Cameras used to use glass plates and flash used to be controlled explosions. Thankfully, we've embraced the relative safety introduced to the photographic process with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, but can we say the same for AI?
TEDx UNC-Charlotte speaker Manav Majumdar, a student at the school, raises some interesting questions that all photographers should consider about AI.
Too often, new technologies are dismissed because they destroy an industry that was thriving in the old way. Whether it's electric versus gas cars or film photography versus digital, new is often scary.
But in reality, photographers have been using photography for a while, just not in obvious ways. For instance, software such those from the likes of Topaz have been resizing, sharpening, and denoising images for years using AI models. Where photographers started raising eyebrows and crying foul has been when AI began to be able to generate images from seemingly thin air, with the likes of Midjourney and DALL-E 2. These were often accused of cribbing from photographer's existing images to produce "new" work.
But Majumdar talks about other uses for AI that shouldn't be dismissed. For instance, he talks about the auto-culling and light editing of photos that can be done with AI, processes that save time, freeing a photographer from these mundane tasks to shoot more. Majumdar points out that AI can never replace getting a photo in focus, capturing the right moment, and all other things that lend authenticity to a photo.
I myself have found myself using AI in this task-oriented way. Instead of generating entire elements in photos, I've used it, I feel, judiciously. In my portrait work, I've used it to remove distracting background elements, simply highlighting and typing a command to do this. It's saved me hours of time that I would have had to do it manually. I've also used AI to extend the canvas of an image when I've made it just a hair too tight for social media or profile picture posts.
As Majumdar mentions, we've entered the "AI Age" whether we've liked it or not. The question is: how will you use it?