Pro Photographers Watch Out! AI Is Coming for You. Or Is It?

Pro Photographers Watch Out! AI Is Coming for You. Or Is It?

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is about AI and my opinion on it. Being an artist puts you at risk of AI taking your job, or so it would seem. In fact, I believe that AI is creating jobs. Here is why you should not worry about AI and what to focus on instead.


I've played around with AI and now often use AI to complete various boring and time-consuming tasks. Sometimes, when a text conversation gets boring and annoying, I use AI-generated responses for the fun of it. AI is a very fun tool, after all. Just imagine that a few years back, everyone was having a gag at what Boston Dynamics was doing, but now, their robots are in state agencies and possibly some militaries even. It is only fair to say that while tech is not advancing as fast as it was 20 years ago, it is still going at light speed. AI was something most of us thought of as a concept for the distant future. Sure, from the mouth of Elon Musk, most things sound like crazy ideas and concepts. However, the advent of AI happened almost too soon, and it took the world by storm. Suddenly, teachers had to check for plagiarism and AI-generated content, copywriters lost their jobs to Mr. ChatGPT, and artists started to fear for theirs because AI art was getting scary good.

The Industrial (AI) Revolution 

There is no doubt that AI will take some jobs away. Any leap in technology does. The internal combustion engine meant a global decrease in horse population, while the industrial revolution put millions of workers out of their jobs. Everyone was replaced by tech. The human factor became less and less. Or so it would seem. While horses did disappear quite fast because they had one role, people did not. You see, we as humans have the magic ability to learn, or at least some of us sort of do.

How Are You With New Tech? 

With any new technology that enters the market, there are usually two groups of people: the ones riding the wave and the ones being drowned by it. Learning new tech is not an easy task, no matter how high your IQ is. There is a learning curve associated with massive breakthroughs, which AI undoubtedly is. Let’s look at the end of film photography and the advent of digital. Because all of a sudden, there was a completely new way of producing images, and you no longer had the limitation of your roll, some photographers jumped on the bandwagon. However, many, especially the stubborn professionals, were convinced that digital would never be as high quality as film and would only be a short-lived adventure. Real photography would always be on film. Interestingly enough, before William Eggleston became famous, color film photography was also seen as not real photography. In short, not too long after digital cameras became a thing, more and more people switched, leaving the old guard behind.

While film photography is experiencing a gain in popularity now, especially with the younger generation, this is simply due to the nostalgic time that it reminds them of. The same can be said about the early digital point-and-shoot cameras, which every 20-year-old has. The point is, photographers who refused to use digital cameras, in the majority of cases, went out of business. The people who were really losing jobs, though, were the lab technicians. Their skill was working with a medium that was now seen as outdated. The clever ones among those quickly learned digital photography and became editors, digital techs, and so on. You see, a good tech can develop a roll of film, but also a digital negative. It is also worth saying that digital photography was only a tool that made the jobs of photographers easier. Lastly, film is still very popular with fashion and portrait photographers.

Is AI Just a Tool or a Weapon? 

You might already have an idea of the point I am trying to make here. AI will be sort of like film in the sense of it being a tool, and while it will take away some jobs, for sure, it will also create many more. In more detail, AI will replace all of those photographers that take pack shots and catalog images against a white background. Just like Photoshop and 3D rendering took away the jobs of car photographers. If you are doing a job where all you do is press a button, I have bad news for you. This is the sort of job that can be easily done by AI, cheaper and better. One thing you can do to stay ahead of the curve is to learn AI and find a job that combines both your photography skills and AI. Those photographers will become AI artists, or perhaps AI technicians.

For the rest of us that do slightly more creative photography, we are safe. AI is a tool that we can use for our creativity. Instead of worrying about it taking our job, we should focus on having a strong vision, building the list of references and getting inspired. After all, what we bring to the job is ourselves. I can give my assistant my camera and tell him to take the shot. He will not do it the same way I would. It is the process and the thought behind the image that counts. AI can give you a good outcome, but it will always take a human to tell the AI what to do. AI is unlikely to have a strong creative voice that is individual to a human being. It might get close to what a child can do, but not more.

Don't Worry About AI, Do This Instead

Creativity is a very human process. I can’t really think of an example other than us. We are moved and affected by billions of thoughts and experiences. These form our personality, which then directly impacts our creativity. Your childhood can dictate your taste in art and music. I know for sure that my childhood experience with ballet is the reason for my photographic style now. So, instead of worrying about AI, worry about missing an exhibition or a performance.

What are your thoughts on AI? Are you worried it will take your job? Let us know in the comments below.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.

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I thought armchair opinions were limited to comments. (guilty) Illya, I would have loved to read something a bit more researched. The reasoning here appears to be, 'AI is dumb bro. (trust me) Don't press buttons. Make art.'

When not shooting, I extensively works with custom AI models on personal projects. AI certainly is way more capable than, 'close to what a child can do, but not more.' AI can be trained on our composition, lighting, and editing style through loRA/Embedding. A separate AI trains on your model/person with about 15-20 images through Dreambooth. You can pose your models through ControlNet. So most of the 'thought' that goes into your work can be reproduced artificially.

Sure you can find bad examples of generative images--but this is also true of finding terrible photos from ametuer photographers. It still takes skill in knowing how to use the tools properly. I know photographers that now offer virtual photoshoots with influencers with the above methods. They scrape 20 images off the grams, train a Dreambooth for a few hours, (or less in the cloud) and then have fun generating whatever conceptual or non-conceptual ideas they have. Only a tiny fraction of the population can tell the delivered images were generative - especially the ones that don't include hands 😆

I have to agree with the Author. Let's face it, AI is one of those areas where too much 'research' will make you biased. With the right skill one can make a (n almost) perfect copy of Mona Lisa. And yet it will still be a worthless fake. Where all the effort went into making it a 'perfect' fake and not making it a piece of art. Da Vinci on the other hand made a personal effort to create a truly unique piece that has not been surpassed in all these centuries. That is art.

AI is a tool. A misunderstood one. It is powerful, it is artificial but there is no intelligence or creativity in it. It is algorithms that create mostly fake output based on knowledge that someone else accumulated and then converted into data.

So yes, make art. That art will be a unique piece of you. AI can create something similar or even make a perfect copy. But where is the value or art in that? Just junk.

Not being able to tell that an image is generative is not a proof of intelligence or some algorithmical superiority. It merely reminds us of the existence of a tool with which we have reached new heights of fooling ourselves. Nothing new there.

AI has been around since the 80's - ever not able to spell a word? auto correcting in wordstar included with the Osborne Computer luggable in April 3, 1981. Help me when I had a 50 people to eval all through the year, gone was the yellow tablet and pencil gave print outs and disk readable by the new IBM's also.
Little known you have to know a word to look it up there are so many different ways that you can spend hours looking for it.

"Being an artist puts you at risk of AI taking your job". This a very amusing statement.

Being an artist and a job are two totally different things. Apples and computer motherboards.

If you view what you do as a job you are not an artist. You may be creating an awesome looking things nonetheless not being an artist. Creating awesome looking and veeery creative things is not the same as being an artist. And sorry to be a bearer of bad news but AI will take your job sooner or later ... unless you decide to quit your job and be an artist ...