Photo contest fooled by AI image says bring it on: now it's AI vs photographers

artificial intelligence
(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

Is this how Skynet becomes self-aware? It might be a bit tame for a Terminator prequel, but nonetheless the gauntlet has been thrown down and now it's literally Man vs Machine – in the form of a photo contest.

It’s been a little over two weeks since an AI-generated photo fooled judges of an Australian photo competition, taking home the top prize. Now the same Australian company, retailer DigiDirect, has launched a new photo contest – but this time, it’s opening the door for AI images as well. 

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It’s more than a little embarrassing that DigiDirect not only let an AI image slip through the cracks of a photo competition, but crowned it the winner as well. The image was submitted by Sydney-based AI agency, Absolutely AI, which wanted to test how convincing AI is and whether it is actually as good as 'real' art. While the stunt was a roaring success, the creators of the image confessed to their crimes and rightly refused to accept the cash prize. 

Since the announcement, the photography community has been left stunned by the turn of events. While some claim that the photo in question is obviously AI (and then continue to point out how the waves aren’t quite right) others are in pure awe that something so realistic could be generated by a machine. 

When several media companies from around the world picked up on the winning image, DigiDirect took to Instagram to explain the outcome. "It's been a crazy few weeks at digiDirect! We woke up to so many news articles featuring our weekly contest online and on social media. 

"We are proud of our response and we are proud that our next competition (which is live on our site) involves photographers and AI artists. We are excited to see the outcome of this battle as the entries keep rolling in! Stay connected to see who will win Human or Machine."

It might have been a mistake, but DigiDirect’s response to the photo faux pas has been admirable. The company has just launched a brand new photo competition called 'Man vs Machine' in which photographers and digital creators are invited to submit real photos or AI-generated images to see which comes out on top. 

There is no specific theme and the winner will receive an AU$1,000 (approximately $680 / £565) gift card, so it’s definitely worth entering! Could AI photo competitions be the future and will AI photos continue to fool "photo experts"?

You can submit your entry over at the DigiDirect website. Good luck, photographers – humanity is counting on you to not let Skynet draw first blood!

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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.