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No, AI Will Not Change Landscape Photography Forever

Technology marches forward and the market has certain demands. AI seems to be on everybody’s lips and some claim it will change landscape photography forever. I think not.

The company Skylum Software who has created the post-processing software Luminar will very soon release its newest update “Luminar AI”. With Luminar AI they promise to speed up the workflow by applying artificial intelligence to the post-processing phase of photography. There has already been a good amount of doom-and-gloom articles and videos about how this software will change the photography industry forever, for the worse. Put on top of this the very new implementation of easy sky replacement in Adobe Photoshop, a feature that was first introduced in Luminar 4 about a year ago, we really get things stirring among landscape photographers.

With all these new technologies for easy editing towards what some people might define as “more optimal photos” many photographers seem to think it is a slippery slope towards artificial, fake, and easy photographs optimized for social media. In a recent video of mine, from the perspective of a landscape photographer, I discuss how I do not think this new software will change anything or only very little. One of the arguments for me is that handing my photos over to some AI software ruins half the fun of being a landscape photographer. I do not think that any software, no matter how artificially intelligent it is, knows how I want to edit my photos. On top of that neither do I think it can compensate for the heavy time blending masking I often do in Photoshop or the meticulous balancing of tones and colors.

Be sure to check out the video above where I also discuss the easy sky replacement aspect of landscape photography. Also, let me hear below whether you think this new software will change anything or if it is just another storm in a teacup.

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28 Comments

Les Sucettes's picture

You said it. At best it caters for amateurs or time poor real estate photographers who need to deliver same day and cannot wait for that sky the real estate agent wants.

AI doesn’t replace your brain.

I’m sure we’ll have AI as an artist one day, as a gimmick, and someone will get super rich because it’s so new and different (I’m already bored by it, even before it happened)... and it’ll be all the rage for 10 years and then... done. Oh and those real estate photographers, they might become operators or agents themselves... so what.

00rob00 Rob00Rob's picture

Shouldn't the use of these programs be less with all the supposed IQ in these newer cameras?

Felix C's picture

When you replace the sky it stops being a photograph. AI is for wannabe photographers. There are no shortcuts to a great photograph. And I can not believe the amount of money these software companies have been dangling in front of YouTube photographers. Only a few really good ones have not taken the bait.

And Mads if you were paid by them, you need to disclose that. You don’t want Fstoppers to be fined by the FTC.

Andy Baden's picture

Not sure why people are being phobic about replacing a sky in an image, it’s not new, it has just become easier. There is still work to do as the masks are good, but not perfect. You can use your own sky images, not just the library ones, so what’s the fuss about,

Lee Christiansen's picture

I'm assuming all these people who don't like this, have banned PS from their computer. And they most likely don't work in a commercial environment.

Les would have us tell clients to wait a week or two, and then have the building prepared on our schedule, (whilst I'm assuming we tell the other headshot client that they're cancelled because "the sky is good today...")

And whilst Felix sounds like he just woke in a bad mood today, a photograph is much more than what he thinks it is. The camera is merely the start of an image's journey and there are many types of great photographs - or are you sticking with JPEG and no PS, or maybe film is the only true mantra to be worshipped.

You guys realise that composites have been done almost since the beginning of photography - or is it only ok if it is done optically and it takes a long time to do badly?

Sheesh - I see such narrow views on how we do our jobs or hobbies. If I took these views, I'd have been out of business decades ago, or maybe I've been kidding my clients with my "wannabe-amateur" approach.

Felix C's picture

A composite is not a photograph. And we are talking about photographs and not composites here. Fstoppers is a photography website the last time I checked. There was an individual who enter a photographed in a European photo contest recently. They came in first place until someone noticed that the night time sky couldn't exist because the image was of a German church with a night sky with a southern hemisphere. Sky replacements are for wannabe photographers and there is no shortcut to a great photograph.

Gerald Bertram's picture

This race to produce easy sky replacement processes has been great to real estate photogs like myself. Often I have less than 24 hours to turn around photos. I can do a sky replacement msyelf using a more manual method but all this AI sky replacement stuff helps me do it faster. Faster but not quite as good but good enough for MLS. Anything that saves me time is huge with my razor thin timelines. With how insane the market has been recently most of the homes I've been shooting have sold in less than 6 days from going on market, often more like 3-4 days. So I have to shoot as soon as possible regardless of the weather or time of day.

Being able to provide an agent more pleasing exteriors from a shoot day that was horribly overcast is just another tool in my bag to help make for a happy agent/home owner, i.e., the people that enable me to pay my bills. No different than being able to raise the shadows, lower the highlights or make a winter lawn look more green as it would in the summer. Personally, I'm not making art here. Just a marketing tool to sell a home.

Felix C's picture

Interesting, is that not being deceptive to potential clients? Does the real estate agent disclose that? I would consider that borderline fraud if it is not disclosed.

Gerald Bertram's picture

Disclosing what? A blue sky or the green grass? Neither would be considered borderline fraud. Now if you started doing things like removing blemishes on walls/floors or altering some physical object then that is something I won't do. Messing with the sky or making grass look a bit greener is something I have no problem with nor has it ever been an issue in the past 10 years of shooting real estate.

Felix C's picture

In federal terms it is called false and misleading advertising. Most states have similar laws. Real estate has it own set of rules which disclosure is paramount. Do you tell the agents that you are using fake skys?

derek j's picture

Uh, no. The real estate agent is not promising you will have pleasing skies everyday. Just like the house wont always look the way it does during golden hour after a spring rainshower, evem without editing.

Cool Cat's picture

So you're saying it's not deceptive to withhold importance details the customer should know? That is like saying the big fat juicy hamburger you see on the menu isn't guaranteed to be that great once you open the surprise package.

Gerald Bertram's picture

What important details are being withheld? Keep in mind I'm talking about sky or grass color. To use your analogy, a more accurate statement would be that the picture of big fat juicy hamburger you see on the menu isn't guaranteed to be on the beige plate that's in the picture. The plate might be white. Nothing about the hamburger, or house in this case, is different at all.

Thatcher Freeman's picture

It's more like you buy some burger and then you realize the other customers aren't as attractive as they were in the McDonalds ads.

Nobody in their right mind expects the sky to look a certain way when they buy a house because the sky looks different every day. If you're doing some retouching on the house or lighting the house in some crazy way, then sure, you could have a point with the burger analogy, but sky replacements on real estate photography is completely different.

Cool Cat's picture

You're right. But I was talking about more than just a sky replacement.

derek j's picture

no, i am saying cloudless skies are not an important detail, and therefore there is no harm in it being withheld

Lee Christiansen's picture

Is the sky part of the purchase deal - because if it is, then I should be talking to my seller who didn't include it in my purchase.

But on the off-chance the sky isn't part of the deal, what part of the sale is deceptive? (I'll give you a clue... NONE).

Felix C's picture

You do realize that how the sky is is also determined by geography? Not all could formations will appear over a certain locations. So go ahead and add a sky replacement that will never appear over a certain location. And real estate is different, at least in my state, you do have to disclose.

derek j's picture

Good photos get more people to view the home.

Gerald Bertram's picture

That's my fault for making it sound that way. To address what you said I'm not in any more hurry to make a dollar than I ever was before. I am being rushed by the agents to get photos back to them as quickly as possible because their company won't put the houses on MLS before the photos are in hand. The agents know houses right now are selling very quickly so they want my photos/videos ASAP so they can list and get their commission as quickly as possible and, according to what I am being told, agents right now are also afraid of the housing market suddenly bottoming out so they want to list and sell as quickly as possible. Again, this is just what they are telling me. I don't personally have any great insight into the housing market where I am other than I am pretty damn busy and am being pushed to get photos/videos turned around as quickly as possible.

Cool Cat's picture

There is nothing wrong to make a pretty picture to hang on a wall. But in real estate it's called deceiving people. I believe in correcting the contrast or white balance because you discovered it wasn't done correctly in camera. But I have seen sky replacement, patching the grass, making it look greener and removing the neighbors tractor because it looked bad. Then when a prospect arrives they are shocked into reality. The area where the house was located is overcast 90% of the time, the grass is patchy and brown because it was never maintained and their neighbors tractor is still sitting there. But I guess it isn't any different than seeing a big fat juicy hamburger on the menu that actually looks like your grandmother sat on it once you open the surprise package.

Thumbs up/down... let it roll.

Gerald Bertram's picture

Not really, at least in my experience. Again I've been doing this for about 10 years now. There is a very real line you you shouldn't cross when shooting real estate and honestly I've never had an agent ask for something that crosses that line. Nor ever in my 10 years of doing this have I ever heard of a potential buyer being shocked or even disappointed at any difference between listing photos I shot and what they see in person. I have numerous relationships with other shooters in my area and haven't heard that from them either. I would certainly think an agent would tell me if that has happened. But maybe other real estate photogs are willing to cross that line.

Cool Cat's picture

I never seen anyone return a hamburger when it doesn't look fat and juicy like it does on the menu. But it doesn't make the photo any less deceptive no matter how you look at it. Just stating facts.

Gerald Bertram's picture

(not to sound like an ass here) Welcome to the world of marketing. Be it a house, hamburger or clothing. Making the product look it's best, within certain limits, is our job as photographers. If you want to talk about deceptive you should really look at commercial food media and their cereal floating in bowls of Elmer's glue.

Lee Christiansen's picture

You are aware that skies tend to change over time, and that no picture can ever describe what the sky will be like when a property is purchased.

By your logic, a photographer shooting real estate should first research the average sky in an area and then only photograph on a day the sky looks "average"

I don't know about you, but where I live, my sky can be overcast, stormy, blue, red, yellow, or have fluffy clouds... Which one am I allowed to photograph when selling my house?

Cool Cat's picture

Someone mentioned patching the grass and making it look greener. That's deceptive. Why not replace the sod with new grass and be honest.

Gerald Bertram's picture

Gonna have to agree to disagree here. All I can say is that it is common place in my field and never once in 10 years have I heard from a agent, broker, home owner OR home buyer that it was deceptive or dishonest.

Cool Cat's picture

I appreciate the respectful way you reply to comments. I do agree with a lot of what you said. But as as example, most people will never tell the restaurant owner that their food stinks, they just don't return. And years ago when shopping for a house I actually commented on the yard not looking like the picture. The real estate agent said it was poorly managed even though the picture was recently taken. I felt like I was at a used car dealer and never bought a house from him.