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The advent of AI-generated portraits and headshots has sparked a revolution in photography. Powerful generative algorithms like DALL-E, Stable Diffusion, and Midjourney can now conjure up photorealistic images of people from just a text prompt. For many, this eliminates the need to book a professional photoshoot or even step in front of a camera.
"I tried one of the AI portrait sites on a whim and was blown away by the results," said Amanda W., a marketing professional based in Austin. "I got headshots that look way better than ones taken by a photographer. The AI gave me perfect skin, lighting - everything. And it only took a few minutes."
Experiences like Amanda's are driving adoption of AI photo generation for business and personal use. A recent survey showed 37% of respondents had used or planned to use AI to create or edit a profile picture or headshot. The ease, speed, and low cost are big draws over professional photography.
However, some photographers see the technology as a threat. "If people can get a decent headshot from an app, they'll stop hiring pros," said Eric S., a portrait photographer in Los Angeles. "It commoditizes what we do and reduces photography to just punching buttons on a keyboard."
Indeed, demand for traditional headshot sessions has declined over the past year as AI alternatives proliferate. Most photographers, though, remain confident that AI can't fully replace the craft and artistry of in-person shoots. "There's no substitute for experience, skill, and the human touch," Eric added.
Overall, AI represents an inflection point for portraiture. While some fear the technology, others see opportunities to use it as a tool to enhance their work. "I think AI will change photography, but it won't make photographers obsolete," said portrait artist Joanna H. "There are certain subtleties only the human eye can discern. But AI can help us work better and faster."
The rise of AI-generated portraits has sparked heated debate in the photography community. While some see it as an existential threat, others view it as a potential asset. So is this new technology a boon or bust for pro photographers trying to make a living?
"I see AI portrait sites as direct competition stealing business from working artists like myself," said Michelle V., a photographer based in Chicago. She notes that demand for her headshot sessions has declined 30% over the past year. "Now people can get a decent headshot for $5 from an app. As the tech improves, it keeps chipping away at the value of real photography."
However, not all photographers view AI as the enemy. "I see it as a great tool to enhance my work and give clients new creative options," said James P., a portrait photographer in Dallas. James uses AI to quickly generate multiple stylistic variations of a portrait that he can then refine himself.
Some photographers even offer AI-enhanced portraits as a premium service. "Most clients want at least some retouching to look their best. AI lets me deliver that at scale," said Sarah L., a photographer in Los Angeles.
However, problems can arise if AI alterations go too far. "I've seen AI portraits that are so perfected and airbrushed that the person is unrecognizable," Sarah added. "Pro photographers know how to enhance portraits artfully and truthfully."
So while AI does present a challenge, most experts believe there is still strong demand for professional photographers who understand lighting, posing, and how to capture the essence of a subject.
"AI can't yet replicate the care and craft we put into creating flattering, authentic portraits," Michelle conceded. "But photographers need to clearly communicate our value and expertise compared to apps and algorithms."