Photographers versus Ai, who is winning?

Will Generative Ai in Photoshop take over Photography?

I have enjoyed photography for more years than I like to think about, becoming interested in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For all of that time I have been a member of one camera club or another.  Quite a few perished along the way and its always a challenge to find one that is a good fit. 

I have been a member of my current club; Fareham and Portchester Camera Club for quite some time now and really enjoy the social aspects of photography alongside the opportunities to share my work and view other’s, giving and receiving constructive feedback to aid the hopefully, continuous learning and improvement of my photography.

Part of that activity is the camera club competition, loved by some and not by others, it is a regular staple of club “life”. 

Original Image

This year I was fortunate to receive a good score for one of my images called “Autumn Mist”.  The image is an exposure blend of two images to try to enhance the mist effects in the image.

When it was shown in the competition the judge liked the image and it did quite well, but the judge as they so often do, said that it was “missing something” for the eye to settle on in the middle distance where the mist is. 

“Perhaps a deer looking at the photographer?”

Well, seeing and capturing these conditions is rare enough for a weekend photographer, but to expect a deer to be there on cue was a bit of a stretch. 

However, it got me thinking; could I add a deer from one of my other images into this one and make it convincing enough?

Manually Add a Deer in Photoshop

So I went back to photoshop and cut out a deer from another image, and using layers, added the deer into the image.  To make the blend convincing I had to use masks and a fog shaped paintbrush.

I thought this had gone reasonably well and shared it in our Facebook group to see what the others thought. 

Among the usual comments was the inevitable “was it done with Ai?”

Firefly Generative Ai in Photoshop

I explained that it hadn’t but for research purposes I went back to Photoshop with the original image, selected the area I had put the deer into, and used generative fill (Ai) to see what Photoshop’s new tools could achieve.  This was the result;

Whilst this is undoubtably clever, I don’t think it is very convincing yet. 

We had discussed Ai at the camera club this year, I am sure it’s a topic most club photographers have been considering, especially as it relates to competitions.  Currently generative Ai is not allowed. 

Looking at the results I would conclude that whilst it is impressive, in photoshop, generative Ai with no additional work by the photographer is not quite there yet. Club photography looks safe.

“Pure” Generative Ai

However, To balance the debate, I thought I should use an online, fully generative Ai to see if it could do any better.  I used and described the scene.  This was what it produced;

This image has never been near a camera at all, and to anyone who does not know where to look, you might never know that this is not a real photograph.  If I were a picture editor I might not care, pictorially it is very good.

This is the Ai that is a threat to photographers who make a living out of their work, it took around 30 seconds to generate.

Photoshop Layers

The following are some screenshots in case you wish to know the manual steps I took to add the deer.

This is the original background layer;

The next layer is the cut out of the deer, positioned to be in the correct place in the final layout;

Because the deer was taken on a different day in a different location, I attempted to add some filters to make it blend better with the scene I was placing it in, the mist in front of the deer was added with a fog brush;

Then I had to copy some foliage from the original layer and mask it to appear in front of the deer;

Then once all adjustments are made, this is the result with all layers visible;

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