New Algorithm Could Put Famous Photographers' Styles on Your Cellphone

Have you ever wanted to take photographs like Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus or Martin Schoeller? Don't have time to put in all that pesky hard work to learn masterful control of lighting and post-processing? Soon, you may be able to have images just like theirs! Well, sort of. Researchers at MIT, in conjunction with Adobe, have developed an algorithm that mimics styles of iconic photographers transforming flat, lifeless photos into masterful imitations of art. No word yet on if there will be "taste" sliders or "restraint" clipping warnings.

All sarcasm aside, the technology is actually pretty interesting, and the Schoeller one is surprisingly decent (it even looks like they've added the right catchlights). The scientists have gone drastically beyond global adjustments, analyzing the characteristics of specific parts of the face and focusing on making the small scale (the pores and hair) look right.

Although in the early stages, it's not farfetched to think of this kind of technology as having a huge impact on the photographic community. If one is able to demystify someone's visual style and reproduce it rather effectively, what happens then? A global legion of copy cats? Imagine Avedon's style as easy as a push of a button and as common as Instagram. Then again, will the disparity between 'mediocre' and 'great' widen, causing the upper echelon to push photography into something completely new? What do you think?

MIT via Reddit

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11 Comments

Sean Shimmel's picture

Hmm... certainly interesting, but a wee bit of the "Uncanny Valley" going on with the motion

As far as it concerns technology, it is interesting and hopefully will have some applications aside from photography. As far as it concerns photography, it is just another gimmick for those that are not photographers nor want to be.

James Nedresky's picture

No matter what the output or filter, if the shot's interesting going in, it'l be interesting going out.

Timuçin HIZAL's picture

How to seperated face for the background. İt seems white and other whites (teeth eye bla) not affected. Impressive...

Maybe they just get an outline instead of selecting everything white :)

The equipment and software is simply a tool. I think this app is not really for photographers but people who just want to play. Like Instagram but for portraits.

I'd be more interested in an app that could tell me possible lighting set ups if I plugged in a photo.

Just a click away? Um, right, because all it took for Avedon to create the Chanel portrait for example was a white seamless (which is copyrighted by amazon anyway, so there goes that idea)...

Is the photographer's style protected? This sounds like they are just ripping off lighting styles of famous photographers. If I did that and were to profit, couldn't the photographer sue me? Now if they liscene the style, that would be different and could act as incentive to create more experimentation.

You can't license a style. People are KNOWN for their styles, but there is nothing to prevent that from being used from other people. Just look at Marc Adamus' photographic work. He had/has a unique style, and now it seems that nearly everyone has copied that style. If you could license styles, people would be licensing natural sunlight styles and other such common themes. There is no clear way to qualify a particular style and turn that into a protected copyright, as many of the elements are completely subjective.

I'll take it seriously when there's a "Cruise Ship" photographer style available.