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AI Art and Photography

AI Art and Photography

Jul 01, 2023

A few weeks ago, maybe a month now, I did a video on using AI as a tool to eliminate or reduce the noise in your photography. I did that video because I feel that it is a tool that will help photographers of all types, experience levels and ambition to make photos that are compelling and not constrained by lower ISOs or longer shutter speeds to prevent noise from creeping in. I truly believe this and am all for a tool that helps a person do their job.

I am using the word “tool” specifically here because I want to make a distinction as I carry on a little bit. Most of the time when I give impromptu photography lessons, or in my YouTube videos, or anything else I do with photography; I tell people that the equipment they have doesn’t matter so long as they hone in on the skills and techniques that help create great photos. It is those skills that set photographers apart from each other. The more they can grasp the concepts of light, and composition, and storytelling the more they will create great images. The gear, all of it, are just tools in the process of capturing those images and making the photos.

A few of the best photos I have made over the years have come from low budget cameras, or my cellphone with 8 megapixels in the camera. Because I have a pretty decent understanding of composition, light and story-telling I come away with something equally as decent. I have honed that blade in this craft for a long time and have taken great joy in doing that. As an aside, I hope to help guide people through the same process and joy at some point as well; but I digress.

This is why I wanted to make the distinction between the tools and the skills in photography. The tools are an aide to the user of those tools and the skills they possess. AI tools are no different in my opinion. They can be a great aide to you as a photographer, but they can also be used to a great detriment as well. I have seen a few articles and posts on social media talking about the end of photography because AI can create the images that photographers make. A computer, rendering an image based upon a prompt or series of prompts to create something for people to enjoy. Computer based art. 

This is where I start to bristle a little bit. And it is for two reasons mainly. I think. The first reason is that by having computers, machines, take over the creation of some spectacular scenery and sites it destroys the craft and passion that so many people hold dear to them. Not to mention the people that make a full time living in this craft of landscape photography. These AI tools are potentially taking their jobs away. That is a scary proposition to me. I am not a full time landscape photographer, while I consider myself a professional photographer I am not doing it full time. Yet. Or maybe I won’t be. That prospect is disappointing and disheartening. And I hope beyond hopes that it won’t be true.

The second reason why this makes me bristle a little bit is the excitement in some of the new technologies that have come around lately. I am not one to discourage or look down on new technologies and new geeky things like that. My full time job is in technology. I get to play with, build, fix and enhance the latest and greatest in wireless internet technology. I am a serious geek here folks… if you haven’t figured that out yet, I’ll give you a minute to ruminate on that before I go on.

So, the reason why this makes me bristle is because we as a society keep running down the rabbit hole of technologies and grasping really tightly the reins of every new thing before it is really given a chance to mature. A few years ago I was learning about blockchain, and encryption and how it would help us all with our security and privacy. Next thing I see, it is being used to create little weird pictures of monkeys that are being sold for thousands of dollars. That’s right…. THOUSANDS. It boggled my mind, but intrigued me all the same. I dabbled a little bit in it, made a little bit of money in it and got to see some of the hype first hand. And now… poof. The markets are still there for NFTs, and there are people creating them still. But the popularity waned really fast. And to the best of my knowledge, there are some people that lost big in this. The only part of monetized blockchain that has survived so far since the beginning are the crypto-currencies. I am not an economist by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t think the world economies are ready to handle this type of currency full time just yet. Just seeing the hype and “all in” mentality I think is what broke some of this to begin with.

Now, back to the issue at hand. AI taking over for photographers. Is it really going to happen? I don’t know. Most of what I see now is hype, and I hope that there is going to be room for traditional photography as things progress. There are still some great locations in the world to see, and nature is always a wonder to me. Why let AI take all the fun out of learning, exploring and seeing our world. Our “Pale Blue Dot” as Carl Sagan once said. I think there is enough space on this planet for both to happen. In the meantime, I am going to sit back and watch. In a society that seemingly propels itself on chaos most days, I think I am going to take a more patient and considered approach to it this time. 

Who knows. Maybe the next monetized AI or machine learning thing is going to be digital cheeseburgers or something. I like cheeseburgers. So that might be alright. 

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