Most Photographers Are Worried About AI, RPS Survey Finds

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The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) surveyed its members about their views on generative artificial intelligence (AI), how these AI models are trained, and how AI affects the value of photography.

Over 400 members of the RPS responded to the survey request, presenting what the RPS calls a “pretty good — albeit self-selecting – response.”

Among the most interesting questions the RPS asked its members is whether traditional photography is still needed. To the question, “Do we need traditional photography if images created by AI are better and quicker to create than photographs taken by people?” 95% of respondents say “yes,” while 2% and 3%, respectively, answer “no” and “maybe.”

As for the issue concerning whether images created by AI are “real photography,” 81% of respondents say “no.” Of the remaining 19%, 16% say “maybe,” while just 3% answer “yes.”

A hot-button issue with the creation of generative AI models is that many of them, like Midjourney, are trained using stolen images. Understandably, this is a big deal to photographers, who are rightfully bothered that a company could have stolen their work create a product and generate revenue. It is worth noting that not all AI models are built with stolen content. Nonetheless, some are, and it bothers photographers.

Of the more than 400 respondents to RPS’ survey, 85% say it is unfair for “AI algorithms to be trained using images without permission or payment for the original creator.” 10% respond “maybe” and the remaining roughly 5% say that it is acceptable for companies to steal content to train their AI algorithms and models.

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The waters surrounding whether content created using AI models can be copyrighted, in large part because much of the content is built on the backs of stolen art. The issue is also complex because it is unclear who actually makes the content.

There are also fears that AI image generation may lead to an increase in “fake news” and misleading content. Deceptive images can have a real-world impact on people’s safety and even the stock markets. 95% of RPS survey respondents believe AI “could lead to a rise in fake news and lying.” The other 5% reply “maybe.”

Rounding out the five-question survey is a more open-ended query. “Which of the following best describes your view of AI for photography (up to two responses)?” The most popular response is “cautious,” with 40% of respondents selecting this option. 24% of RPS members claim that AI photography presents them with “an opportunity.” Rounding out the five responses in terms of popularity are dangerous (19%), fearful (12%), and excited (5%).

AI is a big deal in the photography industry right now. The Royal Photographic Society is hosting an AI and Photography Conference on October 9th and 10th. The conference will also be shared online, alongside the in-person event in Bristol, England. The RPS has been a leading authority on photography for over 170 years, and its members are longstanding, influential members of the industry.

“As AI continues to evolve in the world of photography, the concerns of our members demonstrate the pressing need for all of us to strike a balance between embracing technological progress, safeguarding the work of creators, and maintaining the integrity of visual storytelling in this digital era, all subjects we will be covering in the Conference,” says Dan Jones, CEO of the RPS.