Artificial intelligence, the death of the photographer?
“Artificial intelligence will be key to company survival” and for Kenichiro Yoshida, the new CEO of Sony, the stakes are clear. It cannot escape the notice of any leader in the photography market because it’s a beautiful promise: to transform any amateur into a professional photographer.
Setting the exposure, framing the subject, fine-tuning, taking the picture and then retouching it is the work of a photographer.
Now imagine that the experience of this photographer, and that of thousands of others, is built into your camera.
Whatever the situation, the camera makes the best choice for you. The result: a successful photo every time.
Deep-Learning: a revolution for photography
Assistance with taking photos is as old as photography itself. From the analog cell of your grandmother’s box camera to the facial recognition of the latest Nikon Z, the principle is the same: to facilitate the work of the photographer.
The real revolution which artificial intelligence represents today is the capacity of our tools to learn for themselves.
This process, which we call Deep Learning, consists of copying the learning process of the human brain. It’s thanks to this method of automated learning that, for the first time in history, the Deep Blue computer was able to beat the World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov in 1997.
By incorporating thousands of pieces of data, our technologies are able to develop their own “experience” to define for themselves the best choice to be made in a given situation. The camera is capable of deciding whether the subject is a landscape or a portrait, if it is correctly exposed and what the ideal settings are for getting the best from the picture.
Concretely, it connects thousands of “human” photos, cross-checks this data and is able to make the right decisions itself regarding the camera settings in a real situation.
Artificial intelligence used in photo retouching
Still, on the same principle, the cutting-edge technologies regarding photo retouching and post-processing also tend towards using IA for taking pictures. By using the metadata of pictures retouched manually, the algorithms of this new software are able to establish the best processing parameters for each given photo.
Recent versions of the famous Photoshop and Lightroom software already offer “automated” settings on this principle: levels curb, contrast, color temperature, etc. The perfect photo is now accessible in just one click.
For photography professionals, these transformations turn the temporality of the image upside down by shortening the interval between activating the shutter and the final photo, ready to be published.
This shrinking of the processing period will doubtless have an impact on the photography market economy, which has already been overturned to a large extent during the later years by the digital revolution and the fall in the unit price of pictures.
The spellchecker does not make us writers
So, if the camera is capable of making the right choices on behalf of the photographer, is the profession of the photographer condemned?
The spellchecker on our telephones stops us from making mistakes, but it doesn’t make us all writers. It is undeniable that “taking successful photos” is accessible to all - and will be even more so in the future.
The incorporation of these new technologies is unquestionably a condition sine qua non of the success of photography professionals inasmuch as this change appears to be irreversible. But in order to stand out from the crowd when everyone who owns a smartphone is a potential photographer, one needs to be committed to offering more than just a faultless picture. This leveling-up, which partly excludes the question of technique, otherwise refocuses the photographer's work on one essential question: what's the story in the picture?