How Adobe proved me wrong about AI in photography

Artificial Intelligence continues to learn from everyday life in an effort to make tasks easier. Adobe's AI engine demonstrates how AI could simplify creative efforts for artists.

Video: How machine learning can enhance photography

From the desk of Ant Pruitt:

Dear Adobe:

Please accept my sincerest apologies as I totally thought you were up to no good trying to push artificial intelligence into the sacred world of creative arts. I wholeheartedly believed that you were trying to trim the already limited opportunities of creative artists by having machines replace them. I was wrong. I will not be so quick to judge in the future.



Seriously, the thought of having artificial intelligence sneak into the world of creative artists bugged me. Yes, we creatives do what we do because we flat out love it, but it's a pretty significant bonus when we're paid to do what we love. AI creeping in didn't sit well with me, as I know how competitive the creative space can be for paying gigs. When Google showed AI editing a photo, I immediately thought of AI as a way of eliminating creative jobs, not a positive disruption of the industry. This couldn't be further from the truth.

SEE: Getting started with drone photography (free TechRepublic PDF)

A day in a photographer's life

Let's think of a photography-related scenario. Say there's photo shoot with two models showing off an awesome new smartphone. The client insists on multiple photos of the models holding the phone and smiling in the shot, as well as photos of the phone being used while in the models' right hands. Those specifics could be key in making or breaking the project for the client (for whatever reason). Sadly, you as the photographer weren't given this information until after you started sorting your keepers from the shoot.

Going through hundreds of photographs from a shoot is a tedious task. Not all photos will be keepers, due to technical difficulties, such as focus and grain. Some photos will be discarded because the product or model wasn't shot from a flattering perspective. So now your client is telling you that they want to see only images of the phone in the models' right hands and smiling models? Ugh! the horror of manually searching photo by photo for these criteria.

SEE: Photo Colorization in Photoshop (TechRepublic Academy)

Why AI will work for the creative artist

Adobe Sensei comes to the rescue.... Well, sorta. If you're using Lightroom, you can search your gazillion catalogs for images based on your search criteria. When this was demonstrated during the Adobe Max conference, the examples worked really well. My experience has been above average, but not outstanding. The AI engine still has some learning to do, but it was definitely helpful in pulling up images in my searching efforts--especially since I've never tagged or categorized a photo in my library--ever. At the most, I give star ratings for some of my photos before I begin the edit process.


As seen below, the AI isn't perfect just yet, but it's been helpful when I've looked for certain items. In this case, I tested searching for women wearing hats in my photo library. Anything standing out to you?


This is a pretty valiant effort by Adobe Sensei. The image analysis process needs some improvement, for sure. But when you consider that the Lightroom of old looked for tags or categories, this is pretty impressive.

Okay, let's go beyond scanning your files. Let's look at AI in your workflow. AI in photography can help speed up the workflow by learning what makes a photo stand out with some of the basic editing tactics--typical items such as exposure, saturation, and white balance. Adobe is now working directly with you as the creator inside its photography products.

If you watch this demo from Adobe Max, you'll see how the AI uses natural interaction and content awareness. The AI is easy to use with the click of your mouse or voice control. Think of how easily you use Siri or Google Assistant on your smartphone. This interface is just as easy, but it's tightly integrated with your creative assets within the Adobe ecosystem, as well as with Adobe Stock.

As your creative juices fire off on your project, Adobe Sensei will monitor and analyze your workflow to offer suggestions within your design. In the Photoshop prototype version below, the AI is identifying points of interest that can be leveraged as part of the project's design. This is the content awareness arm of the AI. Speaking from personal experience, shoots I've completed have sometimes left me with mixed emotions or clouded direction. These factors can easily derail a project's progress. Having the AI give me a gentle nudge in the right direction as it's learning my editing style can be quite beneficial.


Image: Adobe

The creative process an artist goes through is magical. It's fascinating and exciting to see a creative at work. It's even more amazing to see that technology is being used to enhance that talent and skill as well as to (tastefully) speed up this process--which in turn can lead to more productivity and jobs for the artists. I'm hoping that Adobe will continue to invest resources into its AI and allow this tech to be seamless and almost second nature for artists during the magical time of content creation.

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Your thoughts

What are your thoughts on AI in the creative industry? Share your ideas with fellow TechRepublic members in the discussion below and tag me on Twitter with your thoughts or discussion points. I think creative artist are in for a fun ride.


Image: Ant Pruitt