AI and the Future of Photography

Milwaukee’s Calatrava, by Kathy Fiakas

Ken Duquaine

The recent advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), while tremendously exciting in many respects, have caused considerable concern among scientists and the general public as to the implications of that technology in many important areas. And like many other photographers, I have been forced to question the future of a hobby that has consumed more hours of my time in the past 20 years than I care to imagine.

Professional photographers who depend on their skills to earn a living are facing a very different and far more vexing dilemma than those of us who simply enjoy photography as a labor of love. Many of them must be questioning the continued viability of their profession in light of the potential for even non-photographers to be able to create very convincing “photos” of just about any subject without leaving their computer. Are those to whom they market the products of their creativity going to know the difference between a real photo and one produced by AI? Will they even care?

For those of us to whom photography is a hobby, albeit perhaps a passionate one, the questions are certainly different but nonetheless important. Some of us simply like to share our photos with friends and relatives or on social media. Will those photos become lost in a sea of artificially produced “photos” that have never seen the inside of a camera or cell phone but are really spectacular? A significant number of amateur photographers regularly participate in competitions at the local, state, national, or even international levels. Will their submissions be able to be distinguished from AI-generated creations that seemingly have virtually no limitations? Those and a myriad of other questions have yet to be answered. And, so, where does that leave those of us who pursue photography for pure pleasure?

I believe that each of us will make a decision as to how we’ll react to this phenomenon and that those decisions will be as personal as our individual approaches to this wonderful hobby. I’ve decided that, going forward, it will be the same as it’s always been. It’s about the psychological and emotional experiences that come from finding, capturing, and processing images. Naturally, the pride and satisfaction that derives from an outstanding final product is important. But for me, the process involved in getting to that final product—the finished photo—is what produces the array of emotions, the joy, the excitement, the sense of accomplishment, and the memories that are such an important aspect of the photographic experience.

How about you?

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