In the past month, I’ve been disappointed to see several posts and ads by reputable equine brands using AI-generated images.
Very believable AI-generated images.
In one case, I know the brand has a policy against using AI media and wasn’t aware the image was fake, but more and more, it’s becoming difficult to tell what’s real and what’s AI-generated.
What muddies the waters even more is that many large stock agencies like Shutterstock and Adobe now include AI-generated images in their libraries alongside real photos.
If you do a search on Adobe Stock for “horses grazing,” at least 30% of the images returned in the results will be AI-generated.
So, how can you tell the difference between synthetic AI images and authentic, organic photography?
Here are some things to look for:
1) Hair Patterns
To me, this is the biggest tell. The hair patterns in horse’s coats and manes are random. With AI images, you will see a lot of repetition in coat hair patterns, and the mane will be too soft and unreal-looking. I often focus on the forehead and nose when looking for hair pattern repetition.
2) Perfect or Plasticky Appearance
this one is hard to describe. Synthetic images have an illustrative, almost fantasy quality to them. If an image seems too unnaturally smooth and perfect, it’s probably AI.
3) Tack and clothing issues
AI does a halfway decent job of horses by themselves, but once you add people and tack, it becomes evident that an image is synthetic because AI doesn’t understand the intricacies of tack, bits, and proper equestrian clothing.
Ai-generated horses often have issues with body proportion. They are often too wide or too narrow in places.
5) Inconsistent Light or Shadows
Look at the direction of light in the photo. Is it consistent throughout the image, or does it change from subject to environment?
6) Environment Issues
Look past the subject to the environment they are in. Is the image depth consistent? Are there flaws in the background that would tell you it’s a synthetic image?
Once you train your eye on what AI-generated images look like, it’s not hard to spot one!
Why does it matter if a company or publication uses AI-generated images?
Aside from ethical issues of AI (scraping photographers’ work without compensation and presenting fake as real, to name a few.), the most obvious issue is copyright. Currently, the US Copyright Office will not allow AI-generated images to be copyrighted. That means that if you use an AI-generated image in your advertising, anyone could take that image and use it in their advertising, and you would have no legal recourse.
AI image generation has come a long way in the past year and a half, but I don’t believe it will replace authentic, organic photography anytime soon.
If you are looking for premium equine stock images, my stock library features over 15,000 curated, authentic, equestrian-approved photos and videos for brands and publications to license and download.
I have no plans to add AI-generated images to this library, so you can be assured that every image was made by me using a camera with real people and horses in front of it.
Visit shelleypaulsonstock.com to learn more and start your search today!