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The Evolving Role of AI in Photography: A Conversation for Photographers

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its influence on photography have sparked debates and discussions that are well documented and publicized. As followers of our blog and social media you are likely aware that we’ve been exploring the realm of AI in photography for some time. In this article, we aim to delve beyond the controversies and focus on how AI offers capabilities to photographers to enhance their creative vision.


AI and Controversies

In the ongoing discussion about AI-generated images, there's an active debate about what defines photography and the copyright implications related to AI training datasets. However, for our conversation, we'll steer clear of delving into the creation of images solely through text-to-image AI generators. Our focus is on exploring how photographers can incorporate AI into their current workflows, particularly when working with their original images. This article aims not to dissuade those uninterested in using AI in photography but to acknowledge the growing challenge of avoiding AI in the realm of modern cameras and digital editing tools. And, in fact, to understand some of the ways for taking advantage of AI as part of photo editing workflow.


Before and after example of using various AI tools based on a reference image, along with traditional editing techniques. The flower was modified, changed background, added texture, and adjusted color, tones, and contrast.
Before and after example of using various AI tools based on a reference image, along with traditional editing techniques. The flower was modified, changed background, added texture, and adjusted color, tones, and contrast.

Photographers and AI Collaboration

Our emphasis is on photographers who capture in-camera images and subsequently leverage AI to complement and enhance their creative vision. This "collaborative" effort may involve skillfully blending elements from generated images, employing AI-powered editing, and exploring what we term "re-imagined images." The latter are original photographs elevated or transformed through the use of AI, a distinction we make by displaying these images in our "Digital Art" website gallery.


AI in Photography Workflow

AI's integration into cameras and software applications, such as Photoshop, has evolved so much that it now plays a pivotal role in refining camera-captured images. Tasks encompass enhancing focus, adjusting exposure, and fine-tuning colors. This naturally leads to a debate: Are these AI-based applications or features considered controversial, or are they merely the next evolutionary step in the digital capture and editing tools photographers have utilized over time?


The intersection of AI and Photography

The convergence of AI and photography involves amalgamating AI's strengths with the creative realm of photography. Generative AI and neural networks open doors to complex edits, making them more accessible. In our exploration, we have examined and often used mainstream AI tools like Adobe Photoshop, Topaz AI, and On1 Photo Raw, each offering distinct AI features, from noise reduction to object removal, image enlargement, and more.


Generative fill, a key advancement, seamlessly fills in missing portions of an image, revolutionizing photo editing by eliminating the need for time-consuming and often impossible manual blending, masks, and edits.


For our compositional purposes, the goal is to take advantage of AI’s capability not based on copying parts of dataset images but to recognize patterns within our reference image, prompts, and their datasets to create entirely new elements that we can seamlessly blend or comp into our images. Often the results are subtle, other times they are a bit more obvious as in the above example.


AI Technologies Enhancing Image Quality

AI's impact on image quality extends beyond basic editing. Tools like Topaz AI and Luminar Neo allow us to refine and elevate photos while ensuring consistency. The profound influence of AI on professional photography is evident, streamlining tasks and expanding creative possibilities.


Let's explore some mainstream AI tools currently transforming photography. We often use several or all of these, plus generative image platforms like Midjourney and Leonardo AI, when working on an image.


Adobe Photoshop, a household name, integrates AI capabilities, including generative fill and style transfer. These features empower photographers to achieve transformative edits with ease. Photoshop’s replacement tool, which utilizes AI, is rapidly becoming an essential ingredient in editing.


Topaz AI stands out with noise reduction tools and image enhancement capabilities.


Topaz Gigapixel, particularly version 7.0.0+, utilizes cutting-edge AI technology for seamless image enlargement, achieving unparalleled quality and precision in every pixel up to 6 times the original size.


On1 Photo Raw is another noteworthy contender, offering advanced AI-driven features for effortless photo editing. Its noise reduction tools, sky replacement, and image enhancement capabilities cater to the needs of both amateur and professional photographers.


There are other AI-driven editing tools worthy of investigation such as Luminar Neo, that in addition to AI-driven editing, uses AI in it’s new Focus Stacking module. It seems more players are entering this space every month.


I believe these AI-enabled tools, with their user-friendly interfaces, make them essential tools in every photographer's toolkit, simplifying editing processes and consistently delivering high-quality results.


Future Trajectory of AI in Photography

Anticipating the future trajectory of AI in photography, we foresee increased integration with social media platforms, advancements in models used by the AI image-generating platforms, editing, and the transformative potential of turning old photos in our archives into interesting new images.


The future of AI in photography somewhat depends on the outcome of current litigation concerning the fair use doctrine of copyright law, proposed copyright rule-making, and calls for new laws and regulations governing generative AI. I don’t believe those developments will have much impact on editing and careful use of image generation using reference images, but time will tell.


Conclusion

AI's transformative influence on photography is undeniable, offering powerful tools to enhance image quality and streamline workflows. While acknowledging its capabilities, it remains crucial to strike a balance between automation and human creativity. Staying informed ensures photographers remain better prepared to take advantage of these technologies to the degree they wish to in this ever-evolving landscape.


Join the Conversation


We invite you to actively participate in the discussion as we explore the impact of AI on creativity, efficiency, and challenges in photography. Your insights and diverse opinions are invaluable in shaping this ongoing dialogue. Click the Login button at the top right of the page to create an account or login to enable commenting. You can also join our mailing list to stay informed on updates.


Feel free to share this article with your friends and colleagues to broaden the conversation and collectively discover how AI seamlessly fits into our workflows.


You can see more articles on AI and photography, as well as examples of our work in the blog and galleries section of our website: www.aiellostudios.com.


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