Why A.I. Photography Will Never Eclipse Images Captured By People

Artificial intelligence can mimic some techniques photographers use but lacks the subjective insight of the artist.

Photography, to me, is more than a mechanical process of capturing light, which cuts right to the heart of the limitations of artificial intelligence in the art form. In the world of portraiture, where emotion and connection are the soul of every shot, the human touch is irreplaceable. As a top-rated photographer, I believe that no matter how advanced A.I. gets, it will never produce any output that can match the magic of a genuine moment like a human can.

A man dips a woman in a dress while kissing her with a cityscape in the background
A couple photographed by the author, Alex Perelmuter. Alex Perelmuter

Portraiture, journalistic photography and fine art photography go beyond documenting reality; it’s about emotion, stories and the intangible bonds that make us human. It’s about capturing the essence, not just the appearance. To do this requires more than just technical skills. It takes intuition, a keen eye for the subtleties of human expression and most importantly, empathy.

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A.I. as photographer falls short because it can’t truly empathize with a subject. A camera, no matter how high-tech, can’t grasp the unspoken stories in a person’s eyes or the vulnerability they show in front of the lens. Empathy is a major element of what allows a photographer to build trust and beautifully capture real moments.

A dancer from the Moulin Rouge troupe photographed by Wojtek Radwanski. AFP via Getty Images

Artificial intelligence also can’t handle the unpredictability of human behavior. Consider spontaneous laughter, tears of joy or covert glances between loved ones—in other words, genuine, unscripted moments A.I. will never be able to comprehend. Human emotion is what makes photography so impactful. A perfectly framed shot can only take a photograph so far. More is required to convey a moment of personal triumph, unbridled joy or the love or respect two people share. A.I. cannot understand it and so A.I. cannot convey it like a human photographer can.

Las Vegas Raiders v Miami Dolphins
Christian Wilkins (r.) and Hunter Renfrow photographed by Kevin Sabitus. Getty Images

Artistry in photography even extends beyond the shot to the post-processing and interpretation. It’s where a photographer’s unique vision and personal touch shine. A.I. can mimic the techniques photographers use to enhance portraits but lacks the subjective insight of the artist. Creativity makes us all unique and different, and as no person is the same, no photo should be the same. An artificially intelligent computer system trained to take photos will have no insight into its subjects and, as a result, no ability to innovate.

How artificial intelligence will change photography

A.I. has the potential to transform photography entirely—not necessarily for the better. Computer-based systems are coded to fit a certain mold and lack the ability to think creatively. When A.I. begins to take over the art of photography, images may lose their individuality, merging into a standardized aesthetic. This, in turn, could diminish the distinctive perspective and vision of individual portrait photographers. As the world embraces artificial intelligence, we risk losing the artistry and personal touch that define incredible portraiture.

Chef Arnaud Delvenne photographed by Virginie Lefour. BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

That said, A.I.-powered photography tools can still be useful. Even as A.I. fails again and again to capture the art of photography, it does possess the ability to enhance image quality through adjustments dictated by human photographers. For example, A.I. can handily fine-tune settings, sharpen focus and eliminate distracting noise. A.I. can also simplify a photographer’s day-to-day routine by taking over time-consuming labor like tagging and organizing photos. This not only makes administrative tasks easier but also turns artificial intelligence into a valuable time-saving tool, leaving the photographer free to concentrate on their subjects, ensuring no crucial shots are missed.

Ultimately, the future of portraiture includes artificial intelligence—the same way A.I. is making inroads in the world of fine art and literature. But the value of truly beautiful and moving portraiture lies to some extent in the fact that it can’t be replicated by an A.I. system. The human touch is what makes this art form so special. Portraiture involves so much more than capturing an image—it’s the art of telling stories that evoke emotion. Taking a picture is only the final step in a process that requires the intuition, empathy and unique perspective that only humans have.

Why A.I. Photography Will Never Eclipse Images Captured By People