Artificial Intelligence has arrived!

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been in the news a lot recently, amazing us all with what it can do in a short space of time.  The arrival of ChatGPT and its ability to write credible articles, poems, academic documents and more is quite revolutionary … and all in the matter of seconds too.  Business owners have discovered that AI can also be used to immediately generate extensive content for social media at the push of a button.  So what does this mean for business?  How do you feel about AI generated marketing content rather than hearing directly from the voice of the author?  And will AI technology replace professional headshot photographers?  I’d love to know your thoughts so do please comment!

AI and photography

Retouching and editing of photographs has been around for a long time, and we are all aware of the extent to which faces can be retouched, bodies can be changed in shape and objects added or removed from images.  Filters with all sorts of special effects are widely used in social media and commonplace.  Even with videos, images can be manipulated and “deep-fake” technology is not new – where images are transposed onto other so faces and bodies can be swapped around or removed.  You really cannot believe what you see any more.
And now AI has reached the realms of headshot photography with various companies offering you the option to generate a “Business headshot” or LinkedIn style headshot at a fraction of the cost of hiring a professional photographer.  Curious to see what they might come up with I decided to road-test the AI headshots.   I tested it out using Ai SuitUp! which will generate a set of 100 headshots from 15 photos that you upload of yourself along with a selfie.  The selfie is important as they regard that as the key image on which expression is based.
For anyone interested, to generate 100 headshots it currently costs $20 with various discount codes available.  This is the website I used – AISuitup!

AI headshot results

What did I find?  Well this particular site generates 100 different headshots – with different clothes, hairstyles and backgrounds although the majority of the expressions will be similar to the selfie you upload.  Different hairstyles are a little disconcerting, particularly given I have had short hair nearly all my life.  This is the sort of selection you will end up with so  you can see the range of styles – below are some of the ones that were generated for me.
AI generated headshots

AI Corporate headshots

100 headshots is a lot, but I felt I could probably discount at least two thirds of them immediately as bearing little resemblance to me.  What became more interesting was when I went through and picked out the ones that felt the most credible.   I have put below the ones that I felt were closest to how I look – as well as a couple that don’t at all, just for fun!

My conclusions

Mostly I think they are massively over-engineered – I have been beauty re-touched to death so I look super smooth skinned (which I am most definitely NOT!). In some of them I look like a teenager which is ridiculous.  At first look I thought there were quite a few that weren’t bad, but on close inspection they all have something that doesn’t look quite right to me.  In one the eyes are nearly right but the nose is all wrong, in another the expression feels like me but something else is a bit off.

The algorithm clearly took account of clothing colour preferences from the reference images, and hair styles and jewellery preference also seemed to be roughly loyal to the originals.  It took no notice of wedding rings so I am all of a sudden single in my photos!
There clearly is no human element checking for things gone wrong as in one of them I have the most bizarre shaped hand that is creepy (see below!)  Someone else I know ended up with THREE hands in one of her photos!!  I think on the whole the AI does not do hands very well as often then fingers look utterly wrong or mis-shapen. Certainly my photos feel like an ‘avatar’ rather than a real photo of me.
On showing these to friends and people who knew me I got some very interesting feedback. People thought I looked American/ like a newsreader/ like Lady Di!!  Interestingly there was a strong consensus that they felt “fake” – and that to some degree had been stripped of personality.  There seemed little enthusiasm from anyone to take this route for their next professional headshot which was good to hear!

What do I actually look like?

Now I am aware that not everyone reading this will have met me, so I guess I should post a couple of photos of what I actually look like.  These are recent professional headshots – and yes, they have had some light skin re-touching, but I think that they definitely look and feel like me!  Not quite as flawless, not quite as polished, but the real thing!  And in case you were wondering about the header image to this post – the one on the left is a real headshot, the one on the right is AI.
Jenny Kaye Photographer

Will Ai Headshots replace professional photographers?

I found this a really fascinating experiment to see what was possible.  Clearly the photos should look like me given that they were based on photos of me, and I suspect that the quality of photos I used was better than what many people might provide – and indeed some were professional headshots.  Will people use AI headshots rather than pay for a professional photographer?  Well of course some people will, but on the whole I feel like it was a resounding “no thanks” from most viewers.  Capturing someone’s individuality and style through professional photography is a key skill – and one that is not so easily replicated by AI.
Oh and also, I’m pretty good at telling you what to do with your hands, making sure you only have two of them and that they are the right shape!  🙂