Artificial intelligence (AI) may seem like a buzzword of the 21st century, but it entered the human psyche some time ago. A Harvard article on the history of AI points out that science fiction brought the concept into our minds in the first half of the 20th century through characters like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz and the humanoid robot impersonating Maria in Metropolis.
Mankind is now taking the concept from idea to reality, and today AI has tremendous application in everything from medicine, construction and finance to home appliances, social media and copywriting. It has the unique capability to quickly learn from significant amounts of data, enabling it to tackle some of our most challenging technological issues. At the same time, it can nurture our excitement and inspiration by enhancing the fun and creativity of our work.
AI adds a new layer to traditional photo editing software by taking repetitive, manually intensive tasks, learning what we want and helping us achieve it more easily. Complex work is performed more quickly and automation reduces human error, leaving us with more time and space to dream, experiment and attain superior results.
There are multiple AI-powered photo editing tools available today, each with its own features that reduce photo editing workloads. My company offers one of these solutions, as do others like Adobe Photoshop, Luminar AI and Pixlr. In a single click, one can now easily do things like remove backgrounds, change the style or highlights in a photo, detect faces, add textures, sharpen or colorize a photo and upscale low-resolution images.
Why is using AI on photos so fascinating? I think one reason is that even when an original photograph triggers powerful emotions for its audience, the new version generated through AI can intensify those feelings or invoke new ones. For example, when you colorize an old black and white photo, you are doing more than just editing an image: You are bringing it back to life, transporting the viewer to a meaningful time and place.
What’s next for AI in photo editing?
It is certain that vast improvements will be made in everything AI helps us achieve. When it comes to photo editing, there are many uses for AI, across various fields of work. Photo editors can use these tools to enhance wedding photos, magazine covers, portrait shots, nature images, abstract work, event photography and the list goes on. In the future, I believe this will lead to the development of specialized AI-powered software to serve specific needs, according to the requirements of each form of photography.
AI-based photo editing tools will become better at correcting mistakes and removing unwanted elements from a picture. There is a lot of research happening in this area; for example, a study conducted by Google Research and the University of California Berkeley shows how AI can remove unwanted shadows from an image.
And this is just the beginning — AI tools will become increasingly helpful with tasks such as editing backgrounds while taking into account small details like a person’s hair or clothes, adding natural-looking lighting, filling in missing parts that are selectively removed from a background, creating a seamless bokeh (background blur) effect and turning photos into moving animations.
Furthermore, if you look at popular trends like NFTs, the way we perceive and acquire art is changing. One of the most famous digital artwork acquisitions of all time is Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5000 Days,” which recently sold for over $69 million. As creatives have an increasing number of options for selling and packaging digital works, I predict sophisticated AI will play a valuable role in enabling them to more rapidly arrive at their final product. It will also open the market to beginners who would like to try their hand at creating art.
How will this impact professionals who work with photos?
There are, of course, some individuals who are concerned about the uprise of AI. As with any industry, some fear AI could replace peoples’ skill sets, and some photographers, creatives and photo editors fear that artificially edited or generated images could take their jobs.
My personal take is that when it comes to photography, AI will prove a great asset for these people. It can elevate their existing talents and speed up their work, while helping them reach new creative heights.
I think there’s still a long way to go before AI alone can take photo editing to a level anywhere near to that of a professional, without human input. A computer has a limited amount of reference data and tries to create something out of it, but there’s much more that goes into a photo. Culture, the knowledge we share in our common consciousness and creative vision provide a unique human perspective that’s extremely difficult for a machine to mimic.
AI is reshaping our workflow and allowing us to move more quickly and creatively. By embracing these new technologies and incorporating them into future software creations, I believe the photo editing industry will continue to grow in audience and sophistication.