The Impact of AI on Photography

The ability of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to generate high quality images presents an excellent opportunity for film photography. What is the impact of AI on photography?

The rise of AI

Artificial Intelligence has been in the news many times the last few months. The progress in this area is astonishing and all big tech companies are investing heavily in it. Microsoft has been investing in ChatGPT and Google is about to launch Bard to the general public.

Ask an AI chat bot a question and it will give you an elaborate answer, using natural language processing to recognise your question and an array of sources to generate an intelligent answer to your question.


At the same time AI is a cause for concern. Does it affect the independent thinking and the ability to learn of students? Is the skill to ask the right question more important than knowing the answer to that same question?

Furthermore, what if AI chat bots become more intelligent than us mere mortal human beings? Will it be friendly to us? Will it take over the world?

These are just a few of the questions that seem to focus on the downside of AI based chat bots.

AI photography – generated images

One of the developments in AI is the possibility to have AI generate images based on a simple instructions. Below you’ll see a couple of image generated by Dall.E, a so-called AI Art Generator. The instructions to achieve this were very simple. For instance:

  • “create a photo in the style of Alan Schaller” or
  • “create a photo in the style of Anton Corbijn”

While these photographs are certainly not yet perfect, it is clear that it is only a matter of time before it will be hard if not impossible to distinct real photographs from their AI generated siblings. AI will have a big impact on photography.

And Dall.E is not the only AI Art Generator. Other examples are Midjourney, Nightcafe and DreamStudio AI.

Impact on photography

With the advent of digital photography there has been plenty of discussion on the manipulation of images. Although the source of each image was always a digital camera, through image manipulation the beholder cannot be sure anymore whether what he/she sees is a correct representation of the actual scene.

Moreover, in some cases for photojournalists it is even considered a capital sin if the actual image has been manipulated and then published. However, at least we are certain that at some stage the actual scene existed and was recorded by the sensor of a digital camera.

Now that AI can generate images as though a camera recorded it, that last certainty is now gone. The image we are looking at never existed. Light was never captured and stored as 32 bits images on an SD card. An AI model created by scientists generated the image.

Nothing is certain anymore.

An image is no longer an undeniable source of truth, representing something that has actually existed in real life. This was already doubtful in the light of digital image manipulation and deep fake, but with AI this is now totally off the table.

Film as the only source of truth

It seems that to prove an image is actually a correct representation of reality, we have to revert to an analog medium. The current situation is that analog film is the only way to be sure that an image actually represents reality. We can be sure that actual objects reflected the light that fell onto the film.

Of course, once film has been scanned and stored on a computer, it is still possible to manipulate the image. But there will always be the physical film that shows the scene as it was when the image was taken.

The opportunity for film photography

Especially among young people we have witnessed an increase of interest in analog photography. The desire to slow down in the midst of social media cacophony is present among many young people.

Second hand film cameras are ever so popular and brands like Leica sell new film cameras at high prices. It seems AI Art Generators will only add to the popularity of film photography as the only trusted source of truth.

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