The perfect shot, enhanced: How AI is the revolutionising photography industry.


During the last few years, nearly every industry around the world has been disrupted by the growth and trend of artificial intelligence (AI). The archetypal vision of mechanical robots coming to replace humans at their workstations is not really applicable anymore. Today, AI takes the form of software: digital technologies that simulate human intelligence processes and aim to automate, augment, upgrade traditional business functions or activities – including photography.

There have been many sensational headlines regarding AI and photography. In March, German artist Brosi Eldagsen refused to accept the prize for the creative open category at the Sony World Photography Awards after he admitted his winning entry was generated using AI.

But when it comes to photography, AI is so much more than just generating pictures of people that have six fingers on each hand. Although most of us may not realise it when we pick up a modern camera, photographers have been benefitting from AI for years. AI is used in developing shooting, editing, and organisational features that are important tools in photographers’ production processes. It’s integral to everything from autofocus to reducing picture noise.

AI represents a fundamental shift in how we use technology to capture the world around us. With it come technological and ethical responsibilities, but also opportunities, leading to a future where AI enhances photography like nothing that came before it.

The responsibilities of AI-driven photography

As both an artistic medium and an important industry, photography hasn’t stopped evolving since it first emerged in the early 19th century. With each innovation, from the introduction of colour to the transition to digital photography, improved technology empowered photographers to capture the perfect shot, document history, or express themselves. And now, in this next phase of evolution, people are asking what AI-enabled cameras and photographic programs mean for the industry.

AI-driven photographic processes need to be accurate and reliable. Algorithm-backed features available in cameras and photo editing software should offer precise and consistent results, serving as reliable tools in the photographer’s kit. These processes should also be easy to use. Whether you’re an amateur or professional, AI must offer user-friendly interfaces that don’t overwhelm.

With ongoing concerns surrounding data compliance and using photographers’ data in generative AI programs, AI-driven camera and software features must lead by example and adhere to strict regulations and usage policies. Users must have peace of mind when it comes to their information, photo libraries, and edited work, feeling assured that their content remains under their complete control.

Importantly, AI should never restrict or compromise creativity. It remains a tool with which photographers can improve or enhance their vision. It can automate manual, redundant tasks, giving photographers more time and capacity to focus on the elements that matter.

Neural network image processing

While there have long been examples of AI-driven photography features, such as autofocus and facial recognition, technology vendors and developers are pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the captured image.

AI is helping to enhance camera performance in several ways. One such way is with neural network image processing, where algorithms are used to analyse an image, after which a range of treatments are applied to different areas. These algorithms can “recognise” different subject matters according to specific details, thanks to training data and databases of images with every sort of subject possible.

Neural network image processing can help solve some of photography’s leading problems, including noise reduction, colour interpolation, aberration and diffraction correction. It can improve noise reduction without lowering image quality, improve colour reproduction, detail resolution, correct aberrations and diffraction, as well as deterioration caused by the two issues. The result is improved visual resolution, and a picture that benefits from a new frontier of image correction processing.

Capturing the way forward

Like in all industries, AI is slowly becoming a permanent fixture in photography. According to the Zenfolio 2023 State of Photography Industry Report, almost half of the report’s surveyed photographers say they have integrated AI into their photography workflows, with 34% saying they are using the technology to reduce the tedium of tasks such as editing, sharpening, and noise reduction.

AI will continue to reach heights we cannot yet envision. At the same time, it will continue to influence photography in South Africa and across the world, propelling photographers to consider new possibilities, explore new ideas, and take on new challenges in pursuit of the perfect shot.

David Preston, Managing Director at Canon South Africa