AI image fools judges and wins photography competition

absolutely ai wins photo competition with ai image
(Image credit: Absolutely AI)

A Sydney-based AI studio was awarded first prize in an Australian photography competition for an image that isn’t even real. While the creator behind the photo confessed straight away, and refused the cash prize, this is proof that AI is really starting to mimic reality – and threaten "real" photography. 

The stunning aerial image above the ocean shows a surfer riding over a breaking wave, away from the serene blue sea into a bright orange sunset. At first and even second glance, it's incredibly hard to tell that it's AI at all. The colors and the splashback from the waves are the only slight giveaways, but only because I know it’s AI. Had I been a judge, I would’ve been just as impressed with the stunning "photo".

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It’s a terrifying prospect for creators to think that in such a short amount of time, AI machines have become so advanced that they can create hyper-realistic images that can fool a panel of expert judges. Luckily in this competition, it was submitted out of curiosity. 

With AI imagery now so popular, it’s likely that we will start seeing more and more purely AI-based photo competitions – which is great news for those who love AI and terrible news for those who can't understand its place in the photographic world. While this particular AI image creator was open and honest about his use of the ever-evolving technology, that might not be the case for other people who are looking for a fast and easy way to stand out and win a photo competition. 

AI-generated photos don't have any metadata, which is often a requirement in photo competitions, to prove the authenticity of a photo. However, if someone is going as far as faking an image using an AI, I'm sure they could find a way to add data to it as well. I feel sorry for the judges who will taste the wrath of the photo community if such an image slips through the net – it was lucky that these guys owned up. 

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.