Published on October 26, 2023, 6:53 am
Discussing the intersection of generative AI and the art industry inevitably leads to debates about ethics and concerns over whether this technology could potentially replace human artists. However, Skylum, a software company, emphasizes that their latest generative AI features in Luminar Neo are designed to complement photographers rather than replace them.
Skylum recently announced that Luminar Neo, an AI-focused editing software, will soon introduce new generative tools such as GenErase, GenExpand, and GenSwap. These tools will join Luminar Neo’s existing lineup of AI-assisted editing tools. What sets these new tools apart is that they are based on generative AI technology using the Stable Diffusion model, similar to Adobe Photoshop’s generative tools. The rollout for these three tools will be staggered, with each tool launching individually every month until the end of 2023. First up is GenErase launching on October 26th.
While Luminar Neo already heavily relies on artificial intelligence for its existing tools, these new additions mark the first time the software incorporates generative AI capabilities. The main aim behind Luminar Neo is to streamline the editing process by leveraging AI technology. The software caters to both expert photographers who can save time through its automated functions and less technically-savvy individuals who can easily delve into advanced image editing. Given this emphasis on AI-driven functionality within Luminar Neo, it would be surprising if the program doesn’t eventually adopt more generative-based tools in its arsenal.
The upcoming erase and expand tools were already listed as “coming soon” on the software’s website alongside other future features like scene swapping and water enhancement. Presently, Luminar Neo is capable of adding dramatic lighting effects to flat images, creating realistic sun rays, replacing skies, and correcting skin imperfections effectively. Considering that it has already incorporated several advanced functionalities including those not present initially when capturing an image, incorporating objects that didn’t exist before doesn’t seem too far-fetched.
The introduction of these new tools shouldn’t come as a shock considering that Adobe Photoshop has already ventured into the realm of generative AI. To establish itself as an AI-based photo editor, Luminar Neo needs to remain competitive with Photoshop, a photo editing software so ubiquitous that its name has become synonymous with the field itself. Recent updates to Photoshop have included an AI-based eraser tool, edge expansion capabilities, and even the ability to generate objects from typed-in text.
In their press release announcing these latest features, Skylum described Luminar Neo as software that uses AI “in a manner that serves them [photographers], not replaces them.” This mindset is crucial when assessing the ethical implications of using AI in image editing (alongside considerations such as image labeling and usage). As a photographer myself, I have personally used Photoshop’s generative AI eraser numerous times. This tool has saved me countless hours of tedious editing by effortlessly removing unwanted elements like bra straps or distracting objects intersecting with subjects’ faces. If AI can replicate tasks that photographers have been performing manually for years—such as removing power lines or street signs to reduce background distractions—it becomes difficult to raise ethical concerns in such cases. Naturally, within stricter genres like photojournalism or when misrepresenting an image as unedited, there are different ethical considerations at play. However, when the end result remains consistent while offering more time for what we truly love—the act of capturing photos—that’s when technology becomes a valuable companion rather than a threat.
Though GenErase and GenExpand generally fall within these ethical boundaries due to their ability to enhance existing elements without adding entirely new objects or scenes, GenSwap may potentially toe—or even cross—the line since it introduces elements that weren’t present in the original composition. While I’ve indulged in swapping photobombers with fictional creatures like yetis for some lighthearted fun on social media, incorporating objects into photographs that weren’t initially captured by the lens raises questions about competing with artists. However, it’s worth noting that generative AI still has its limitations—like transforming a mere photobomber into an otherworldly creature instead of creating an intricate masterpiece from scratch. The true capability and impact of these new generative tools can only be determined once each tool becomes available for use.
Skylum has confirmed that the new generative tools will be included for existing subscribers, while those who have purchased perpetual licenses can incorporate these features for an additional fee of $69 until October 28th. By opting for this offer, users will also gain access to any future features released before August 16th, 2024.
In summary, Skylum’s introduction of generative AI tools in Luminar Neo seeks to provide photographers with innovative automation options without diminishing their artistic skills or contributions. By understanding the ethical implications and ensuring that these tools serve as aids rather than replacements to human creativity, the art industry can effectively harness the power of AI in pursuit of even greater