man standing on a rock in  "Finland"

Welcome to a fascinating world where creativity and technology meld together. Photographers are generally fans of travel and digital art alike. The potential for developing stunning visual experiences is limitless in this era of ever-evolving artificial intelligence. Today, we set out on a unique journey that pushes the boundaries of reality. We tell the incredible story of how a fictitious trip to Finland was painstakingly planned utilising AI wizardry and some London plate shots. My apologies – I lied on my recent Instagram Story, which is on my highlights under the name ‘vAIcation’.

My generative AI vAIcation

We frequently find ourselves enthralled by captivating vacation images that take us to far-off places in a world where social media has become the portal to our desires. In an effort to participate in this digital story, we embarked on a remarkable experiment that would challenge our online community’s critical faculties and push the limits of perception. The ‘we’ I speak of here are myself, Kersen Luts and Micah Burke.

Kersten and I took a walk through the streets of London with our dependable camera, the iPhone, in hand, shooting relatively bland moments at a variety of locations. But it wasn’t the splendour of the city that would command attention. Instead, we would transform these locations into a stunning Finnish hideaway using the power of AI imaging technology, fooling the senses and obfuscating the distinction between truth and illusion.

Our altered and sometimes completely made-up photos of Finland’s beautiful landscapes inundated my Instagram story over the course of three days, reaching the eyes of an astounding 37k followers. The twist, however, is not in the visual trick itself but rather in the audience’s reaction—or rather, lack thereof—to it. Surprisingly, despite the flood of positive comments and likes, only one lone voice dared to question the veracity of my Finnish journey.

This surprising finding raises the intriguing question: How did our AI-assisted deceit go unnoticed by everyone save a single voice? Join us on this captivating journey as we explore the fascinating world of AI imaging developments, analyse the mechanics of our transforming process, and consider the ramifications of a world where reality can be modified at a whim.

As I reveal the amazing tale of how a fusion of AI technology and the streets of London worked in unison to deceive the public, get ready to have your perceptions tested, your creativity sparked, and your wanderlust rekindled. Come along on this journey with us and see how AI imagery can create a picture-perfect vacation that transcends time and location.

Creating the first AI photo – The airport

My journey began at the airport. This decision was critical because as I’m sure you’ll agree, if you don’t check in at an airport on social media, the trip didn’t happen, right? The tool used to create the airport was Generative Fill inside of Adobe Photoshop. Here’s the original iPhone photo: –

I made a decision that I’d gaze upwards as if checking the departure information screen, making the photo a little as if I wasn’t posing. This may have invited the viewer to not focus on the photo too much but instead use their mind to work out what I was doing and where I was going.

To edit this image, I simply used the new Object Selection Tool to select myself, then invert the selection and use the type prompt ‘airport lounge’ in Generative Fill. Some of the seat options were a bit strange but the one I used was the most convincing, although far from perfect. I made selections to add a traveller walking past in the background with a suitcase, and to add the phone and bag on the seat behind me.

Photoshop for non photographers

What’s really interesting about this whole process is that Adobe Photoshop now works in the way that most non-photographers always believed it worked anyway. It’s now possible to simply make a selection and describe what you want, letting Adobe Firefly, the AI inside of Photoshop, do the work. Here’s the other method we used: –

This reindeer inside of a forest shouldn’t have been there. At this time of year, when the mountains are free from snow, the reindeer herds should be up in the mountains foraging moss and lichen in the arctic and sub-arctic tundra. Having the reindeer hiding behind the tree solved two problems: Firstly, this scene was a little enigmatic for the aforementioned reasons. Secondly, AI doesn’t create the best limbs. This particular image was created by Micah from scratch. There was no plate shot for this one – it was created out of nothing.

More Finland shenanigans

Here’s another breakdown: –

I posted this shot of my lunch on day two of the vAIcation but in fact, all of this was created by AI on top of an empty table.

Each of the different items on the table was added individually by selecting an area and entering a text prompt such as ‘meat stew’ or ‘glass of iced water.’ A giveaway for me in this particular shot is the lack of a handle on the coffee cup. I don’t know why that happened because the selection I made allowed for a handle, but I decided to post this shot anyway to see if this would be something picked up by one of my followers to point out the AI. It was not. Another thing that was noticed by Peter Treadway when I ran the image past him to check was the apparent softbox reflection in the spoon, suggesting studio lighting. Again, nobody pointed this out. For this shot I also had a second option created by Kersten: –

I like it, but the amount of lemon in that water seems a little excessive and in terms of a table being genuime for me, it’s unlikely that I’d post a shot without a coffee in it! Speaking of coffee, here’s the shot I posted to show that I’d arrived and was on the road in Finland: –

First off, let’s talk about the road itself. I had worse options, but I also had better ones. I decided to post this one because, at a glance, it looks genuine. However, when you really pay attention to it, it’s fairly clear this is a situation that most civil engineers would avoid. The road width is strange, there’s no drainage between the road and the footpath, and there’s a line of paint in a very peculiar position. What I’ll point out now, though, is that the only thing real is my arm and hand and the lower half of the coffee cup.

Using the method I used before, I inverted the selection of my arm and hand with the coffee cup and prompted Generative Fill to place a road running through Finland in the summer behind. The next step was to remove the lid of the cup and expose some coffee. A rough selection with the Lasso Tool followed by the prompt, ‘black coffee,’ was good enough. The lid was removed and replaced by the rim of the cup and some black coffee. The Wild Bean Cafe would be a giveaway that I was in fact in the UK at a BP gas station so I used the new Remve Tool to paint over the logo which, as if by magic, just vanished.

Lets take a look at what’s happening here: –

This is one of the shots I assigned to Micah, and I asked him to use whichever AI method he wants to put a waterfall behind me in place of the skate park. Here’s the original: –

AI vacation findings

The point of this experiment with AI focussing predominantly on Adobe Firefly built into Adobe Photoshop with Generative Fill was not to deceive the audience maliciously, but to highlight that AI is here and it isn’t going away. There are currently and will continue to be debates and arguments about the proper and ethical use of AI in photography and art. Stock libraries are now accepting AI created images and we’re seeing AI in the news with mistakes in images that are in public view. The images are often far from perfect, however they’re constantly improving. The images I made are obviously fake when you look closely but if it’s jsut a glance, they got by my audience, and that concerns me a little. The Content Authenticity Initiative works to show which images have been ‘Photoshopped’ and perhaps a similar scheme should be in place with AI images. It’s common to see #AIArt on Instagram posts but concerningly, it’s more common to see AI images being pushed out as if they’re real, both by the creators and by third parties sharing. What do you think? Does AI threaten art? Does it need to be disclosed every time?

P.S. A very special thanks goes out to Kersten and Micah for their help with this outrageous project

creating some more “fake vacation” photos

This story was also published on Dave’s blog, a great resource for photographers.


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