AI - Friend or Foe in the Photography Industry?

AI photography tools Real vs AI photography Photography innovation Creative photography vision Embracing AI in photography


A match made in heaven, or a recipe for disaster?

Hi! I'm Lauren

World's most OK mom and Photographer.

Here at Focus Darling, we’re dedicated to empowering our fellow photographers to build the successful photography business of their dreams.

I've been in the photography game for quite some time now, and let me tell you, the journey has been nothing short of fascinating. The past decade alone, it's been a technological whirlwind, with the goalposts constantly shifting on how we should run our businesses. 

And if that wasn't enough, throw in a few lockdowns and a recession for good measure!

Today I want to talk about something that’s been playing on my mind more and more lately. 

The intersection of AI and photography - a match made in heaven, or a recipe for disaster?

But before we dive into that, let me share the little story that got me thinking:

Hubs and I recently treated ourselves to a (rare, child-free) lunch at this rad spot called The Alchemist. It's this edgy, gothic gem nestled in Gunwharf Quays, overlooking the super yachts of the untouchables.

And let me tell you, the ambiance is something else! Opulent and dark - almost as rich and satisfying as the food itself. But that isn’t what got me.

As I sat there, taking it all in, it hit me like a ton of bricks: a real person designed this space. An actual, flesh-and-blood human poured their heart and soul into creating this haven of creativity.

It's "real."

It got me thinking about the raw power of human talent and the beauty of the real world around us. 

Someone put their heart and soul into creating this space, honing their craft over the years, pouring hours into design, redesign, failures, and victories. It made me appreciate the power of human creativity in a whole new way.

Just a year ago, I might have appreciated the atmosphere, sure, but now I found myself really looking, appreciating, and tbh, feeling pretty emotional and proud at what we humans are capable of.

It was a moment of clarity. A realization that shifted something deep within me, and I haven't looked at the world the same way since. My eyes are wide open to the beauty of human talent all around me: the tangible, the stories, the skill, but most of all, the REAL.

It’s a beautiful feeling, almost like I’m seeing the world anew again.

And that is thanks to AI, believe it or not.

AI Verses Photography

Now, onto the topic at hand: AI and photography.

We have been thrown unceremoniously into the world of automation, where art, creativity and talent are questioned on the daily. 

Where we photographers zoom in, looking for the tell-tell glitch signature of AI (and our clients are mostly oblivious).

Where right now, the only rules are there are no rules

Now don’t get me wrong - I am enjoying AI! The possibilities it has opened up not only for our creative visions, but for automating and taking some of the pressure off are mind-blowing (when they work, of course).

The past year, I've been immersing myself in the world of AI-generated images, playing around with tools like Midjourney, Adobe Generative Fill, and feeding prompts into ChatGPT to see what it is capable of. And let me tell you, it's been a rollercoaster of emotions.

Sometimes, I'm blown away by the possibilities that AI opens up for us as photographers. Occasionally I find myself overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it all. 

And other times, I find myself both distinctly underwhelmed and frustrated by how it simply doesn’t “get what I need”... It's a mixed bag, to say the least.

For example, over in EnchantiPix I’ve created over 3,000 mostly AI images in a stock library for Photographers to use in their own work however they like. Instant? No. That took over 20,000 images and hours spent correcting and upscaling. 

Easy? Absolutely not.

In E.P. you can find Overlays, backgrounds, and more to use in your creative compositing. AI generated digital backgrounds are everywhere right now, with some of the top names in the digital background industries having gone completely AI. Whether this is a good or bad thing is subjective.

But does this replace photography? NO chance! Enhances certain images and helps realise your creative vision, yes. But replaces photography? Nope Nip Nada Zilch! 

And here’s why:

AI isn't here to steal our thunder or put us out of a job. It's simply another tool in our arsenal—a powerful one? Sure. A wild beast that is unpredictable at best? No doubt. But a tool nonetheless.

And like any tool, it's how we use it that makes all the difference.

Sure, AI is advancing at lightning speed, with the technological race to “get ahead“ now running itself, but it'll never replace the soulful touch of a human artist. How can it possibly do that? Machine learning and human creativity may look the same to the untrained eye for about 30 seconds, but it quickly becomes apparent that AI actually makes our blood, sweat and tears all the more tangible and precious.

Let's look into the past a little bit

You know, back in the 1800s, cameras became all the rage, but portrait artists didn't hang up their brushes.

And think about these panic moments for us photographers just over the last few decades, that maybe caused a temporary glitch in our business and shook up our marketing. 

But instead of flattening our industry, they made it all the more special:

1990s - Accessible disposable cameras were released and for the general public. Did wedding professional photography become obsolete? No chance.

2000s - Digital cameras became mainstream, easy to plug and upload those little mega pixels into the home computer. But professional photographers didn't throw in the towel.

2000s - And when Photoshop became more capable, Did we pack up our gear and call it quits? NO! We adapted, we innovated, rolled with the punches and we thrived.

2010s - Camera phones went up to 5mp and beyond rapidly, meaning instead of grainy selfies, users could actually start getting creative with their phones and print the photos off too. Did that make professional ‘togs antiquated? Of course not.

Each new technological advancement sparked fears of irrelevance among professional photographers, but guess what? We're still here, thriving and evolving.

Fast forward to right now: The 2020s has heralded the dawn of AI. 

From apps, to Photoshop content aware and only a few years later, Beta Generative Fill.

AI has exploded into our lives and is only going to get more powerful, more intuitive and more clever.

Will this make our livelihood and creativity redundant? No. Not exactly.

If you think about it, why should AI be any different to all those other scary new technological advances that threatened to topple us? We photographers rolled with the changes and found our own unique angle.

Each advancement so far has only served to make professional photography more desirable.

Our clients don’t just want a photo album now, they want to fill their walls with art. They want social shares. They want to back up to the cloud. 

All those advancements of the past we worried about? They have just given us more fuel, bigger opportunities and allowed us to become accessible to those of all incomes and backgrounds… which can’t be a bad thing.

The way I see it, it isn’t about an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em" mentality. No. It's just another evolution in our industry that we can embrace and incorporate into our workflow.

So... what about AI in your own photography workflow?

Does this mean you have to use AI in your workflow now, if you aren't already? And how much is "too much"? Well, that is down to you. 

As a collective industry, I believe we need to roll with the changes. BUT instead of relenting and giving up, we can embrace how this sets us apart from artificial intelligence.

Whatever you decide to do, here’s how I feel AI enhances our work without overtaking it:

-- Saving time by using Photoshop Generative Fill to remove and replace areas we didn’t get right in the camera (dad’s watch, the sides of the background, wrinkles in the t-shirt, etc).

-- Using Photoshop’s background and subject selection to help with background removal, masking, and more. Using programs such as Topaz for image enhancement such as noise removal and sharpening.

-- Image recognition using AI technology to categorize your image libraries using keywords.

-- Creating enchanting digital backgrounds for creative fantasy images in Midjourney. This actually becomes digital art instead of photography, and the two complement each other now.

-- Designing your own background textures, overlays, and enhancements in Midjourney, but keeping the essence of your own image the same.

-- Training the ChatGPT language model in our brand voice to help us craft our website copy, promotions, social posts, and marketing. 

With all that being said, I feel we have a responsibility to maintain a natural integrity as a professional photographer, so we don’t blur the line between reality and fantasy when it comes to preserving our client’s memories.

For instance, I feel uncomfortable using AI to change the appearance of subjects, or a sentimental location, as it undermines the authenticity and truthfulness of the image and will only lead to a certain sadness when the client looks back on these images in years to come.

But on the flipside, using AI to create entire scenes is SUPER fun when you are creating art for your client and can really create that WOW effect. 

For example, your captured your maternity client on a plain white background and will still include that in the gallery. But you've also created a second image, and the client is now transported into a lofty room with fantasy clouds and jewels dripping from the ceiling, representing her own story she told you during the consult. 

These new artistic additions can be an amazing add-on to your client gallery (when done with a story in mind and creative skill) and in most cases, are expected by the client now.

BUT in some scenarios, such as lifestyle or wedding photography, fabricating entire scenes will have the opposite effect, as it undermines the authenticity and truthfulness of the image. (Imagine if that old photo album of your mother’s contained only AI images, would you feel a sentimental attachment to your authentic past still?)

As a photographer, our first brief always has been (and always will be) to preserve the authenticity of our client’s memories.

Can we blur the line between fantasy and reality? OF COURSE! Artists have been doing this since we first learned to mash powder into paint.

BUT I believe natural integrity comes first and right now, with the dawn of AI, this is actually more important than ever.

Choosing when and how to use AI is in our hands.

As photographers, we've always adapted and thrived in the face of change. Sure, AI is advancing at a rapid pace, but that doesn't mean it's going to replace us. If anything, it's going to push us to new heights of creativity and innovation.

Though I think it has a long way to go, AI isn't our enemy—it's our ally.

Instead of seeing it as a threat, I choose to see it as an opportunity to push the boundaries of our creativity.

Some may argue that AI-generated images threaten the authenticity of photography, but I see it differently: 

The rise of AI serves three points for us 'togs:

1. To highlight the value of genuine, human-made photography. 

2. To enhance the galleries you have created in line with modern expectations.

3. To aid in our own creative visions and workflow (whether that is imagery, text or more).

Will AI Replace Photography as an industry?

And as for the MAIN THING we're worried about - will client's using AI replace photography as an industry? 

Well, none of us have a crystal ball but this is how I see it: 

You can grab a quick, mass-produced meal at McDonald's any day of the week, but nothing NOTHING beats the experience of dining at a stunning restaurant with art on the walls to rival the bedazzling mixology of the courses served. 

AI may be advancing at breakneck speed, but it can never replicate the authenticity, creativity, and passion that we bring to our craft as photographers.

AI isn't ruining our industry, I believe it will only serve to make real photography more precious. More of a commodity. More valuable. 

Photography is the truth; AI is the liar, and that will never change.

So how about let's celebrate the beauty of human talent, the authenticity of real photography, and the endless possibilities that AI brings to the table. 

Can we have our cake AND eat it (in a fancy restaurant)? YES WE CAN!

I feel as long as we experiment with AI tools in our workflow, but always keep our creative vision at the forefront, then we are riding this evolutionary step in our industry with ease. 

If you can blend the best of both worlds to elevate your craft and set yourself apart as a rare and precious talent in a sea of digital noise, you will not only ride out this shake up, but thrive with it.

Remember, my talented friend - we're not just photographers. We're innovators, designers and inventors.

Your "mostly" human friend,



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