Anyone with access to the internet or smartphone knows that the photography industry has been rocked by the rise of artificial intelligence. From ethical viewpoints to questions of copyright infringement, there's been wide debate on whether AI is a useful tool or a harmful threat to 'human' creatives. Scroll through any forum on the subject, and you'll find there are compelling arguments for both sides.
With app stores spilling over with applications designed create fantastical images with only word prompts or quickly (and easily) edit and enhance existing images within seconds, there's no shortage of photographers and digital artists wondering if selling their services is even worth it anymore. And for some niche fields, it may not be. As award winning fashion and beauty photographer, Lindsay Adler, comments in her Instagram post after comparing an original image she created to its two enhanced versions created by AI: "...with a good selfie won’t the AI be able to do this without me altogether soon?".
But here's how I think the portrait photographer can surf against the rising tide of AI.
As a luxury portrait photographer, my job is not only providing my clients with beautiful imagery--I'm tasked with giving them a brief vacation (so to speak) away from their norm. I take the time to get to know my clients personally--their likes/dislikes and the aspects of themselves they want conveyed in their final images. From make-up preferences to food allergies, the process of curating the portrait experience is very much hands-on. And that doesn't go unnoticed by the client.
(Pro tips: The first time you see or hear your client shouldn't be on session day. Put in more effort during the intake process by using questionnaires and following up with phone consultations or a virtual meeting. Doing so not only promotes a human connection with your client, it helps to curate a session unique to them and makes sure you meet their expectations.)
Clients come to me not only to solve their photography problem, they come to me to meld fantasy with reality. When you think about it, a client considering hiring a photographer shouldn't just be interested in buying a digital file or a printed photograph. Remember, with the right app and an image taken with their phone, they can easily get that from AI. Instead, it should be about the time and talent of the photographer, the experience they provide, and the chance to capture emotions and moments that can never be replicated. Show your clients the experience you provide transcends anything they can find in an app store. If you prove your services can't be duplicated, you'll be rewarded with their loyalty.
(Pro tips: Show your services online and stand out by offering more than your talent. For example, one service my clients enjoy is a masseuse on session day to help them relax before getting in front of the camera [this tidbit is also shared via my website for perusing future clients]. If you're not equipped to accommodate additional services yet, simply compiling a list of vendors [MUAs, stylists, boutiques, etc...] to share with your clients to help relieve the stresses of planning goes a long way.)
While AI may be able to replicate the technical aspects of photography with the knowledge we've fed it over the age of the internet (nods to possible copyright issues), it can never replace the unique and personal experience of a portrait session. It can never be a living, feeling, real person.
In other words, it can never be you.
AI can no doubt be a useful tool in a photographer's workflow toolkit that helps them execute their client's vision. But when we are constantly bombarded with generic and dispassionate imagery, the value of a personalized and authentic photography experience becomes even more desirable!
So don’t sell photography. Do this instead:
Get to know your clients on a personal level.
Differentiate yourself from the competition (AI and human alike) by offering hands-on services and unforgettable experiences.
Stay genuine and remember your biggest asset is not only your talent but your authenticity.
If you're a good photographer, your clients will always cherish the portraits you deliver them. But if you're great, your clients will remember how you made them feel when you created them.
Now go shoot something!