Why AI In Photography Is Like Autofocus AND How To Benefit

by Feb 21, 2024Photography Blog

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

This page may contain affiliate links where I earn a small commission to help cover costs. They do not affect the price you pay or the service you receive.

Thank you for your support.

Why AI In Photography Is Like Autofocus AND How To Benefit

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of comments criticising great photography software for not using AI. As I was reading these, I could immediately see parallels with the popularity of autofocus back in the 1980s.

I thought it might be interesting to share this and my thoughts about how we can benefit from AI in photography.

The Rise of Autofocus

When autofocus first began to appear in consumer SLR cameras, it was hailed as a game changer. All the major camera manufacturers jumped on it, as did their marketing departments. These latest must-have cameras would nail the focus for you every time, and you would never miss that shot again.

I recall my first film SLR camera would even automatically select one of seven focus points to use (yes, 7 focus points). I didn’t need to worry about anything because the camera would nail it (at least, that’s what the advertising said).

Two camera Vintage Canon autofocus advert from the 1980s

How could a photographer want anything more?

The Parallel With AI Today

So, why is this like the rise of AI in photography today?

Well, like with the autofocus camera of the 1980s, there are photographers who want AI to do everything for them. Perhaps it’s selecting the sky in a photo to replace it. Or perhaps it’s selecting the main subject to remove the background. And like with Autofocus in the 1980s, the marketing departments are only too happy to jump on this trend to sell their software.

At the risk of offending more than a few people, I’m going to suggest that human nature being what it is, our “lazy gene” has embraced AI.

Back in the 1980s, photographers wanted their cameras to do everything with a single click, and we see that in the advertising of the day.

Vintage Canon autofocus advert from the 1980s and how the camera can do everything with a single click. The parallel with AI in photography is clear

Today, many photographers want the same thing. They want their software and AI to do all the editing work for them.

Shift Your Perception

But let’s change the paradigm for a moment.

Back in the 1980s, there were photographers who didn’t engage in the debate about which was best: autofocus or manual focus. Instead, they looked at the benefits of autofocus and asked the question, “How can I best use this feature to produce better photography?”.

They realised that they could use autofocus to achieve fast and certain focus whilst still controlling where that point in the frame was. And this, too, has parallels with AI and how we might benefit.

Benefiting From AI in Photography

There are some photo editing tasks that AI can do extremely well.

I demonstrated this last year in a YouTube video where I compared my manual repair of an old photo with one made using an AI filter in Photoshop. While I was able to make a more convincing repair to large areas of damage, I couldn’t repair the cracked surface of the photo, at least not without spending days on the task. In comparison, the AI filter repaired the same damage in seconds.

This is a good example of leveraging the power of AI.

By using the AI tools in Photoshop, I can save myself hours of effort in repairing the cracked surface of a photo. I can then use my editing skills to fix the large areas of damage that Photoshop couldn’t do well.

We find this pattern repeats in many of the AI-based editing tools.

The tools often do a good job of automating repetitive work. But when you look more closely, what they produce often lacks the finesse that can be achieved manually. But by combining the two, you can produce a better result faster.

Two Areas of AI Brilliance

There are two further areas where AI has made a huge difference. The first is in noise reduction, and the second is in sharpening.

Topaz Sharpen AI, for example, impressed me enormously when I first tested it, and it has continued to improve. It was the same story when I reviewed Topaz Denoise AI. AI is also used effectively in both DxO PhotoLab and DxO PureRAW to control image noise and extract detail from RAW files.

So, let’s not be lazy when it comes to using AI in photography.

Don’t expect the software to do everything for you. Instead, spend time developing your own skills and knowledge. You can then leverage the benefits of AI, just as the best photographers of the 1980s learned to leverage autofocus.

Book Offer


Get your copy of "6 Steps to Shooting Beautiful Landscapes"  by subscribing to Lenscraft in Focus, my free monthly newsletter.

Follow the advice in this deceptively simple book to significantly improve your landscape photography. Organised into 6 simple lessons, this valuable and detailed guide provides information that’s often overlooked. In fact, lesson 3 is so obvious that most photographers ignore it completely.

If you want to improve your Landscape Photography fast, follow this book.


How to Get Your Book

  • Please enter your details using the form on the right. I will then email you to confirm that you have entered your email correctly.
  • Follow the instructions in my confirmation email.
  • After that, I’ll send you a link to download your free book in the PDF in ePub formats.

My Promise to You: I will never share or SPAM your email.

6 Steps To Shooting Beautiful Landscapes Cover

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Please Share

Please share this post with fellow photographers!