The demise of photography in fashion

Photography once changed fashion, but now fashion is changing photography and threatens to make it obsolete.

Fashion campaigns once relied on sketches and drawings until photography replaced both art forms as a more realistic and faster way to create images. But now Computer Generated Images (CGI) are challenging both the convenience and cost-effectiveness of photography.

The fashion industry is moving beyond physical reality. Retailers like DressX only sell digital clothing. There are only digital modeling agencies like Diigitals. Events like fashion week are moving to the Metaverse. Even Marilyn Monroe has been brought to life as a virtual model to showcase the latest digital fashions from Balenciaga, Miu Miu, Balmain and other top brands.

If you’re familiar with the hyper-realistic 3D portraits of artists like Sefki Ibrahim, it only takes a little imagination to see celebrities, models and other public figures one day participating in photo campaigns with their digital avatars.

Photographers do not have the tools to participate in this future because digital photography is not as digital as it seems. Photographers rely on human models, physical clothing and real locations to create compositions and then capture the light reflected from these objects onto the camera’s sensor.

The future of image making requires a process where photographers hire digital models, download digital clothing and import digital locations to compose, fill and light everything directly on the image to achieve the same result. Let’s call it Digital Photography 2.0.

Digital photography 2.0

Until recently, the problem was that CGI was not realistic enough to challenge photography. However, it is a matter of several years before the results are noticeable.

At the Sane Seven studio, we wanted to test how close we are to the future of Digital Photography 2.0. Our criteria for creating a basic fashion campaign was that a) no CGI skills would be required; (b) it would take less or the same time to create the images as in the normal way; c) the lighting options would be similar to using photographic lighting.

Currently, there is no software specifically developed for this purpose. It’s not possible to hire models like Diigitals or outfits like DressX to use one software that meets all the criteria. As a compromise, we chose set.a.light 3D with DressX post-applied clothing to create some basic mock fashion images inspired by Burberry’s 2016 Mario Testino shoot.

At first glance, these images “fooled” many creative directors we showed them to, and frightened just as many other photographers who realized what this meant for their careers. However, upon closer inspection, many eagle-eyed viewers would spot their many flaws. But that’s just the beginning.

We can either fear this future or embrace it. Fear leaves it in the hands of the CGI artists. Accepting this means putting down the cameras to find and develop tools that can most closely mimic the satisfaction of photography.

The advantage of this process is that, unlike traditional digital images, the models in the image will move, make-up, hair and clothing will be updated at the click of a button, and the environment, lighting and camera angles will change without limitation. . With advances in AI technologies, we may even see the return of the decisive moment when capturing a model moving around the scene in unpredictable ways.

Is this a “real” photo?

Some will argue that an image will never be the same as a “real” photograph, but here are three arguments against it.

First, the artwork in photography is the image, not the process by which it was created. In digital images, there is no difference between a digital pixel created by light on the sensor and a pixel created by a computer brush. It’s the same information whether it’s digitized by shining a light on a sensor or drawing a line with a tablet pen.

Second, traditional fashion campaigns are so heavily retouched that they no longer represent what was captured by the light on the digital sensor.

Third, those who have adopted mirrorless cameras already use digital screens and viewfinders to compose the scene. The only difference is that the model in front of the camera is a physical person as opposed to a digital file.

As an artist I am not looking forward to it, but as a reasonable artist I would urge everyone to keep their hearts and minds open to stay at the forefront of this innovation.

About autor: Sane Seven is an award-winning portrait/advertising photography duo working internationally on commissions from fashion legend Jimmy Choo to heads of state such as Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The duo are regular contributors to The Sunday Times with an interest in future technology. In 2020, Sane Seven used a remote-controlled robot to create a social campaign for The Women in Data in the UK. In 2021, Sane Seven won gold at the New York Photography Awards and the equivalent award at the London Photography Awards in 2022.

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