Welcoming our Robot Overlords

Continuing with the Star Trek theme, I’d like to refer to the Episode Court Martial, from the first season. CAPT Kirk is on trial for having inappropriately decided to eject a crew member in order to save the ship, based on evidence presented by the computer. When I first saw it, I said  “one day we won’t need film.” Flash forward 45 years, and it looks like I was right, but the big question now is: do we even need cameras?

 AI (like Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, Firefly, Chat GPT, etc.) is a big deal these days, and folks in the imagery field wonder how it will affect the industry. Will photographers and their cameras become obsolete and irrelevant? IMHO, yes and no.

I’ve created a bit of AI generated stuff attached. First, I took a photo of some meat on the BBQ, which is a subgrenre of food and product photography. Then, I crafted a text prompt for the AI in order to make it create a setting and place the BBQ into that setting. My text was “poolside BBQ, with people drinking wine, at sunset, hyper realistic.” The modifiers to these prompts vary by platform. Then, I tried to use a couple of different AI platforms to set the BBQ in the right setting, lighting, etc. 

One of the platforms, Adobe Photoshop Generative AI, simply placed the BBQ in the setting that corresponded to the text prompt I provided. But, I have to say, I think the final product was a viable stock image.

The other platform, Midjourney, took the general prompt, and the photo I uploaded, and modified/stylized the whole thing much more heavily. But, still the product was…pretty good, a bit less seamless, and not something I think would be worthy of stock imagery.

So, to get back to the question: are photographers and cameras obsolete? For things like stock imagery, or things that don’t require specificity in terms of subject or action, or location? Maybe. I know I could come up with a beautiful image of a piece of fruit, on the beach, or a can of beer on a mountain top, using only the VAST library of images already stored in the memories of some of the generative AI platforms out there. No photographer necessary.

But, you can’t use AI to take  produce an image of your baby, your car, your coworkers, your shop, your fat burger, the interior of your restaurant or office, or anything else that actually exists. Image makers that actually capture your business, your products, and the real world are not going away. In fact, I would argue that quality imagery for small businesses is more important than ever, especially if you want to appeal to customers looking for actual product and services…and people to do business with.

I don’t have any intention of competing with AI to produce cleaner, less expensive images of generic cups of coffee, baked goods, wrapped boxes, and appetizing salads. Why? Because I’ll be busy taking really images of the real people doing real business in Port Orchard, Bremerton, Belfair, Silverdale, Poulsbo, and Kingston. 

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