AI-Generated Stock Photos of People: Time to Worry? – Rangefinder Online

January 7, 2022
By Hillary K. Grigonis

After artificial-intelligence algorithms learned to create portraits of fake people from scratch, a large stock photography platform will soon add
AI-generated stock photos and they will be free to download. Earlier this week, VAIsual and Smarterpix announced a partnership on a collection of AI-generated stock photos that the company claims is the “world’s first legally licensed, synthetically generated stock content.”
The collection of images contains green-screen portraits of people that don’t actually exist, displaying a variety of different emotions (except happiness). The images, all headshots, are intended to be blended with other backgrounds. Developed using algorithms by VAIsual, the images are expected to launch on Smarterpix, a free stock photography website owned by PantherMedia.
[Read: 4 Strategies to Promote Your Photography Business in 2022]
The first set of AI-generated stock photos is entirely made up of headshots, but the company is already moving forward. “Our portrait library contains an ever-growing volume of diverse faces, ages, ethnicities and genders,” Michael Osterrieder, CEO of VAIsual, wrote in a statement. “We are aggressively working on our next phase of development and will shortly begin generating full-body images of humans.”
VAIsual says the algorithms used the company’s own unique dataset. One of the reasons that the system was not trained using an existing database is because VAIsual wanted model releases of each person in the dataset. While the images are not real people, they are based on a collection of images of real people that all signed a biometric release. VAIsual says the collection is “legally clean” and that users won’t need to worry about model releases.
The images of fake people could prove helpful in industries where a model may find it embarrassing to have their photo featured. Remember that episode of Friends when Joey’s face was used on posters for venereal disease? Produced without backgrounds, the images could also serve as pieces for Photoshop artists to transform.
However, using computer-generated images could potentially create turbulence in the industry. Stock photography is an option that many photographers use to generate a secondary source of income, or even a primary source of income. Could computer-generated images impact some photographer’s livelihoods?
Another question to consider: Will AI-generated stock photos create more issues like the ones highlighted in humorous Twitter threads for #BadStockPhotosOfMyJob? In the first published set of images from the collection, some of the “people” have blurred edges, especially around the hair, similar to what sometimes happens when using AI-generated background blur with a smartphone camera. Others have features that are obviously off, like misaligned eyes and odd emotions. Photographers will no doubt be able to easily spot a number of oddities in some of the images.
VAIsual isn’t the first to generate humans from scratch, or even offer AI-generated photos for free. Generated photos launched a free library of 100,000 AI people in 2019. A Generative Adversarial Network or GAN is a type of AI that is used to create models of something—in this case, people. GAN-generated people have been grabbing headlines for a few years, raising questions about what it means for the industry as well as concern over misuse as profile pictures for spreading propaganda.
VAIsual and Smarterpix did not say when the first set of AI-generated stock photos would be available.
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