The editing possibilities of artificial intelligence are incredible with Google’s latest and opens the debate about whether they should do it.
Until now, mobile AI was used to improve photographs. Correct colors, tones, brightness or improve light conditions in complicated environments. However, with the new Pixel 8 that arrived in Spain a few weeks ago, the user has at their disposal a powerful tool to take photographs that, strictly speaking, do not exist. The power of Google’s AI is such that it can change faces in group photos, eliminate people, change the size of elements or, directly, change the landscape.
Two of its most important new features in this regard are a function called Best Take and the new possibilities of the Magic Editor. The first of them is activated when several photographs are taken of a group of people, and allows a mix between all the images. Thus, you can select some of the faces that each person has put in one of the photographs and add it to the final result. The second option allows you to completely alter the composition of the photographs, changing the position of the elements that appear and even their size, in addition to adding colors to the sky.
These functions go further than other less intrusive alternatives in terms of the composition of the photograph and respect more the essence of the moment. For example, the computational photography of the new iPhone 15 is capable of understanding that it is a portrait when it detects a person or pet in the foreground, facilitating the blurring of the background, but it does not change the elements of the image.
These new capabilities of mobile phones open the debate. Mobile cameras are capable of altering photographs until they have invented memories, but should they? To try to clear up any doubts, we chatted with photography professor, Rodrigo Rivas, specialized in using his iPhone to photograph professionally with his cell phone , and Mauro Fuentes, known on social networks as @fotomaf, to learn more about a little more in depth what they think about the arrival of this type of modifications using AI in the photographic field .
The truth is that it is not a new topic, nor is it free from controversy, since there have already been situations in which the debate around the power of AI takes away photography’s credibility. For example, in the first half of 2023, an image generated by artificial intelligence won the Sony World Photography Awards without knowing that it was not a real photograph. Now, it reaches mobile phones and everything indicates that it will go further.
The purpose of the photo matters
One of the big discussions related to artificial intelligence in recent months is the fact that it is becoming easier to change people’s faces in images. For some time now, there have been some applications that allow you to artificially add a smile or some facial features, such as freckles. One of the latest features of Google Photos allows the user, in a group photo, to choose the best face of each person from all the images that have been taken.
However, these types of photographs can end up being unnatural “that composition may be pretty, but it is not real,” explains Fuentes. This is the complaint of many people, who believe that, in photos of family and friends, having your eyes closed, or gesturing for a while, brings naturalness and spontaneity to the images. In his opinion, “if we let the machine choose the best face, the best smile, the best eyes and so on, it is creating something that is not real.” Although he thinks that other Google Photos functions that use AI to improve images and their detail, for example, can help a lot, such as when scanning old images.
On the other hand, Rivas sees these functions as useful, “the progress is good, you just have to see in which situations it is ethical and in which it is not,” since there are times in which these types of tools should not be used for their own purposes . that each type of image has in the professional field. “In group photography, when capturing images of an event, it can help everyone turn out well, but in documentary photography, where you want to capture the essence of the environment, in the end you are altering reality. Ethically, it is wrong. “.
Advances in artificial intelligence related to photography make it possible to do incredible things effortlessly, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should . Both in professional environments and in the personal sphere, each one should consider whether it is a good thing or not. Mauro gives the example of old photographs, “it would never occur to me to modify the face of a relative in an old photograph. It seems too much to me.”
Advances that can help
Tools capable of altering the composition of images, such as the magic editor in Google Photos, allow modifications such as moving elements, changing their size or even changing the color of the sky. This has generated a lot of controversy on social networks, since it allows you to completely change the photograph.
However, it is still a creative resource, such as Photoshop, a tool that is well known to photographers and is used in many areas. “Now there are facilities because it is automatic, but many professional photographers have done this with Photoshop, it all depends on the type of photography being taken,” explains Rivas.
Fuentes, along the same lines, believes that “it can be a good resource at a professional level that helps with editing”, although he does not see much use for the average user, except for the automatic editing suggestions, which on some occasions they do do . that people end up trying these functions. Rodrigo also has certain doubts about its short-term acceptance, and thinks that “its acceptance will depend on how society embraces it. There will be photographers who use it and others who don’t,” although he takes nothing for granted in the long term.
These are tools that it is positive that users have, and whose suitability depends on the way and the situation in which we use them and what we are looking for in a photograph. For a resume, for example, surely many people prefer to use editing to improve the photograph, even if it is artificial, while in a snapshot at a family gathering, there will be users who could use AI to put on a smile, and others who they do not want to do it to preserve the image as it came out at the time.