AI images beaten by real photos in 'Man vs Machine' competition

photo of a futuristic looking model
(Image credit: Keith Costelo (@pixelmonki))

An Australian camera retailer that crowned an AI image the winner of a photo competition has just unveiled the winner of its Man Vs Machine photo contest. Following the slightly-embarrassing mistake, DigiDirect launched a tongue-in-cheek competition inviting people to submit AI images or real images to see which would be triumphant. 

After enlisting the help of six Australian photographers to judge the competition, it was agreed the age of man is not over (just yet) as Keith Costelo (@pixelmonki (opens in new tab)) was crowned the winner. His submission, however, was a nod to AI as it featured a cyberpunk-looking model hooked up to wires, lit with pink, blue and UV lights. 

• These are the best AI image generators (opens in new tab) – let your imagination run wild 

In total, 415 images were entered into the competition. On winning, Costello said, "While technology continues to advance and push the boundaries of what is possible in photography, there is still something truly special and irreplaceable about the human eye and the creative choices we make."

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In the last few months, AI text-to-image generators have become incredibly advanced and now able to produce hyper-realistic images. Several 'photographers' / digital artists have also faced backlash for sharing AI-generated portraits without being completely transparent, and French magazine Réponses Foto (opens in new tab) even used an AI photo as its cover image to demonstrate how believable AI is getting.

AI isn’t all bad, though. A Dutch tech company has found a way that it can use AI cameras to help catch poachers (opens in new tab), and agricultural company John Deere has developed an AI tractor (opens in new tab) that’s able to identify weeds from crops to target and spray herbicides. 

Thankfully a human won DigiDirect’s competition, otherwise the photography community might have had even more AI-related qualms. 

If you're of the opinion that nothing can beat real photography, check out the best mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab), the best DSLRS (opens in new tab), the best point and shoots (opens in new tab) and the best camera phones (opens in new tab).

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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.