The other day I got an email through my inbox with the subject line, "You can now hire the world’s first AI photographer." At first, I didn’t really grasp the magnitude of this email, or the impact it could have potentially on photographers (i.e. people like me), but the more I thought about it, the more angry it started to make me.
My biggest concern when it comes to AI is that people will use it as a cheap, fast alternative to investing in professional, well-shot images by someone who has spent years perfecting their skills. It takes absolutely no time at all and is completely free to create a professional-looking logo on Midjourney - but that doesn’t mean you should. Similarly, just because you can “Hire an AI photographer” (or, more accurately, pay for a subscription) doesn't mean it will do a better job than a human photographer.
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Every word of this email made me angry. Photography is my livelihood, it’s my first and my second job, my passion, and someone is boasting about how their software can do what I do without the expense.
There’s a reason you pay someone to take your photo – they know about lighting, they can bring the best out in you, they have expensive equipment they need to invest in and maintain and we (photographers) bring the best out in people by learning ways to make them feel relaxed.
There is nothing to be proud of in developing an AI photographer. This is a crime against creatives and a creative brand shouldn’t be advocating putting fellow creatives out of business.
Pieter Levels, the founder of Photo AI started the company with no team and zero funding but with the intention of offering people a cheaper, more time-efficient alternative to an organic photoshoot. In a recent statement, he bragged about how much money photographer's clients could save. Stating that a real photo would cost you anywhere between $250-$1000 for 75 – 100 photos, while a photo shoot with his Pro plan would give you 1,000 every month and starts at $29.
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In order for Photo AI to work, you first need to train the AI model by feeding it photos of yourself (ironically these could’ve been taken by an actual, hard-working photographer). The more image you use to train it, the more realistic the photos will appear. Once you've uploaded your photos, you can then ask it to generate images of you in a specific location, in a certain pose, or even in the style of another photo “Making the possibilities almost endless.”
I’ve always had the same standpoint when it comes to the use of AI in photography. So long as it doesn’t detract from authentic creativity or replace photographers, I have no issues with people using it (so long as they’re transparent). Then Adobe introduced generative fill into Photoshop and suddenly, there was a really powerful tool available to me (and lots of other photographers) that, with more training, could replace retouchers. Suddenly I felt very conflicted. But Photo AI has taken it one step too far by removing the need for genuine photographers entirely.
I hope any self-respecting business owners, fellow creatives, or normal people who want to be made to feel beautiful can see this for what it is – a brash, harmful use of AI that completely takes away from the personal element of photography. Yes, it might be time efficient, and it might cost less but at what cost to the industry?
Do we blame the people who use it for "not knowing better" or do we blame the creators for creating something that is potentially damaging to people's livelihoods? I for one would never use it to replace a photographer because truly, nothing can and I urge you to do the same.