The invention of photography in 1839 challenged the very idea of art, leaving some painters feeling threatened by a new technology that could capture a portrait instantly. Yet photography also created opportunities for those same artists to express themselves outside the boundaries of reality, and they began to experiment with surreal and abstract styles that were a world apart from photography.
In the 1990s, digital cameras and then CGI brought their own waves of disruption, forcing commercial photographers to not only retool, but to reconsider how they fit into the landscape of creative professionals. Now that AI (artificial intelligence) has splashed onto the scene, commercial photographers and the people who hire them are scrambling to understand the possibilities for this new technology.
While there are still a lot of unknowns about AI, it’s already clear that it will dramatically change the way commercial photographers create images. I recently sat down with executive producer Craig Oppenheimer and photographer Teri Campbell to learn about how Teri is incorporating AI into his creative process. In particular, we wanted to explore how AI is inspiring Teri’s creativity, how he’s presenting it to clients, and the potential licensing ramifications as well.
For Teri, this experimentation began as he was searching for a very specific kitchen to stage a shot for a project. While trying to figure out the logistics of finding the perfect (real-life) kitchen, Teri started playing around with AI. After typing a few clever prompts into an AI generator, it showed him the kitchen he had been searching for.
Exploring the Creative Opportunities of AI
Since that fateful day, Teri has been experimenting with AI for a variety of projects. He’s constantly testing out various prompts to fine-tune his AI creations. To get the desired outcome, he will play around with words. For example, using “grinning” instead of “smiling” or “2-month-old baby” instead of just “baby.” Slowly he’s working on cracking the “prompt code” on his preferred AI tool Midjourney. While he is aware that the prompts that work this week may not work in a month, this process still feeds his imagination.
I asked Teri if he felt that creating his images using Midjourney was similar to clicking the shutter on an actual camera. His response was a resounding yes:
We also asked Teri about some specific images that he’s created. He’s spent hours tinkering with ideas and creating exciting images while workshopping ideas with various photographer groups he interacts with. Sometimes his results surprise him in unexpected ways, like when he experimented with a car he visualized from his past.
Considering the Legal Ramifications of AI-Generated Art
When it comes to AI images, one of the first concerns for commercial artists is who owns what. Simply put, AI platforms scrape the internet to gather reference images that they then combine and transform into new AI images. Since this is new territory for copyright law, there are many legal questions that have yet to be decided. Already there are several AI-related cases working their way through the courts and copyright offices, so it might take some time still before all the legal kinks are ironed out.
Teri views AI as just another (albeit very sophisticated) tool. The user still needs to learn how to use that tool to get a desirable result, including learning the prompts that will conjure up the right angle, light, gesture, expression, moment, and mood for the final image.
If every artist draws on inspiration from the world around them and then pours that into their own art, is that any different than an AI bot scanning the internet for their visual references?
The Future of AI
When Teri envisions the future of AI photography, he considers using it to sketch out an idea for an IRL (in real life) photo shoot, creating backgrounds and foregrounds, and building parts of an image or a whole image itself. Anyone involved in the creative industry should see AI as a catalyst for more creativity and a tool used to enhance commercial photo shoot production.
If I ran a magazine and I needed a picture of CEO John, I would hire a photographer to take a picture of John – AI can’t replace that. But if I need a picture of pumpkin pie for an article about Thanksgiving, I can create that with MidJourney.
Watch the full interview:
About the Author
Marianne currently works as a Marketing Specialist at Wonderful Machine. She has years of experience as a professional photographer and served as the National Board chair for the American Society of Media Photographers after volunteering for years in leadership. All of which led her to realize she would be happier helping photographers rather than being a photographer. Through ASMP Marianne has spent countless hours talking to photographers around the country and getting to know them and their stories. She has a firm belief that the work that photographers do is incredibly important to our culture and society. When she is not helping photographers find new clients you can find Marianne raiding the family pantry for chocolate or riding around rugged scenery on her bike. You can find Marianne’s work on her website and Instagram. This article was originally published here and shared with permission.