I like photography. The process of setting the aperture, shutter speed and ISO of a hunk of electronics and glass to capture that perfect moment and then rushing home, uploading it to Photoshop, realising it is absolutely rubbish and crying because you wasted 3 hours stood outside in the freezing cold is truly beautiful.
But, is artificial intelligence about to change all that?
Over the last few weeks I have seen a couple of AI camera accessories that have been released or are in the late stages of development and at first, I was blown away. One of these was an AI-powered speedlite (that big flashy part that sticks out the top of the camera and instantly gives you 100 professional boasting points). As I understand it the device will analyse your subject and the surroundings and then bounce (aim) the flash in order to give you the best lighting possible. The tagline was “professional lighting made easy” or words to that effect.
The second gizmo was a small, matchbox-sized device that is plugged into the top of your camera. It will analyse the image it sees, compare it to the millions of images that the neural network it is trained on, and then decide on the best setting for the camera in order to produce “amazing images” seemingly effortlessly.
At first, I was sold. I very nearly invested in this little godsend but then I hesitated. Isn’t the process of learning how to compose a perfect image what I loved about photography to begin with? Isn’t there something incredibly valuable about taking 500 rubbish photos to get one semi-great one? Do I want to hand all that over to AI for fame and glory?
Being a professional at anything is HARD, period. It isn’t something we should be able to reproduce with a couple of nifty algorithms.
I recently paid $600 for a professional wedding photographer. He snapped away for 90 minutes while we stood on the beach in Mexico smiling and secretly wondering when we could eat the cake (it was coconut flavour by the way). At the end of the session, he scampered away and lo and behold, 2 weeks later he sends us 150 beautiful photos.
I can’t help but wonder, would I have happily handed him that amount of money for him to stand around while his camera did all the leg work in the background by itself? Or would I have paid him MORE knowing that there was a higher chance of him taking exceptional pictures?
In my opinion, artificial intelligence has many incredible uses from healthcare to manufacturing and everything in between. It will help us to automate processes, save lives and explore new horizons in research and development. However, I also believe that some things are best left to us humans. It isn’t always about the finished product but about the process taken to get there (insert philosophical quote).
Do we need more Instagram professional photographers who can throw money at a hobby and suddenly become experts just because they can afford better gear? Should we value the years of practice it takes before you can call yourself a pro in any field?
Am I going to stop asking rhetorical questions?
Yes, I am.
Shaun Nicholls, Recruiter (UK)