This editorial originally appeared in the Winter 2023 Newsletter. I thought I would repost it here as well so it is easier to find.
Artificial Intelligence (Ai) has risen to a level where it has become fairly alarming for many creatives—especially photographers and illustrators. At the moment, the leading Ai websites like DALL-E 2 and MidJourney.com are only generating fairly low resolution images for social media. But, I can certainly see a not too distant future where those sites or others will create much higher resolution images. This will certainly disrupt the advertising world in many ways. For example, what small to mid-size company would pay a photographer or illustrator to create images for them when they can just type in a few words, add photos of their project to the mix and poof—out pops a few wild looking, eye catching images for them to use for local and regional ads. If they don’t like the results, try again until something comes out that works. And all of this costs a very low monthly fee compared to hiring a human.
On the flip side, there are still events (Weddings, sporting events, etc.), real-life action and a host of other things that will need to be photographed to show reality. Hence, I don’t see real world photography going anywhere. This will hit some photographers harder than others. I don’t really know how it will impact the photo industry. No one really does. But I know that change has always been a part of this industry and you either embrace it or give up and move on to something else. From the inimitable Seth Godin in a recent blog post about change he said, “The world changes and we have a choice: Fight hard to keep it the way it was or notice what happened and then decide to do something with that insight.”
Fstoppers (not a source I reference very often) also recently posted a blog post about Ai and how it might impact the industry, “What’s basically happening is that Ai is scraping photos by living, breathing photographers on the internet and putting them in a blender to spit out lookalikes that could potentially land users in legal hot water. And even if it doesn’t, the one thing that the Ai won’t have is the story to go with capturing the photo.” At the moment Getty has already filed two lawsuits against Ai companies. Hence, the “scraping” of copyrighted photos to create new composites is going to get really sticky in the legal sense. Because of this I have a feeling larger corporations might not jump into the Ai world (at least not right away) as much as smaller businesses. Another interesting quote from that same article was from engineer Fran Blanche, who said “AI is plagiarizing our past to generate our future.” I have to admit, the imagery that I have seen from DALL-E 2 and other Ai options are compelling. For the outdoor genre I am not too concerned at the moment, but Ai will certainly eat up a little bit more of the advertising pie, leaving less money to hire content creators. As usual, the only certainty is change.
On the Day that my Winter 2023 Newsletter was published Heather Elder, one of the top photography reps in the industry also published a very well thought out and interesting article entitled “Are we Going Out of Business,” regarding Ai and its impact on the photography industry. I highly recommend checking it out.