Late this spring, PhotoShop began offering subscribers a new set of beta-version AI tools, and based on the promo videos, professional photographers panicked. Very quickly, though, this anxiety gave way to amusement, because it became clear the tools were far less than perfect. We were supposed to be able to type a few keywords into a text box and the PhotoShop AI would use those prompts to generate flawless edits, exotic backgrounds, and difficult fixes (like face swaps). The results were often ridiculous or downright creepy, adding completely unrelated objects and body parts. I tried the tools a few times, was disappointed with the results, and moved on.
The AI moved on, too, learning as it went, and within just a few months of us pro photogs using the tools, it “learned” what we wanted, honing its algorithms and churning out results more in line with what we were asking for. The tools still has issues with hands, feet and eyes, but overall, the learning curve was dramatic. In a matter of months, we photographers taught the AI what we meant when we said “drape fabric” or “remove hat” or “place subject in field of flowers.”
Did we just spend the summer teaching these rough tools to replace us, I wondered?
Then other companies picked up the AI-for-photos ball and ran in another direction. Overnight, dozens of apps began appearing, offering amazing selfie edits and restoration of old photos. Again, the results were spotty at best in the first few months (human eyes are so, so hard to get right) but they improved dramatically, especially in the photo restoration arena.
Eventually — perhaps sooner than we think — much of our art, including photography, will be artificially generated by these tools. Just take a cell phone photo of your brand-new baby, upload it to an app, and there’s an image of your newborn carefully wrapped, held aloft by a stork, or cradled in an elephant’s trunk, or nestled in a row of cabbages. Who needs a newborn photographer, when these AI tools make it so easy to get gorgeous, fantastical images without spending the time or money, and without even leaving your home?
Of course, what I and other newborn photographers offer is more than just the finished product, a beautiful photo of your new baby. There’s something emotional and precious about a newborn session; it’s a moving rite of passage, a milestone to celebrate. An app can’t replace the experience of the session itself. Sure, the AI-generated images based on your quick cell phone snap can be beautiful, fun, creative — but they can’t replace an actual session with a photographer you love working with.
Someday AI may figure out a way to replace the connection you feel during a newborn session, but until then, it’s just another (admittedly high-tech) tool we use, like our pricey cameras and specialty props. For now, I’ll just be over here, enjoying every minute I get snuggling your sweet babes, and creating newborn photos you’ll love forever.