Will AI Replace Photographers? Kind Of

The buzz around AI is deafening these days. It’s everywhere, from self-driving cars to robots that write poetry. As a photographer, I hear a lot of chatter and anxiety about what this new tech means for my profession and other creative fields. Will AI replace photographers altogether?

Let’s take a deep breath and address the elephant in the room. AI isn’t here to steal creative jobs. Here’s why:

ai replace photographers new ideas

Originality Needs a Human Spark

AI is impressive, but it’s not exactly brimming with original ideas. It thrives on data – mountains of it, actually. It can sift through existing creations and churn out something that appears unique, but it’s all a remix.

We are the idea generators—not machines or robots, but us, people, human beings. We bring the vision, the magic touch that breathes life into an image. Without our creative spark, AI is stuck in an echo chamber, endlessly recycling what’s already there. 

And that’s not limited to photographers. It goes for AI in general. Writers, graphic artists, and standard knowledge workers drafting an email—we have to give AI a path and a goal for it to generate an output. AI doesn’t know what data to combine without us.

The Nuance of the Prompt

Even if you hand AI the reins, it can only take you as far as your instructions. We’ve all heard the saying, “garbage in, garbage out.” It applies here, too. If your prompts are messy, the results will be messy.

Learning to speak AI’s language takes finesse. It’s not just about throwing keywords into a chat box. The amount of time and trial and error it takes to have AI create what you want can be arduous. 

On the flip side, you can hire a photographer to craft an image exactly as you see fit. And if your photographer shoots tethered, you can work collaboratively to dial in your images during the session itself.

If your photographer is really savvy, they can use AI in postproduction to add some wild elements to your portraits.

The Magic of Human Connection

I will be the first person to tell you that not having to deal with people is lovely. I love going through my day and just knocking things out with little human interaction. That’s just the way my brain works and how I am. If I’m not running a photoshoot, I want to do my work in a quiet office with some good music.

But let’s face it: interacting with a real person is irreplaceable. There’s a reason why we all groan at automated customer service bots.

Photography isn’t a sterile transaction. It’s about capturing moments, emotions, and experiences. It’s about collaboration, a connection between the photographer and the subject. That human touch is what makes a photograph truly special, something an AI-generated image can’t replicate.

photo by mike glatzer photography #mikeglatzerphotos

AI’s Achilles’ Heel: Human Emotions

Have you seen those AI-generated images of people? Sometimes, they’re downright creepy. The hands! The weird angles! As referenced in this short LinkedIn post, AI just doesn’t get human emotions yet.

Sure, you can tell AI to generate a crying person, but will it convey genuine sadness? Can it capture the nuanced emotions of a wedding day or the raw vulnerability of a boudoir shoot? Absolutely not.

AI might be able to mimic the surface, but it can’t tap into the depths of human experience that photographers capture so beautifully.

And not just any emotions—your emotions. Your prompt skills better be on point to have AI generate a perfect image of you looking just the right way, in the right clothes, in the right pose, with the right lighting, and with the right expression.

Or you could hire a professional photographer.

The Power of Now

Photography is about capturing a slice of time, a memory. Imagine trying to recreate your entire wedding day with AI prompts?! It would be a tedious nightmare!

The beauty of photography lies in its ability to freeze a fleeting moment in time. AI might be able to generate fantasy landscapes, but it can’t replicate the real, the raw, the perfectly imperfect moments we cherish.

ai replace photographers editing

The Future: AI as a Photographer’s Ally

While AI won’t replace photographers, it will revolutionize our workflow. Here’s where it gets exciting:

Post-processing Powerhouse: 

AI can become a post-production superhero, helping photographers cull images, edit photos, and free up their time for the creative aspects we love – like working with our clients! I use programs and plugins like Aftershoot and Retouch4Me to reduce my editing workflow from tens of hours to a couple. AI postproduction tools allow me to have longer sessions, more phone calls, and more client interactions to ensure my clients have an incredible experience.

I also use AI tools like Photoshop’s Generative AI to add elements we don’t have the budget for in real life. For example, I did an Edgar Allen Poe-themed portrait session and wanted a raven in the images. There was no way I could get a live raven, and a fake one would have been repetitive. By using Generative AI, I could add a raven to each image that looks lively and awesome. Incredible!

AI, the Super Assistant

I’m a photographer – but as a freelancer, that means I have to wear a ton of hats: writer, marketing guru, social media influencer, retoucher, accountant, and office manager.

Now, I can outsource lots of mundane tasks like social media posts and website copywriting to AI, as mentioned in this article by Cybernews. I can even have it help me write a challenging email! That’s more time to focus on what truly matters – creating stunning imagery. 

Why Experts Will Still Matter

There’s no denying that AI might disrupt some photography niches, particularly product and advertising photography. But here’s the thing: with great power comes great responsibility.

Creating compelling prompts for AI requires skill and knowledge. And let’s not forget quality still matters. While the average consumer can leverage AI to get 80% of their desired result, they’ll still need experts in those fields to close the gap and ensure a stellar deliverable. Experts will know the right industry words and phrases to leverage and curate desired client results. 

ai replace photographers creativity

The Bifurcation of Creativity

The future of photography might be divided. There will be AI-reliant photographers churning out generic content. However, there will also be a rise in photographers who value the human touch, the artistry, and the ability and skill to capture genuine emotions in-camera. 

These photographers, the ones who don’t rely on AI as a crutch, will be highly sought after. I think their work will become even more valuable, a true reflection of human creativity in a world increasingly dominated by machines.

Consumers will become more discerning, appreciating the human touch in a world saturated with AI-generated content. 

Just like now, where consumers want a film photographer rather than a digital one, in the future, there will be buyers who want human-generated imagery. And those people will pay a premium for it, because by then, human-generated images and in-person photoshoots will be considered a luxury experience (more so than they already are).

The Optimistic Outlook

AI in photography isn’t a doomsday scenario. It’s an opportunity. It’s a tool that can empower us to create better images, streamline our workflow, and connect with clients more deeply.

In addition, if AI does indeed take over many of the mundane, simple tasks of the world, then more people can leave their ho-hum day jobs and spend more time as creatives. If AI is doing the office work, then people can create and fill the world with more art. That’s a beautiful vision to me.

The future of photography is bright, and AI is just a part of the story. As photographers, we hold the key to unlocking that future and choosing how we use AI to shape the industry and our art.

And I find that incredibly exciting.

What do you think? Will we be bowing to our Skynet overlords in the next ten years? Is AI a gimmick with no real power, or does it fall somewhere in the middle?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *