powered chatbot saying your snaps are Instagram worthy, an AI-colorized photo most likely will not look as masterfully done as those by professional photographers and colorists. In both cases, the human element is what makes everything realistic and relevant.
There are a lot of decisions that go into how an old black and white photo will be colorized. This especially applies to historic photos with some important, period-specific details. At this point, I simply don’t think AI will be able to put all of those into consideration. Anything AI-rendered would probably be enough to satisfy our curiosity, but won’t be an accurate and artful representation.
There’s no doubt that AI technology even for photographic applications will eventually evolve with the help of advanced machine learning algorithms. But until they can produce results that have uncanny resemblance to those made by humans, I’d say it’s best we leave colorizing and even restoring grandma’s old black and white photos to the professionals.
But sure, let’s see how good Google Photos can make it!