TECHNOLOGY

AI in photography: time for a change in focus

Technology behind photography-making tools has hit a plateau. Traditional digital cameras and the associated lenses have already reached an impressive quality and physical upgrades will not dramatically change this state of fact.

The next step is code, or AI, in a broad sense.

The next step is code, or AI, in a broad sense. Smartphones are fair competition for DSLR cameras as they try to compensate the drawbacks of tiny physical sensors, with the success we know.

The increasingly sophisticated and professional applications of smartphones have achieved an almost similar quality in the technical variables of photography: exposure speed, white balance and color, ISO sensitivity, etc. All thanks to a previous work of learning and automatic training. However, the phone is not able to compete with the combination of the objectives and sensors of a professional camera. But what about computational photography, when artificial intelligence is merged with the different cameras in the same device?

"This gap is slowly closing as computational photography (or AI-powered) -improves the output of mobile devices"

Today the differences between professional photographers equipped with  high-end cameras and amateurs with smartphones are still tremendous. But it is more due to professionals’ creativity and talent, rather than the device used to take the picture. However, this gap is slowly closing as computational photography (or AI-powered) -improves the output of mobile devices, bringing image quality closer and closer to more “serious” cameras. In addition, editing time also follows this trend and tends to vary according to the device used. What can take several hours for a professional photo taken with a “regular” DSLR can shrink to a few seconds only on smartphones. This prowess is in part due to embedded AI, which will be increasingly present as a discrete companion to sublimate the picture and automatically take the unconscious choices of the photographer into account. And thus improve the photos in post-production, in the device as well as through cloud computing.

From a technological standpoint, the last decade has seen a slow but constant paradigm shift around images and their use. Photographs have evolved from a physical object, initially assessed on visual, conceptual or artistic criteria to a digital element that can now be measured, optimized, manipulated for maximum efficiency. Such optimizations are a way of helping image professionals be more efficient in their work and can even yield significant savings in time and budget. Studies have found that up to 85% of photographers work both on the shoot itself but also on the post-production phase (ref: Claude Vauclare & Rémi Debeauvais, 2015 – French Ministry for Education and Communication).

Meero photographer

Photographers will progressively be able to increase their focus on the creative side of their work 

This means in a near future, photographers will progressively be able to increase their focus on the creative side of their work and reduce frictions due to technicalities, selection and editing. For a growing number of professionals, this means a democratization of the access to a higher post-production tool. Image creators can now let their technical abilities shine knowing that they will be aided by a reliable technological professional during post-production. Images requiring a professional eye capable of transmitting creativity or empathy will always need a human photographer, no matter how much the machines help them during the process.

Meero offers a new possibility for human beings to reconcile with "AI companions".

Since its creation, the machine has been designed to help humans, although it has acquired a seemingly unstoppable presence, interfering more and more in human activity. The Digital Age offers a new paradigm for society and human activities, where AI allows numerous scientific and technological advances while it  raises huge questions. Meero offers a new possibility for human beings to reconcile with "AI companions". Isn’t this challenge reminiscent of the debate that had already started almost two centuries ago by intellectuals and artists facing the birth of photography?

A new concept of photography is also underway: connected photography. The nature of this "connected" device allows it to be continuously receiving improvements and new applications. It is precisely one of the reasons that prevents professionals’ cameras from competing with the very essence of the machine - the code - which is in constant mutation. The appearance of digital cameras triggered a revolution in how we understand and use photography. The changes they brought meant changes in scale, however, artificial intelligence is ready to make another change, this time functional.

image enhancement AI

Meero’s AI understands and edits images like experts do

Meero is tackling this paradigm shift to offer such an opportunity to photographers. As a matter of fact and as of today, a professional photographer still spends hours selecting the best pictures of each shoot and applying subjective qualitative enhancements to each photograph. Meero’s AI understands and edits images like experts do. Today, this includes geometric corrections, High Dynamic Range fusion, local and global tone and color corrections. In a very near future, it will perform an automatic selection of the most beautiful and representative images in a whole photo set. Meero leverages computing power and machines to learn how to do it in order to offer a fast, global, and scalable solution. It uses several AI technologies to reach this goal automatically in its main market verticals (real estate, food industry, retail…). Notably, a deep convolutional-deconvolutional neural network involves global and local feature extraction on a multi-scale basis. This, in order to make the algorithm thoroughly learn from a dataset of manually enhanced photographs, and to make it robust to any changes in lighting and colors, scene semantics and sensor defects.

AI is becoming increasingly ubiquitous during the proces

AI will reduce photo editing time and even create value for post-production, sorting bad quality images, restoring them, or adding automatic storytelling on a photo set. It will reduce the strain on photographers so that they can focus on their core activity: taking pictures. The presence of humans in photo-taking is utterly essential. However AI is becoming increasingly ubiquitous during the process (see aerial photography or current scientific photography). Although the basic dynamics have not really evolved - the photographer shoots and the image is recorded - the process of image creation went through major changes: from the chemical process to the digital ones, and now through what we could call the paradigm of the "augmented intelligence". AI ​​has come to disturb the rules of the game, helping the photographer to achieve optimal results and consistent quality throughout the process: before, during, and, especially, after shooting.

 

*Wall-E Image Credit The Walt Disney Company

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