Real Photo Disqualified From Photography Contest For Being AI

A real photo that was disqualified from a photo competition for being an AI image
Suzi Dougherty’s photo of her son Caspar with two mannequins that was deemed to be AI by a panel of judges.

A genuine picture taken on an iPhone was thrown out of a photography competition after the judges suspected that it was generated by artificial intelligence (AI).

Suzi Dougherty had captured a striking photo of her son with two smartly-dressed mannequins in an intriguing pose while visiting a Gucci exhibition. Happy with her creation, she entered it into a photo competition.

Dougherty didn’t think much more of it until a friend showed her an Instagram post declaring her photo ineligible because the competition’s organizers suspected it to be an AI image.

“I wouldn’t even know how to do an AI photo,” Dougherty tells The Guardian. “I’m just getting my head around ChatGPT.”

The photo competition was held by Charing Cross Photo, a store in Sydney, Australia. In their Instagram post disqualifying Dougherty’s photo, the judges say they were “first intrigued” but then “suspicion set in.”

“We want the images to come from your real-life experience, and not sourced from cyberspace,” writes Charing Cross Photo.

“There is no way we can be completely sure the image submitted was made by AI but you really can’t ignore the gut instincts of four judges.”

Charing Cross Photo owner Iain Anderson tells The Guardian that the judges looked at the metadata on the image but weren’t able to tell if the image was AI-generated or not.

“When this image came up, we all loved it, then I said ‘Hang on it looks a little AI-ish’, then we all started talking about it and went well, we can’t know for sure it is or isn’t, but on the basis we’re suspicious we can’t allow it in,” says Anderson.

“It gave us an opportunity to reinforce that this is about taking the image yourself, being present in the environment.”

An Apology, Of Sorts

Yesterday, Charing Cross Photo made an Instagram post saying they spoke to Dougherty and confirmed the photo is real.

They called the photo a “great play on what is real” and what is not. But it was too late for Dougherty to win the $333 (500 Australian dollars) prize because her photo had already been rejected from the competition.

However, Charing Cross Photo has offered to waive Dougherty’s entry fee for the next photo competition.

“I probably will [enter] — just for fun,” she adds.

Image credits: All photos by Suzi Dougherty.