Does new tech threaten professional photographers’ livelihoods? Experts weigh in

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The rapid advance of artificial intelligence technology has raised concerns about eliminating jobs held by humans. Professional photography is now coming into focus as one such potential casualty.

“The rapid advancements in AI and image processing are transforming photography from a skill-based art to one that is increasingly technology-driven. This evolution is making high-quality photography accessible to a broader audience, challenging the traditional notion of professional photography as a skill,” according to a report published Tuesday by Medium. 

“As we move further into this AI-driven era, it becomes evident that the role and relevance of professional photography skills, as we have known them, are becoming obsolete.”

The report comes as concerns have grown about just how many human jobs AI may displace, moving from low-skilled labor to picking off professional fields such as accounting careers. Professional photography could be yet another victim of that trend, the report argued, noting how even smartphones now contain AI technology that allows even a novice user to take high-quality photos that you could previously only get from a professional.

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woman holding digital camera

As AI technology improves, some jobs done by professional photographers could become obsolete. (Cyberguy.com)

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“AI’s ability to handle complex tasks is shifting the focus away from technical expertise, raising questions about the future relevance of traditional photography skills,” the report said.

Jake Denton, a research associate at the Heritage Foundation’s Tech Policy Center, worries about such implications with the advancing tech, telling Fox News Digital that machines should not be viewed as a way to bypass human creativity.

“While Al art may be novel and visually compelling, we should be wary of readily accepting machine creativity as equivalent to human artistry,” Denton said. “Algorithms can adeptly replicate the style and techniques of artists, but they lack the cultured sensibilities, conceptual depth and emotional resonances that human artists can imbue into their work. Al has no inner muse to channel, no personal experiences to draw from, no unique vision to express.”

While Denton acknowledged the value of technological advances, he argued that relying on the tech would diminish the value of human perspectives in art.

“As wondrous as technological advancements may be, true art requires a level of insight and imagination that machines do not currently possess,” Denton said. “If we passively adopt Al art without critique, we risk diminishing the unique perspectives of human artists and stunting the cultural vitality that has traditionally come from human-made creative works.”

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The Medium report notes that there continues to be less need for human skill in the field of photography, where AI now handles tasks such as composition and post-processing while also eliminating the need for professional training, lowering the bar to entry while simultaneously lowering the need for human skill.

But not all experts are convinced AI can completely eliminate the need for the field, with Federalist staff editor Samuel Mangold-Lenett arguing creative professions such as photography are some of the most “insulated” from the threat of AI.

Smartphone camera

A close-up of the rear of a Samsung Galaxy S10 smartphone, showing multiple cameras, Sept. 17, 2019. ( Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

“They require ingenuity and perspective that we have yet to see an AI replicate,” Mangold-Lenett told Fox News Digital. “Further, AI cannot create art. It can create products that impress our senses, but, at the end of the day, art requires real-time problem-solving and a human soul. AI does not possess the latter.”

Others argue what AI actually does is give people more choices and opens up new preferences.

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“Photography using AI on the phones is already pretty close, if not as good as professional photography. It’s really a consumer issue — how many people want to take their own pictures and compile and distribute them versus those that want to hire someone else to do it,” Phil Siegel, founder of the Center for Advanced Preparedness and Threat Response Simulation (CAPTRS), told Fox News Digital.

Siegel noted that people can choose to do their own cooking and cleaning, but many opt to hire such tasks out. AI’s role in streamlining photography could be similar, with consumers being able to choose between certain preferences.

“Photography will be the same, but no longer is quality or equipment cost going to be the determinant. It will be service, time and distribution and cost,” Siegel said. “So, I guess, yes, there will be fewer engagements in high-end photography, but it won’t disappear.”

Taken together, Bull Moose Project President Aiden Buzzetti doesn’t believe professional photography will be reduced to a relic of the past.

Smartphone with four cameras

The cameras on a Motorola G 5G Plus smartphone Aug. 5, 2020. (hil Barker/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

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“The AI tools in cameras, especially those on mobile phones, have simply made it easier for regular people to take better photos in the first place,” Buzzetti told Fox News Digital. “I think we’ll see a short-term displacement as more people enter photography and are able to edit on their own, with better tools, but I don’t believe that photography as a profession will die. 

“It’s highly likely that we’ll place more value on real-world photos over AI image generation and open the door to AI-supported, artistic endeavors.” 

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