1. What’s the deal with AIGI?
“It is now possible, using artificial intelligence (AI), to type a few descriptive words into a computer and generate what looks like a perfectly realistic photograph — a “photograph” made without any camera, depicting a scene that never existed.
“The convincing realism of those AI-generated images — coupled with the unreality of the scenes depicted — will shake the public’s trust in photographs more than Photoshop ever did.” (#5 on the Home page)
Many photographers are alarmed by AI-generated imaging, with some even fretting that it will mean “the death of photography.” At least one large photo agency has declared a ban on AIGI, for understandable (credibility-related) reasons.
2. The line will be increasingly blurred
The line of distinction between “AIGI” and “photography” may seem clear for now, while AI technology is still fairly young.
But in the not-too-distant future, AI technology will find its way into cameras and smartphones as an aid in “augmenting reality.”
At that point the line will become blurred between “AI-generated additions” to photographs vs. “photographically generated additions” — especially after the former become refined enough to look more convincing than the latter often look.
Once there is no longer a clear “AI vs. photography” line, the only helpful distinction will be between
“images that depict only what the camera saw at the moment the picture was taken”
“images that depict something else.”
TCQ was created to help the public make that distinction.
3. Will AIGI mean the death of photography?
No, because by definition AI-generated imagery can never fill the most valuable role of photography, that is:
Photography’s unique ability to record — instantly and in precise detail — “what one person saw, in one small corner of the world, at one unrepeatable moment in time.”
Most of the billions of photographs made every day are created to serve as some sort of record (“Look! See where I was and what I saw?”).
However, for the millions of photographs that are not intended to serve as records, AIGI could be a much-appreciated addition to the post-exposure toolset.
4. So how will AIGI affect photography?
A. For the public, AIGI (see #1 above) will permanently shatter any illusions left over from the 20th-century that “You can judge the trustworthiness of a photograph just by looking at it.”
This realization is more than two decades overdue, and the single best advice anyone can hear about “How not to get fooled by doctored photographs” is “Always be very skeptical, no matter how convincing a photograph may look” (see #2 on the Home page).
Encouraging widespread skepticism is not problematic now that TCQ makes it easy to label photographs that are not doctored.
B. For non-TCQ-suited photographs, AI will be a very useful tool.
That’s because for many of those types of photographs it will be easier — and far less limiting — to make both small and large fixes and additions to the photograph using AIGI rather than limiting oneself to camera-based options...
. . . and many viewers are unlikely to care which tools were used to make those images.
C. But for TCQ photographs — photos that depict only “what the camera saw at the moment the picture was taken” — AIGI will have no direct effect.
That’s because using AI to make changes that disqualify a photo from TCQ is no different from using a phone app or Photoshop to make disqualifying changes (see #20 of the Summary).
However, there will be at least one interesting indirect effect of AI on TCQ photos:
Meeting “the biggest challenge in photography” (see FAQ #322) will be that much harder once creators of non-TCQ photos can make full use of AIGI and are no longer constrained to photography-based tools.
It will become ever more difficult to impress viewers once AIGI is routinely used for image-making.
Note that this page focuses on AI-generated images and AI-generated additions to images. “Artificial intelligence” will have applications in many other photographic roles (e.g., autofocus) that do not diminish the trustworthiness of the resulting photographs.
“Photoshop” is a registered
trademark of Adobe Systems Inc.