I’m a photographer, will AI image generators make me redundant?
Artists are driven to create but also need to make a living – how will AI impact their lives ?
Floral photography is where I dance with my creativity and when planning for 2023 there is one glaring technological advancement that will undeniably alter the trajectory of my art journey – AI image generators (not to mention other AI tools for image enhancement).
While setting out my list of art shows for the year and reading about current trends and developments, there is an undercurrent of both trepidation and excitement. AI Image Generators are essentially able to generate new images using keywords and reference images. The software learns from the reference image pool and generates faces, places and spaces never seen before and the results are astounding. Examples include DALL-E 2 , Craiyon, Midjourney, Dall-E, Stable Diffusion Online and DALL-E FLOW to name but a few and there are many others on the horizon.
AI image generators are here and they’re here to stay. Trying to deny or downplay the impact they will have on the visual arts community is like trying to deny climate change – the facts are there and the impact will happen whether you choose to acknowledge it or not – in fact the impact has already been felt in the creative industry.
Does AI Art or traditional art have more value? As an exhibiting photographer I have already experienced the ostracization by artists using more traditional media – especially from those who paint – as for some, photography is not considered an art form requiring an equivalent level of skill. It appeared to me that art that took relatively longer to produce held more value. Even certain online platforms I’ve used to sell my work had a separate login for ‘artists’ and ‘photographers’. ‘Art gatekeeping’ is a topic for another post though. Currently the novelty of AI art makes it trendy which means people want to own it – will this shrink opportunities for sale of traditional artwork? On my social media feeds it was evident many were willing to pay to upload reference images of their faces in order to see a stylized AI generated version and they were happy to share them as well. I don’t know when last I’ve seen someone who is not an artist, share a painted portrait of their visages!
Will owning traditional art become an elitist practice with only a niche following? People love making and creating work themselves so they have the option to adorn their walls and spaces with art ‘made by me’.
I’m no AI expert but as an artist I’m already a part of this creative evolutionary step – and my participation was not voluntary- after doing some online reading I came across the following website allowing artists to search the data pool / training data used as source images to teach the AI image generators and low and behold my original photographs (currently for sale) are already included! Images were taken without permission or acknowledgement – so where does this leave me in terms of copyright protection? Yes I can opt out of future internet data scrapes but I have to admit that a part of me was also excited to be included! Want to check if your work is included ? The site is Have I been Trained?
It is not unusual for artists using other media to use my images for reference – the main difference is that they ask permission and acknowledge the source. Of course there have always been those unscrupulous types that simply copy images and use them without permission – watermark and all! Digital art and image manipulation opened a new world of opportunity when it was first made available to the public. I recall the early days of creating scientific posters for conferences manually with a printer, scissors and glue and I also recall my jubilation when designing my first poster in CorelDRAW. Systems evolve and we are now in the midst of the AI revolution and as with the industrial revolution – there will be job losses – why would a company pay a graphic artist when they can generate unique, high resolution professional images using AI that will be both cheaper and faster?
There is no doubt in my mind that the world of photography that I currently know is about to change. Questions have already been raised about standards of beauty and perfection in these new images and whether existing biases and forms of discrimination could be altered in the visuals we see. The process of making art however also has intrinsic value – which is why art therapy works. Every revolution brings opportunity. AI art is a new frontier and who better than artists and creative minds to boldly go exploring! It has the power to make the images in your dreams a reality – whether you are able to draw or paint or not – only your imagination is the limit.