Would you suggest an author publish their first draft as a finished work?
A few weeks ago I was giving a presentation on artificial intelligence (AI) to the American Society of Photographers based on my recent book. After my talk where I shared about AI being used in our cameras and in our editing software, one of the attendees posed the question:
What does it mean for purists like me?
I offer this question in reply: what is a photography purist in 2021?
Are you no longer a purist if you use shutter or aperture priority instead of manual mode? What if you use autofocus instead of making every focus adjustment by hand? Would a purist look at the LCD display on their digital camera at all? Or does being a purist only apply after capture? Can you do anything afterward and still be considered pure? What about cropping?
For better or worse, all modern cameras (DSLRs, mirrorless, or smartphones) have automated features built in that help make our work easier as photographers, and these features are all in service of making more impactful photos. Thinking that avoiding modern technology makes one a superior photographer is as absurd as suggesting that someone can’t be a great driver if their vehicle has power steering or an automatic transmission.Thinking that avoiding modern technology makes one a superior photographer is as absurd as suggesting that someone can’t be a great driver if their vehicle has power steering or an automatic transmission. Click To Tweet
Yes, one could choose to forgo modern conveniences (in photography and otherwise) if they want, but that choice isn’t one that’s going to be a factor in mainstream discussions in the professional photography world.
Here’s the thing: your client doesn’t care whether you’re a purist or the image is “straight out of camera”.
The client who hired you to make a portrait, or photograph their event, or create marketing images for their business wants the strongest images with the most impact. Certainly a level of basic photographic competence is required, but if technology (either in the camera or in post-processing) can make that image stronger? That’s what the client wants. Discussions about whether something is straight out of camera are merely an academic curiosity.
Ultimately, that’s what we should want as photographers: to create the strongest images, making use of a variety of tools as we go.
Don’t misconstrue me as saying that your skill in using your camera isn’t important… it certainly is. If you’re not competent at the time of capture, your post-processing tasks will be more difficult or even impossible. But camera capture alone isn’t the be-all and end-all of photography.
Me? I’m going to learn how to best use my camera to make the photos as strong as possible at capture. And then I’m going to learn how to use my software so that I can make them even stronger. Artificial intelligence gives me additional capabilities both in my camera and in my editing software, and as I try to create the strongest images possible, I’ll use all the tools at my disposal.