AI, Human Nuance, & The Art of Photography

March 12, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

1Y3A2679-Edit1Y3A2679-Edit I recently had the fantastic opportunity and privilege of being the event and headshot photographer for SmartWIN24 where I spent two days immersed in the world of some of the brightest and most talented people in the universe of architecture, engineering, and construction along with the team that develops growth strategies for these firms. Tangentially, I was thoroughly enjoying living one of my lifelong core philosophies: surround yourself with people who elevate you. From my view as a professional photographer, there was a compelling and complementary subject on the agenda.

There was a segment of the conference dedicated to artificial intelligence and its application in the AEC world. Prior to the presentation, the speaker, Scott Steiding, asked me about my experiences and opinions regarding AI in photography and its effect on my work. AI, and its application to enhance workflow and efficiency in probably every rote endeavor imaginable, has unlimited and spectacular potential as a force-multiplying tool. For example, the evolution and advancement of AI in the digital darkroom is a paradigm-shifting time-saver for working photographers. But, there is a potential conflict of perception here. It’s not that I’m looking for tools to do artificial enhancements of people, places, or things. Like everyone in a people-related, service profession, I’m looking to spend less time at my computer and more time with clients.

Quantum leaps in photo-processing AI have allowed this. But, like everything in creation, there is nuance to consider. We should never look to machine-learning artificial intelligence to replace the human connection, which is a grand element of photography. There is a self-evident and visceral need for people to interact. Without it, we die from the inside out. We die spiritually, intellectually, and physically. AI is an enhancement for work tasking, not a replacement for the workforce.

Great photography is made by the incomprehensible human mind and its singular ability to find the art and beauty in everything. The machinery involved is merely a conveyance of the art. AI can process digital imagery, enhance and even create photos and videos, and operate a camera, but it can’t connect with people. It can’t feel the emotion of a bride as she waits with her dad to walk down the aisle. It can’t empathize with a young mom dealing with a disinterested husband and unruly kids just trying to get family photos done. It can’t stand in front of an apprehensive new team member during their headshot session and put them at ease so that they are able to allow their confidence to shine through the reluctance. It absolutely cannot tell a story through imagery that isn’t immediately recognizable as inauthentic because there is an intrinsic element of beautiful asymmetry and imperfection in people that something lacking a soul cannot process.

For better and/or worse, AI is here and there’s no turning back. Partner with it and allow it to enhance your work through the completion of tasks. Do not allow the misperception that AI is a replacement for nuanced human capability to foster. To do this you must continuously work to demonstrate the value you bring to the arena of business. The human spirit is irreplaceable. Keep that fire burning.

 


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