Artificial intelligence technology is changing the way that photographers work. In particular, it offers easier, faster, and better photo editing for photographers of all stripes, from beginners all the way up to professionals.
But how does artificial intelligence fit into photography? What can AI do? And does it come with any drawbacks?
In this article, we take a look at the most significant features of AI-powered software. We’ll explain how these features have changed editing for the better, but we’ll also discuss some of the drawbacks inherent in these programs.
By the time you’re done, you’ll have a broad understanding of AI photo editing, its strengths, and its weaknesses.
Let’s get started.
What is the purpose of artificial intelligence in photo editing?
Artificial intelligence is intended to turn manual, uninspiring, often time-consuming tasks into semi-automatic actions.
For example, to edit a portrait, you might normally spend a couple of hours manipulating brushes and masks – but thanks to AI portrait editing software, you can simply make a few clicks and call it a day.
AI software can also intelligently apply edits to a batch of photos, allowing you to avoid processing each file manually (you won’t even need to add a preset!). Artificial intelligence also bypasses complicated editing parameters, which makes photo editing more accessible for beginners (think “auto-enhance” buttons).
Now let’s take a look at some specific AI photo editing applications, starting with:
AI helps you choose your best photos
For most photographers, the first stage of editing involves a culling process, during which you choose the best shots from a slew of imported images.
Usually, you’ll need to look through hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of photos, sort the good from the bad, and potentially even do another round of selecting. This can take several hours, and some photographers even claim it’s the most burdensome part of image processing.
In fact, intensive culling can negatively impact your art. Since you’ve spent so much time looking through (often similar) photos, you can get too involved in the process or you can burn out, at which point you might reject key photos or keep photos that deserve to be trashed.
That’s where AI can help. By letting artificial intelligence do the photo selection for you, you can avoid human error, take less time, and stay focused on what matters: your in-depth editing work.
For instance, Adobe has implemented a “Best Photos” feature in Lightroom CC, which automatically identifies the strongest shot from a series of similar images.
AI can upscale low-resolution images
One of the hottest topics in the imaging community is the power of AI to take low-quality images and upscale them into high-resolution files.
Of course, it’s possible to do standard upscaling in a program such as Photoshop; you can increase the image size using the program’s basic algorithms. But while the conventional upscaled quality is good, photographers want more – which is where artificial intelligence comes into the picture.
Artificial intelligence makes upscaled images look great, plus it’s perfect for users who lack photo editing chops. Generally, you find a program that uses AI upscaling, upload an image, and choose the desired size – no additional actions are required. AI can process the image relatively quickly, and the result will often be better than that of non-AI methods.
Ultimately, AI can work for tasks like upscaling low-resolution images. The technology is getting better every day – and the quality can be superior to traditional upscaling methods.
AI can replace skies (with zero hassle)
Sky replacement is one of the most talked-about features of AI-powered photo editing software, thanks in part to the sky-swapping tool released in Skylum’s Luminar.
The tool works exactly as it sounds: You identify an image, click a few buttons, and your program will drop in a new sky. And that’s not all; you can adjust the sky’s brightness, work with the horizon, or even relight the entire scene so that it matches the new sky’s colors and lighting.
Before such functionality was added to photo editing software, sky replacement was a possibility – but it was insanely time-consuming, required significant know-how, and was all-around inaccessible to hobbyists and beginners.
Yet thanks to AI sky replacement tools, your editing skills don’t matter; instead, you can take a boring photo and make it beautiful in about 15 seconds flat.
AI can do automatic masking
Previously, selective editing and background replacement took a lot of work. You would generally mask certain areas of the image, which involved carefully selecting subject edges and could get very tedious, especially with certain subjects.
(Masking is all about telling the editing program which parts of the photo to touch and which parts of the photo to leave alone. So if you want to brighten up a person’s face, you might mask the person, then apply an exposure adjustment only to the masked area.)
Now, manual masking was (and is!) possible, but it demands a lot of accuracy. If you accidentally mask the area outside of your target, you end up with unwanted content in your mask, which can cause plenty of problems down the line.
But with software such as Topaz Mask AI, the process is much easier. The program does the heavy lifting, and this makes tedious brushwork unnecessary, since AI-powered tools can make all the changes in a few clicks.
AI can adjust colors and exposure
A final type of AI-powered tool makes adjustments to colors, contrast, and exposure. Programs offer options such as Enhance AI, where you simply adjust a slider or press a button, then watch as your image is improved.
This can come in handy, especially for novices who are still finding their style and may need help choosing the best adjustments for their photos.
Weaknesses of AI-powered software
Artificial intelligence delivers benefits, as we’ve already seen, but creativity is not one of them. AI enables photographers to save time and effort, and even novices can create pro-level edits, but photographers have less control over their images when they use AI-powered tools.
AI does not look for new ways and does not create new styles. A photographer using the software can be at risk of losing their individuality because they simply follow some AI-recognized standards.
That said, certain AI editing programs simply use their software to emulate your pre-existing photographic style. So if you’re a serious photographer who already has a stylistic identity, you can use AI to simply speed along the (creative!) editing process.
How artificial intelligence has changed photo editing: final words
AI-based software has certainly changed photo editing – though this comes with both advantages and disadvantages. Such software can definitely save time, but it can also negatively affect creativity.
Still, the best thing about most of today’s photo editing programs is that you can choose whether to use AI, depending on your preferences at any given time. So feel free to try out some of the latest software, and don’t be afraid to experiment!
Movavi is a paid partner of dPS.
About the author: Brian Jarvis is a digital marketer with more than 10 years of experience. He is a contributor to Content Marketing Institute and is regularly quoted as an expert in large media outlets. His job is to make your business known all over the internet.