A photograph is something created by a camera. Whether that be a pinhole camera photo clumsily exposed onto film or your latest iPhone 14 Pro Max, these are products defined to produce a photograph out of light that enters it. What’s definitely not a photograph is something not created by exposure to light, like hyper-realistic paintings or “AI generated photos.” And the latter is nothing more than a machine creating something out of existing references.
Don’t Call It A Photograph
Before you think this is another post bashing AI or predicting the end of humanity as AI becomes more commonplace in our society, let me clarify. It’s a personal opinion on how many people these days are passing off AI work as their own. Technically, all they’ve done is input a few words into a program. Mankind has adapted to both the introduction of robots and computers in industries. Production speed has greatly increased across the world with the adoption of these two once-feared utilities.
It’s still the early days for AI at the moment. Much like the general feeling was when computers began being introduced into the workplace, people have begun wondering if AI is going to replace the human workforce. Maybe it’s just the initial hype, and it’ll pass off as a fad after some years. Recent reports have stated that AI photo editing apps have witnessed a sharp decline in 2023 already.
Get Creative With AI But Be Honest About It
Make a fantasy avatar of yourself using a selfie for all I care. But please don’t call it a photo because it’s definitely not one. I’m no expert at this, but lately I’ve become really good at spotting art being passed off as a photo. And in almost all cases of late, it’s an AI generated photo that’s fooled many.
Not many weeks ago, I spotted a post on Instagram that had the title “3 women 1 outfit.” At first glance on my smartphone, it looked like a set of portraits of strangers taken somewhere in NY. Yet, the telltale AI signs were there. Super smooth skin. Extra symmetrical facial features. And the biggest giveaway of all – the soulless dead stare into the frame. It’s the same with AI-generated text; it feels too robotic and unnatural if you study it carefully. What really peeved me off was the text below the title, which said, “AI Generated photography.”
It’s AI Generated Art
No mate, it’s anything but photography. You didn’t click this, and neither did a computer. You typed in a set of words into a program that works off data sets, and it generated pixels for you. If anything, this is the next level of CGI, which I guess we can call AIGI now. I was pleased to see a few people acknowledging my thoughts on this post which I’d left in the form of a comment. The original poster (who happens to be a professional photographer) has yet to respond.
He’s still gone on to post more AI generated art with the hashtag #aiphotography. This hashtag has over 100,000 tagged posts on Instagram at the moment of writing this piece, most of which look nothing like photographs and more like dream sequences out of animated movies. Props to him for at least adding this hashtag and disclaimer text. In this regard, he’s been more honest than someone else who’s clearly been misleading his followers.
No mate, it’s anything but photography. You didn’t click this, and neither did a computer. You typed in a set of words into a program that works off data sets, and it generated pixels for you.
Why Would You Intentionally Mislead Everyone?
Okay, people have done crazy stuff on the internet to appear more popular than they are. Or in some instances, to appear more talented than they actually are. The latter is quite possibly the case when we talk about Joe Avery who, according to MyModernMet, has amassed 29K followers on his Instagram account in the span of just a few months. When you first scroll through it, you might be tempted to believe, like thousands of others did, that these were portraits he took with his camera. The reality is far from it, as Joe confessed to ArsTechnica a few days ago. None of the images seen in here are actual photographs. They are nothing more than AI generated art using MidJourney.
It took about four months for Joe to apparently feel guilty about it, which is when he decided he wanted to come clean. But from the looks of it, he’s deleted every single comment on his recent posts. Understandably, many of them might have been from disgruntled followers who were calling him out for his deception.
What I find most confusing about this is why are people trying to pass off art as photographs? The art community is massive, and computer generated or otherwise, there are millions of people who will appreciate good art. Why setup an account on a platform that is (or was at least originally designed) for promoting photography and hijack the feelings of photography lovers? Why not just create an AI art page for yourself on someplace like Behance or DeviantArt? If you’re confident it’s worth looking at and appreciating, what’s stopping you from doing this in the first place?
Clarity and Honesty are paramount for artists
The idea of passing something off as an original has been around for centuries. And while some might argue that AI generated art is dependent on inputs from the creator, it doesn’t magically create stuff out of just words. AI is being trained on tens of thousands of original images (permission for almost all of which was never sought: a topic for another article altogether). There’s definitely immense potential for AI usage in art and CGI, and definitely in the improvement of photography. Just please stop passing off AIGI as photographs. As photographers, we can do better than this.
All the images seen in this article, aside from the screenshot, have been generated by me using Midjourney.