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How AI Is Changing How We Photograph
Don't let technical shortcomings keep you from making good photos
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We often talk about AI technologies in terms of what they can do. Photoshop’s Generative Fill, for example, can erase or replace images within a photo, or ON1 Denoise AI can reduce digital noise. But those tools don’t exist by themselves. In a video for Adobe Live, professional retouchers and all-around great people Lisa Carney and Jesús Ramirez show how they use Generative AI features in their high-end work: Pro Creative Cloud Workflows in the Real World with Lisa Carney and Jesús Ramirez.
A lot of it is employed in building comps and design ideas for clients, and they talk about what they’ll be able to do once Adobe Firefly and Generative Fill in Photoshop are out of beta and able to be used commercially. It’s a great look into how artists at the top end of the field are using and thinking about these tools.
How AI Is Changing How We Photograph
A friend invited me to his small birthday party and asked if I could take a few photos because he usually forgets to do it. Of course I said yes and brought my compact Fujifilm X100V camera. We sat on a deck outside with an amazing view of downtown Seattle, Lake Union, and Mount Rainier in the distance. As the light faded and conversations kept going, I snapped a photo occasionally.
Now, let’s break that down photographically, because it represented a few challenges. The X100V has a fixed 23mm (cropped, 35mm equivalent) f/2.0 lens, and a 26 megapixel sensor. That’s a good all-around combination, but when the light fades, the light fades—no compact sensor is going to capture darkness well without compromises. I set the shutter speed to 1/125 second, switched the ISO to Auto, and opened the aperture all the way to f/2.0.
In the past, that would worry me, because in dark situations the camera would want a slower shutter speed to let in more light. By manually setting a floor of 1/125 second I was forcing the X100V to compensate by pushing up the ISO, which meant most of the late-night images were taken at ISO 4000, 5000, or 6400. (The X100V can go up to ISO 12800, but I have an Auto ISO setting that constrains that to 6400.) Higher ISO settings mean more noise. The other way to cut down ISO is to introduce more light, but there’s no way I was going to blast those fine folks with a flash or try to bring a standing light outside. So I was left with noisy images.
But here’s the thing: high-noise photos aren’t a problem now that there are several apps that can intelligently compensate for it. (And before I get ahead of myself, I’ll point out that cameras do a much better job of handling noise than in the past.)
At ISO 6400, the noise from the X100V isn’t bad at all. In this case, knowing that noise would be an issue with the darker images, I first ran them through DxO PureRAW 3 even before I started editing them.
(I also found, as I mentioned in an earlier post “Demosaic, Denoise, Delovely,” that particularly with images containing people, I prefer the DeepPRIME algorithm to the DeepPRIME XD algorithm.)
In my podcasts and articles, I often talk about photographing with processing in mind. Yes, you want to get as much right in-camera as you can, but sometimes that’s just not possible. And I’ve realized that with things such as high ISO, I know I can compensate for it using something like the Denoise tool in Lightroom, DxO PureRAW, or Topaz Photo AI. So I don’t hesitate to shoot high ISO, which frees me up to focus more on composition and capturing the scene.
We’ve been able to talk to a couple of great guests on the most recent PhotoActive podcast episodes, and then Kirk and I chatted about how he sold all his gear in favor of a single Leica Q3:
Episode 143: Mike Shaw Wants You to Enjoy the Night Sky: The weather is warming up, the skies are clearing, and we point our eyes and cameras to the sky. But capturing the night sky well requires more than just snapping a photo of the heavens. Mike Shaw, author of the new book The Beginner’s Guide to Astrophotography, joins us to talk about what gear you need—yes, you can do it with a smartphone!—and how to make stunning star photos.
Episode 144: Wrangling Libraries with Matthieu Kopp: If you’re like Jeff and Kirk, you probably have multiple photo libraries spread across your disks. Whether it’s because you use several editing apps, or some libraries are tied to outdated applications (RIP Apple Aperture), you don’t want to lose track of all those photos. This week, Matthieu Kopp of CYME joins us to talk about converting and managing multiple libraries using CYME’s utilities Avalanche and Peakto, and why both tasks aren’t as simple as you might think.
Episode 145: Kirk Simplifies with One Camera: He really went and did it. When Kirk decided to simplify his photography setup, he sold all of his Fujifilm cameras and lenses, put the Leica Q2 Monochrom up for sale, and bought a brand new Leica Q3. In this episode, we talk about the reasons behind such a drastic move and the advantages of simplifying your gear.
As a full-time freelancer, I have the good fortune to work on all sorts of projects. If you know me from my coverage of photographic subjects, you may not be aware that I started my career covering Apple and the Macintosh ecosystem. That’s still one part of the work I do, and I have a couple of book updates that fall into that arena.
I’ve been involved with Take Control Books since the independent electronic press debuted in 2003, publishing many titles since then. I’ve just updated two current books to account for changes in the latest macOS, iOS, and iPadOS operating systems. Both ebooks are packed with practical information and priced at only $14.99:
Take Control of Managing Your Files, Second Edition, version 2.0: Apple users have fantastic tools at their disposal for using, creating, and editing files of all kinds, but few of us have any real strategy for naming, organizing, or tagging those files—making them increasingly difficult to find later on. In this book, veteran technology author Jeff Carlson helps you make sense of what could be millions of files on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad so that you can spend less time hunting for things and more time doing useful work (or having fun).
Take Control of Your Digital Storage, Second Edition, version 2.3: As the amount of data we store continues to grow, figuring out where to put it and how to access it becomes more complicated. It’s not just that we need to find space for our increasingly large collections of photos, videos, music, and apps—we want it to be available whenever we need it, and be sure that it’s safe from hackers and thieves. Every Mac includes internal storage in the form of a hard drive, SSD, or Fusion drive. But you may also have one or more external devices (such as hard drives, flash drives, SD cards, or RAID devices), not to mention network-attached storage (NAS) devices or cloud storage (like Dropbox or iCloud Drive). Making sense of all your options, managing your stored data, choosing new devices or services when you’re running out of space, or even just figuring out what’s where can drive anyone to distraction.
I’m also hard at work on updating Take Control of Your Digital Photos, which should be out soon. It hasn’t been updated since 2019, so there’s a lot to do (although the bulk of the information in the current guide is still relevant).
Thanks again for reading and recommending Photo AI to others who would be interested. Send any questions, tips, or suggestions for what you’d like to see covered at firstname.lastname@example.org. Are these emails too long? Too short? Let me know.