This article, from Arabian Studs and Stallions 2023, looks at the benefits and challenges of using Artificial Intelligence when photographing, and thus advertising, horses.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionised the world of art and photography, presenting both opportunities and challenges. The genie is out of the bottle. We can’t put it back and the latest developments have turned the art and photography world on its head. Questions of copyright, is it really still a photograph, and are the original creators being compensated? How will it affect people’s jobs?
We are all familiar with the use of filters on social media to alter hair, makeup, age… You name it, there is a filter for it. If your job is behind a computer, you can sit in your PJ’s and present a fully made up appearance to the world… Goodbye hairdressers! In turn, the perils of photoshopped Arabian horses, especially heads and necks, has actually changed the breed. People strive to breed heads that artists and photographers have portrayed in extreme ways. At some point though, the real you, and the real horse, will have to be seen in public, and this is where the dishonesty is discovered.
Photographs have been altered since the darkroom days. However, ethical photographers continue to refuse to alter a horse’s conformation. Good photographers can make a horse look its best with the right lighting and flattering angles, while expensive cameras and lenses produce quality photographs, highlighting your horses’ best attributes.
While it’s always easier to get it right in camera, AI can be a help to photographers. During photo shoots, photographers select the best backgrounds and light to create beautiful photographs, without excessive editing afterwards. In the show-ring, it’s not always that easy. There are messy backgrounds, varying light conditions and often people or objects get in the way of an otherwise beautiful photograph. The new changes that are available in a testing stage of Photoshop promise to speed up workflow and save a lot of images that may well have been discarded.
It’s still best to start with a good photograph, sharp and correctly lit, as an AI can only do so much. Photoshop is currently testing a new beta version that uses AI to remove people or objects from photos, extend backgrounds with generative fill, and place subjects on new backgrounds. All of this was possible before, but it took skill, education, and hours of work. I won’t bore you with tales of painstakingly cutting out horses, cloning and healing, photographing backgrounds, creating shadows and so on… This can now be done with the click of a mouse and some simple selections.
Some of the things that it does are amazing and lightning fast, such as this example of the chestnut gelding – photographs before and after – where the handler was removed. Another example is the grey mare, where the arm and background distractions were removed, and a lead rein and clouds added. Maybe the software likes chestnuts because the grey was an epic fail, not cutting out correctly and leaving artifacts in the fur that will take hours of work to possibly turn into an acceptable photograph. It did, however, choose a background that was a reasonable match.
Of course, the programme also produces hilarious results, such as creating zombie people and even goats when left to its own devices or the wrong prompts.
If you have photographs you love but they have a problem, or old images that need restoring, talk to your photographer or designer and see if they can fix it with the new Photoshop programming. It may be enticing to use a quick background change app but does that really reflect the quality of your stock with the resulting photograph, as most are not believable.
Like it or not, you have to make some effort promoting and advertising your breeding programme or horses for sale. Image is more important than ever, and top quality images are what promotes your stud. Remember – every social media post is a reflection of your stud and the quality of your horses to an ever more discerning public.
AI can now create images from text. Mid Journey, Dall-e and Stable Diffusion use any photographs and paintings available on the internet without crediting or compensating the original creator and rearrange it into a new artwork, which is copyrighted to the AI. It can create logos or cute pictures for your social media posts or T-shirt designs. AI can now write music, therefore evading copyright or payment to artists. It can create videos automatically, create podcasts, take notes on zoom meetings, translate into any language, write books and produce the illustrations – the list is endless.
Like the internet itself, AI is a double-edged sword, costing jobs. However, it is speeding up workflows, and making advertising more accessible to the everyday person. One would hope that the human race will continue to appreciate ‘the real thing’; time will tell. You can no longer believe what your eyes see in photographs, videos, or even voice messages.
It all seems so easy. However, I leave you with just one last word of warning… We’ve all seen The Terminator!
First printed in Arabian Studs and Stallions 2023