Is AI Going To Make Photography Obsolete?

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Is AI Going To Make Photography Obsolete?

If there were one topic that stood out atop all others in 2023, I'd wager that it would be Artificial Intelligence (AI). It was as if we couldn't go a few days without a new article or video announcing a new AI tool that will write your blog post, whip up a custom soundtrack, and generate a pristine photo simply by typing what you want into a text prompt. This technology has already manifested itself in Photoshop with the introduction of Adobe Firely and Generative Fill technologies.

And for the most part, I'm totally ok with it because it does an incredible job for my needs. The way I see it, Generative Fill/AI can do three things for photographers, and of them, I heavily rely on #2 and #3:

  1. It can create subjects, objects, and entire compositions out of nothing.
  2. It can expertly remove distractions, even from complex backgrounds, and seamlessly fill the space in.
  3. It can expand my canvas in the event that I need to add breathing room around the edge of my composition.

I don't rely on #1 because adding objects that weren't originally there or creating entirely new compositions using AI doesn't appeal to me. Sure, it's fun to mess around with that technology to see what it can do. But, one of the chief components of being a photographer is using your camera to take a photo. Everything that goes into that is what makes a photographer a photographer.

What's your purpose?

Ultimately, the question you have to ask yourself is, "What is the purpose of creating your photo?" If the first answer that comes to mind is that you just want to share your newest image online, then I'd argue it doesn't really matter how you create it. Go nuts with using AI to create a stunning photo of a mountain range with a perfect river flowing at the base during a beautiful sunset... as I did with this image:

I bet I could share this photo on social media, and it'd get a ton of Likes and Comments because, let's face it, it's quite stunning. And when you remember that these photos are often consumed by people on their smartphones with their small displays, there wouldn't be much scrutiny over issues like the oversharpened foreground or smudgy clouds. It'd serve its purpose.

However, if your purpose for creating your photo is because you genuinely love the process of photography and everything it entails, then there is no AI in the world that could replicate that for you. For me, photography is more about the means, not the end. It's the process, not the outcome.

So, Will AI Make Photography Obsolete?

I don't know, to be honest. In some cases, I definitely believe so. In the past, companies would typically hire a photographer to create photos to be used as part of a product or marketing campaign. Today? With AI getting better and better, these same marketers can just as easily create quite stunning images for free, basically. Why spend thousands of dollars to pay a photographer when you can type in a string of text and have an AI model generate as many striking images as you need?

However, will AI make photographers obsolete as a whole? No, I don't believe so. We are still blessed to live on a beautiful planet with countless wonders that can be photographed. We still love the idea of traveling, exploring, and connecting. So long as we have that drive and the desire to capture our lives with our cameras, then AI will not touch us.

Still, I recommend watching this episode of Lightroom Everywhere Live, where I'm joined by my good friend, Blake Rudis. Blake is an outstanding photo educator who has recently been spending a lot of time learning about AI and how it impacts photography. It's definitely worth your time. Enjoy!


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