For photographers, AI photo editing is not any longer a fringe topic for ML researchers or a gimmick employed by smartphone apps. With the approaching release of Skylum’s Luminar AI and Adobe calling the newest build of Photoshop “the world’s most advanced AI application for creatives,” it’s time for the community to reckon with a crucial question: What does this mean for photography, photo editing, and creativity at large?
One of the most well liked hot takes within the industry immediately is that AI photo editing goes to be very bad for photographers and retouchers of all stripes. Whether it’s Luminar AI, Adobe’s Sensei AI-powered tools, or the NVIDIA technology behind Photoshop’s new portrait editing features, most photographers seem wary of this technology and its potential impacts of creativity.
Naysayers paint a grim picture of over-edited portraits and homogenous landscapes that are indistinguishable from one another–each of them edited using an equivalent sky replacement tool, an equivalent skin smoothing, an equivalent fake fog, and therefore the same “intelligent” dodge and burn tools. Like calligraphy or traditional printmaking, they envision a future where “manual” photo editing is an artisanal skill practiced by a fanatical few.
Meanwhile, defenders of the technology claim that AI will open up new frontiers in creativity and opportunities for profit by lowering the time spent on repetitive tasks that waste time and contribute more to carpal tunnel than art. Some argue that lowering the barrier to entry into the planet of photo editing will act as a “gateway drug” which will empower young artists to get and expand their creative chops.
But what about the people on the front lines? How do the businesses behind this tech feel about the “AI revolution” that they’re bringing about? And what about professional retouchers and educators whose jobs depend upon (and could be replaced by) this technology?
I wanted to seek out out, then I reached bent Adobe, Skylum, Pratik Naik of Solstice Retouch, and Aaron Nace of Phlearn and asked each an equivalent somewhat-loaded question:
Do you believe that the arrival of increasingly capable AI-powered photo editing tools goes to be a net positive on the photography and retouching industries? Why or why not? be happy to elaborate.
I’ve re-printed their responses fully below, within the hopes of injecting a touch of nuance and perspective into this conversation. like most things in life, there’s no black and white answer, but understanding the reminder gray might help a couple of folks prepare to measure and work (and maybe even thrive) within the AI-powered way forward for photo editing.
Because as each of our responders acknowledged in a method or another: unlike Thanos, this really is inevitable.
Alex Tsepko, CEO at Skylum
To cut to the chase, i feel AI is certainly a positive thing that’s happening to the photo industry immediately . People are using photography to create their brand, sell their services, goods, tell their friends and family a story. to try to to this well, they have to be able edit photos well; spending the minimum amount of your time within the process.
Creators don’t want and most significantly don’t need to waste time on routine work. Instead, they use smart technologies to hurry up the method of making the images they have to inform their stories to the planet via print, social media, or anything in between.
At Skylum, we believe all technology should serve a meaningful purpose and, ideally, a noble one. thereto end, we thought by adding the facility of AI to Luminar AI, we could offer new ways of doing things.
When editing photos, people spend 74% of their time on repetitive, routine tasks, which we call grunt work. due to the boring nature of this grunt work, people come to consider photo editing as harder and fewer satisfying. We believe that AI can automate much of this grunt work and free to reinvest that point in their personal lives or in further developing their creativity.
When knowledgeable opens a photograph to edit, the top result’s already well-formed, if not completely alive in her mind… this is often not always the case with amateurs or hobbyists. Lacking the knowledge of the professional, amateurs and hobbyists start clicking buttons and dragging sliders hoping to seek out their thanks to an excellent result. Too often, they fail. watching this problem, we wondered if AI might function a guide; inspiring amateurs and hobbyists to seek out and develop their own style. to unravel these problems, Luminar AI uses AI to guage the user’s photos and suggest several style options. Here, it’s important to know the software robot (AI) doesn’t replace human creativity. In fact, human creativity, within the sort of very talented professional photographers and retouchers, trains our AI to know what an honest image is then guides it through a series of options to urge their images there … quickly.
Thus, a creator has the immediate advantage of an ingenious inspiration, prompted by the AI, and doesn’t find themselves stuck when experience is lacking or, within the case of execs , the ideas aren’t flowing.
Maria Yap, vice chairman of Digital Imaging at Adobe
[It is] absolutely [a positive]. I firmly believe that AI, when done right, helps amplify human creativity and enhances creative expression. For photographers and photo retouching professionals, AI-powered features across Photoshop and Lightroom eliminate manual and repetitive tasks, reduce complex workflows, and even enable adjustments to pictures in ways in which were previously impossible with existing tools.
To address real-world needs and pain points, we work closely with professional photographers in developing our Sensei AI-powered features, and have seen that the majority photographers are quick to include these powerful tools into their day-to-day workflows.
Photoshop is that the world’s most advanced AI application for creatives, and we’re just getting started.
Pratik Naik of Solstice Retouch
This heavily debated topic is at the middle of dialogue today in our industry. regardless of the genre, we’re all getting to enjoy tools that employment for everything from landscapes, portraits, and anything in between.
I personally am optimistic and embrace developments in tech that give us options for creativity. With our communities, i buy to ascertain how creatives work with our tools so as to further accomplish their vision. i do know that there also are many out there which will consider it cheating to possess these assisted tools modify a photograph that goes well beyond what was there actually . We could sit here all day and discuss whether something may be a photograph or not. However, we can’t deny that these tools will help people get to their end goal quicker and more accurately, regardless of what definition they use to define the ultimate image.
On retouching portraits in specific, if tools enable us to urge done faster, we’ll have the power to urge through more images. supported how one manages time and rates, it could actually find yourself producing a positive impact in making extra money . Because these tools are a neighborhood of the workflow chain, they still require user input to guide them so as to urge to where everyone wants. for instance , if you gave an equivalent image to 10 retouchers, the top result will vary greatly, so taste and direction are still required. this is often where experience in working will still take precedence and therefore the tools themselves won’t level the playing field entirely.
No matter what comes within the future, it can only provide additional opportunities for us to not only explore but implement these tools in our work to supply better results at a faster pace. those that have a harder time adapting will always struggle, but I see promise with these tools if people can incorporate them into their workflow and businesses strategically.
Aaron Nace of Phlearn
Technology continues to evolve at a startling pace, and that we have seen huge shifts within the photography industry within the past – as an example , the arrival of the camera . Art and technology have always been intrinsically linked, and with each iteration of technology, new art forms are developed.
Whether these changes in AI are positive or negative depends on the subjective point of view of people , but one thing is obvious – it’s up to us to still evolve or get left behind.
My perspective is that I don’t see it as a positive or a negative, it’s just a change. If you’re unwilling to regulate with the change, you’ll see it as a negative, if you embrace it, then it are often a positive. Personally, I plan on embracing changes in technology and moving forward.
One of the foremost surprising things about the answers we got, especially those from Naik and Nace, is how generally optimistic they were. At worst, the sentiment is that these tools are coming whether you wish them or not so you’ll also find how to figure with them—”evolve or get left behind.”
No one’s denying the impact that automating large parts of the photo editing process will wear the art of retouching and photo editing. Google Maps came along, and now nobody learns the way to read a physical map; automatic cars are so common within the US that hardly anybody learns the way to drive stick; Spell Check isn’t helping anybody become a far better speller. it might be naïve to imply that AI photo editing tools–the powerful, accurate, realistic ones–won’t have an identical impact on photo editing, encouraging some people to outsource more and more of their workflow to the algorithms.
But as Naik and Nace rightly means , it might be equally naïve to shop for into the thought that AI spells the “end of creativity as we all know it.” Good art demands subtlety and surprise, and therefore the latter is, by definition, impossible to automate.
This debate may be a great distraction–sort of like obsessing over the newest lens that’s 2% sharper than the last, or touting the unique benefits of brand name A over Brands B and C. If you’re trying to find something to debate within the comments or yet one more company/technology/website/*fill within the blank* that’s coming for photographers’ jobs, AI is low-hanging fruit. But even as no combination of specs has ever birthed an artist… no amount of automation could ever truly snuff one out.
About the author: DL Cade is an art, science and technology writer, and therefore the former Editor in Chief of PetaPixel. When he’s not writing op-eds like this one or reviewing the newest tech for creatives, you’ll find him working during a Vision Sciences lab at the University of Washington or publishing personal essays on Medium.