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Picture of the last Generative AI to die

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Black and white image of a paratrooper lying on the floor of a hotel room with the balcony doors open and a wind wafting through net curtains.

A couple of events came together for this one. First was reading about Robert Capa and his photo The Picture of the Last Man to Die. Second, was my mini-rant about overusing Generative AI for social media posts. In particular, I was irked by the "Plastic People" aesthetic.

My original plan was to put something together that riffed off the photo for the post. However, I thought that was macabre. So I did it for fun.

A bit of work with Bing Create produced a reasonable image to play with. Then I fired up the iPad Pro and launched Affinity Photo, my go-to photo edit app of choice.

AI Generated image of a US paratrooper lying on the floor of a hotel room with the balcony doors open and a breeze wafting through the net curtains
The original Bing Create image

First, a lot of early war photography is quite grainy and could have odd exposure. That resulted from the kit photographers used rather than a specific aesthetic choice.

After clearing out a couple of imperfections, the image was set to black and white. Tweaks were made to darken the brightness and deepen the contrast.

The next step was to lose the "plastic" look that plagues "photographs" created with Gen AI. Perfectly crisp images are rare in front-line photography for obvious reasons. Noise and lens blur filters started the process, but it still looked artificial.

The image is a perfectly balanced exposure. I mocked up some exposure issues using rectangle overlays. These have white elliptical fills, solid at the edges and fading to transparent by the middle. Their own translucence was dialed back to leave light patches at the edge.

My last step was to size it correctly. The original image from Bing was 1024px square. The edit was down to about 960px with cropping. The image was rasterized and scaled. This added in those final imperfections that come with reproducing 1940s black and white photos.

I don't think I would do this again. It was an interesting way to while away an hour with the TV on and a creative itch to scratch. That said, images created by Generative AI aren't protected by copyright. Making these edits definitely brings the image into my domain.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction.

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