AI Killed the Stock Photography Star
This fear that generative AI models like MidJourney will take our jobs away is spreading like wildfire among illustrators, graphic designers, and even photographers .
A lot of this fear is based on solid grounds. These models are getting incredibly powerful and WILL replace many of our current commissions. But my bet is they will also create a lot of new ones.
A photograph owes its powerful effect to the fact that we trust in the mechanical nature of its process. It is what I call The Genius of Photography. We understand that somebody had to be at that place at that time and press the shutter, which triggered a mechanical process of capturing the rays of light coming through the lens. That process is entirely physical and (at least in principle) can’t be altered. Sure, there are many ways in which a photographer can alter the image, but the basis of the process is produced by dead cold physics.
This is why a single photograph, no matter how small or blurry, of Jesus or Noah would be of greater value than all of the paintings and frescos done afterward. Because when we look at a fresco in a church, we know that the artist’s hand shaped his face; there was a deliberate decision to make the beard such and such.
In that, photography stands unique. MidJourney renderings aren’t going to change that. Ultimately, what are they, if not very elaborate, versions of paintings? It is just pixels placed in the correct order, isn’t it?
What is lacking is The Genius of Photography. The second we become aware that a camera does not take the image but is, in fact, an AI product, the magic is gone. The people cease to look real.
The girl above was created using MidJourney. (The caption was just to trick you). Does she still look the same now?
But that isn’t anything new. Photographic manipulation is as old as photography itself; MidJourney is just the latest kid on the block. It started with posed photographs, continued with photomontages employing all sorts of darkroom trickery, finished with Photoshop, and now AI. At each of these steps, the authenticity of photography was in question.