Published on October 26, 2023, 6:02 am
The art industry has been engaged in an ongoing debate surrounding the ethical implications of generative AI. One concern that often arises is whether this technology could eventually replace the role of artists themselves. However, Skylum, a software company, aims to alleviate these concerns with its new generative AI features in Luminar Neo. Rather than replacing photographers, these features are designed to serve and assist them.
Skylum recently announced that their AI-focused editing software, Luminar Neo, will soon introduce generative tools such as GenErase, GenExpand, and GenSwap. These tools utilize the Stable Diffusion model, which is also used in Adobe Photoshop’s generative tools. The rollout of these three new tools will occur individually over the course of 2023, with GenErase launching first on October 26.
While Luminar Neo already incorporates a range of AI-based tools, these new additions represent the program’s introduction to generative AI. The primary goal behind Luminar Neo is to streamline the editing process using AI technology. This software aims to save expert photographers valuable time and make advanced image editing more accessible for less technically skilled individuals. Given this strong focus on AI, it would be surprising if the program did not eventually adopt additional generative-based tools.
The inclusion of erase and expand tools was already announced on the software’s website as upcoming features. Additionally, there are plans for a scene swap tool and a water enhancer tool in the future. Already capable of adding dramatic lighting effects to flat images, incorporating sun rays, swapping skies, and correcting skin imperfections, Luminar Neo now offers even more functionality by enabling users to add objects that were not present in the original photograph.
These new capabilities should come as no surprise since Adobe Photoshop has already revealed similar generative tools. If Luminar Neo aims to establish itself as a leading AI-based photo editor, it must remain competitive with Adobe Photoshop, a well-known software that has even become synonymous with photo editing itself. Recent updates to Photoshop include an AI-based eraser tool, edge expansion functionality, and the ability to input text that generates corresponding objects.
In a press release, Skylum emphasizes that Luminar Neo uses AI in a way that serves photographers rather than replacing them. This perspective is crucial in determining the ethical implications of utilizing AI in image editing—taking into account factors such as the usage and labeling of the image. As someone who has personally used Photoshop’s generative AI eraser tool on multiple occasions, I can attest to its time-saving benefits. It has allowed me to eliminate distracting elements like bra straps or unwanted grass without extensive manual editing.
When generative AI tools replicate what photographers have traditionally done for years, such as removing power lines or street signs for a cleaner background, ethical questions are negligible (excluding instances where images are purposely mislabeled or within specific genres like photojournalism). If these tools enable us to spend less time behind the computer and more time engaging in what we love – capturing memorable photographs – why not embrace them? This is precisely why many of us invest in high-quality cameras: to save valuable editing time and ultimately enhance our craft. Consequently, tools like GenErase and GenExpand generally pose no significant ethical concerns.
However, GenSwap introduces an element of complexity as it adds objects that were not part of the original scene. While I have personally transformed photobombers into amusing creatures like Yetis for humorous purposes on Facebook, I have yet to explore adding objects into my photographs seriously. Will adding objects through generative AI compete with artists? Presently, considering the distinction between turning a photobombing Yeti into an actual Bigfoot versus replicating renowned artwork using generative AI techniques, it seems unlikely that artists will face significant competition.
Of course, how well these generative tools perform remains to be seen — a question that can only be answered once each tool is fully rolled out. Skylum plans to add these new generative tools to existing subscriptions, while users who have purchased perpetual licenses have the option to include the new features for an additional $69 before October 28. This offer also covers any upcoming features released before August 16, 2024.
In conclusion, Skylum’s introduction of generative AI tools in Luminar Neo aims to enhance the capabilities of photographers rather than replace them. While questions of ethics and artistic competition may arise, these tools can streamline editing processes and expedite image enhancement for photographers of all skill levels. As these generative tools become more prevalent within the industry, it will be fascinating to observe how they impact both the creative process and the perception of art itself.