This article first appeared in Mediaweek.
By Alex Kondys, Head of Experience Design, Revium
AI has really sunk its claws into the stock image and content market, already creating disruption in the here and now, let alone in the future. As always with these sorts of market disruptions there is an opportunity to be had for those who get on board the Generative AI Image train early, with cost savings and new creative processes that can offer a big advantage.
That said, the narrative that AI will destroy the stock image market is not entirely true. It is likely instead to force all the big players to pivot from their current approach and business model; which is something we can see is already starting to happen.
This image was created using Midjourney with the following prompt - 'cinematic still of a seaside environment, waves gently crashing on the beach, tall australian trees, sun high in the blue sky, mountains in the distant, ektar 100 --ar 16:9 --s 1000 --c 2'.
But the accelerating rollout of Generative AI does seemingly have some issues to contend with. The moral ambiguity of content ownership and the various legal challenges being bandied about have given some folks cause to pause, but for the most part they are actually being overplayed. Yes, these might be issues now in the infancy phase of the technology, but they won’t be for too long. Look no further than Adobe Firefly’s new market model which is going to compensate creators whose content they used to train that AI – albeit it will be regardless of whether the creators opted in or not.
On the transparency front, just this week Adobe created a symbol – called the “icon of transparency” – that can be added as a small watermark to AI generated work for transparency. It’s not Adobe specific either but pipped to be adopted by other companies including Microsoft. Tagging of AI generated content will go a long way to upping the technical standards and certification of Generative AI, and might have helped hapless companies like Disney who are now reportedly facing backlash over AI-generated stock imagery featured in their Loki Season 2 poster.
As of today, some small-scale, high frequency outputs – think presentations, websites, filler content, smaller marketing plays, product ideas and proof-of-concepts – can already be created using Generative AI. Big FMCG producers like Diageo and Mars were proud to unveil their use of the tech in this way at Cannes this year. You just need the right people with the right training. For the near term, big-scale items like big campaigns and marketing will still largely rely on photographers and personal human-generated content. But only for the near term.
This image was created using Midjourney with the following prompt - 'street style editorial shot, 35mm lens, high angle, young african american man, vibrant outfit, fashion pose sitting on a white chair, empty city street, portra 100 --ar 16:9 --s 500 --c 5'.
This image was created using Midjourney with the following prompt - 'candid shot of a woman in corporate attire, office environment, looking at her phone, side angle --ar 16:9 --s 250'.
This year, our consultancy has utilised AI to create contextual imagery for websites and assets, compile mood boards and inspiration for creative assets, and content for client presentations. It has explicitly changed the way we service and provide for clients. And it’s getting smarter and intrinsically more capable as times goes by.
We can now use AI to generate an image of a person, then use it again to put that person in whatever landscape or backdrop we want (real or imagined) and even add logos or brandmarks to their clothing or surroundings on top of that, while keeping the realism. The tech is there, the people are catching up.
But it’s not a matter of just downloading a program and pressing a button. Generative AI is a skill and one that needs to be honed at that. The smart businesses are investing early in getting their team skilled up in this new “art”, recognising that like any other technical capability there is a big difference in outputs between the untrained and the trained.
Here are some of the reason why Generative AI is such a powerful toolset in the creative space and why it is going to become incredibly valuable to those organisations who are skilled at using it:
AI enables the creation of highly customised and unique images tailored to specific client needs. You no longer need to compromise on getting every little detail you wanted in a composition like you do when selecting from a set of stock photos.
It can generate images at a much faster pace than human photographers and designers. This greatly reduces production costs and time, making it more appealing for businesses, such as ours, to use AI-generated images that we can brief in to one of our experts to generate.
We’ve found AI-generated images to be more cost-effective for businesses, especially among SMEs, compared to hiring photographers or purchasing expensive licenses for premium stock images – looking at you Getty and Shutterstock.
4. Diverse results:
AI can emulate a wide range of artistic styles and create images that suit various aesthetic preferences which caters to a wide range of clients and industries. And it’s getting better.
5. Reduced Copyright Concerns:
AI-generated images typically don't have copyright or licensing issues associated with them so long as you are paying for a commercial license with the relevant AI tool. This in contrast to using traditional stock images where the costs add up and the usage options can be limited. Another benefit is that you don’t have to worry about another organisation using the same stock image as you.
6. Continuous Improvement:
AI technologies for image generation are continually evolving and improving. As AI models become more sophisticated, the quality and versatility of AI-generated images will continue to increase opening doors to new opportunities and benefits.
This image was created using Midjourney with the following prompt - 'fashion style photo of a young couple, walking down a path in a public park, backs to camera, golden hour, portra 100 --ar 16:9'.
Generative AI will create a ripple effect reaching a myriad of industries over the next few years. Just look at the advances from Adobe’s MAX conference that kicked off on October 10 and showcase a range of new AI tools in what they are hailing as “a new era in creativity”.
You only need to look to the global market size to see that Generative AI is an unmissable, unstoppable force that should be harnessed, not avoided.
The global market size is currently at USD $43.87b in 2023 and expected to grow to USD $667b by 2030 (an increase of over 1420%).
Yes, the future will still involve synergy between Generative AI and human-generated content. The latter will always exist and have a reason to exist, it’s just that the former is going to start to eat into it more and more over years to come.