Stop describing AI-generated art as photos!

Stop describing AI-generated art as photos!

You type word prompts into a field. A computer spits out an AI-generated image. Sorry, that’s not a photo, and you’re not a photographer.

Call it something else. It’s an image, a picture, AI-generated art or a computer doodle. It doesn’t matter. Just don’t call it a photo.

A mechanical Prompt Engineer in action, typing keywords to create AI-generated art. Wheeee!

Why ain’t it a photo?

I’m glad you asked. We create photographs using a camera. The camera lets in light. The light falls on light-sensitive material such as a sensor or film. Then the image is magically rendered visible through chemicals or digital means.

Did you notice something? In the description of how to create a photograph, I used the word “light.” Twice.

Photograph

Above: Real photographs made with light. Just as Sir John Herschel intended. “Light painting” seems to take on extra importance here, doesn’t it?

This isn’t just semantics. It’s in the name. “Photo” means “light”. “Graph” means “something written.” It may be all Greek to you, but that’s why I’m here to break it down.

Sir John Herschel, photography pioneer, coined the term “photograph.” He won out over “photogene,” “heliograph,” “photogram,” “sunprint,” and “sun-picture.” Interesting how all those names have to do with light, isn’t it?

This is AI-generated art of someone using a camera to create a photograph. I hope this isn't too confusing.
This is AI-generated art of someone using a camera to create a photograph. I hope this isn’t too confusing.

Not a photograph

What’s not a photograph? Simple. Something that doesn’t involve light.

Typing words into a field to instruct an artificial intelligence program running on computers doesn’t involve light at any time. If you instruct AI to create a picture of a spotlight, it doesn’t involve light. Even if you wear a headlamp while typing, it still doesn’t involve light. No photons were used in the making of that image.

"I am a Prompt King. This AI machine will do my bidding."
“I am the Duke of Digitative Drawing. This AI machine will do my bidding.”

If I’m not a photographer, then what am I?

Only you or perhaps your all-too-honest family members can answer that.

However, if you want a title, perhaps I can help. AI is the Wild West! You could have people address you by the following:

  • AI Generator General
  • Promptidigitator
  • Word Wizard
  • Prompt Queen
  • Prompt King
  • Prompt Wizard
  • Word Herder
  • Prompt Painter
  • Captain of Keywording
  • Word Wrangler
  • Prompt Engineer
  • Promptonaut
  • PAInter
In a poll in the Harvard student newspaper, 59% of students polled thought this was AI-generated art, not the night photograph it actually is.
In a poll in the Harvard student newspaper, 59% of students polled thought this was AI-generated art, not the night photograph it actually is.

Is this AI-bashing?

I’m not here to bash AI. In fact, I prefer to be very respectful just in case it reaches sentience (just kidding…or am I?).

Technology hurtles forward, and there’s not much we can do about it except to keep ourselves informed. If necessary, be wary. Almost all of us use AI whether we like it or not. It’s on our phones. It’s everywhere on the internet. And, of course, it’s in much of the technology around us. It’s used in much of the software we use. It’s even there when we call a business.

What’s not cool is to pass off your AI-generated art as a photograph. You know, that thing that’s created with light? We know that deception is wrong, right?