Could an AI Shoot the Same Photo as You?

Could (or would) an AI (artificial intelligence) shoot the same photo as you?

Hanoi, 2017

The photo you’re gonna take… could Google Street View make the same photo? Or, have you already seen that same photo on Google Images already?

The (not so distant) future of photography

Hanoi, 2017

Imagine your phone has the technology that it will automatically shoot a photo every 5 seconds (like the Narrative Camera Clip), and an algorithm will predict and choose your most “personally meaningful moments”. How would that change photography for you?

Some ideas:

  1. Human ingenuity in photography: We can change the angle and perspective. With a camera, we can shoot from a very low angle, or a very high angle. We can control to tilt the camera. We have the power to get closer to the subject, or further away.
  2. A photography AI doesn’t need to worry about timing. It will always be clicking photos, constantly, like a stream. Imagine your smartphone camera, constantly shooting video. And you can just cherry-pick a slice, or a still photo from the video. We can already do this with 4K video.
  3. Therefore, the skill and ability of a human photographer is to move our feet, to crouch, and to change the perspective of the camera.

What are humans good for in photography?

Hà Nội, 2017

Also, a human being has the skill in image curation, and choosing our best photos (the art of editing).

We already have algorithms that can identify the contents of a photo. Just open up Google Photos on your phone and search “Coffee”, and the algorithm of Google Photos will be able to identify all your coffee photos. Also, it can recognize faces of your relatives, yourself, and your family and friends.

As a human, we can select the personally meaningful moments to us. Often the snapshots we make are not technically “good” photos, but are meaningful.

For example, an algorithm will not choose a blurry or out of focus as a good photograph. But, what if that is the only photograph you have made of your dying grandmother? Of course that photo would be meaningful to you, although not technically sharp or in focus.

Therefore, know that a photo that is not technically perfect can be very personally meaningful and significant.

Photography as memory curation

Hanoi, 2017

We are our memories. If tomorrow, all of your memories were totally wiped away, would you be you? I don’t think so. You’d just be some blank slate, without an ego, sense of “self”, and you would have no personality.

When we take a photo, we are telling ourselves,

This moment is significant to me. This photo shows who I am, the people I love and care about.

When you have the IMPULSE to photograph, it is connected with your heart and soul. A photo must be personally significant, or else why would you have that impulse to shoot?

Saigon, 2017

A robot or AI would shoot everything, all the time, without discrimination. A human only shoots what is personally significant to him or her.

I’m drowning in images


The problem with digital and phone photography: we have too many photos to look at. And most of the photos aren’t well curated, nor significant or meaningful to us.

Hanoi, 2017

How many selfies or photos of your food do you need to scroll through in order to find that 1 photo that is really meaningful to you? Also, we often lose our most important and significant photos in our stream of images.

Apple has made it easier with the new “favorite” or heart action, that allow us to flag or filter our images. But we need to have the inner knowledge, and wisdom to know which photos we should keep, or ditch.

How I choose my best photos

Saigon, 2017

The more photos you need to look at, the more decision paralysis you get.

For example, if you shoot 100 photos of the same scene,,,how do you know which is the “best one”?

For me, I choose my photos based on,

  1. Composition
  2. Emotion
  3. Soul

Composition is framing, contrast, figure to ground, or dynamism

Emotion is the feeling I get from looking at a photo

Soul is whether I can see myself in the photo … aka, “am I the only one who could have made this photograph?”

How to choose your best work

Hanoi, 2017
Hanoi, 2017

The art of choosing your best photos is getting more and more difficult in this digital age.


  1. Give yourself a LIMIT: After a whole day of shooting, choose only 1 photograph to share or publish.
  2. If you go on a trip to Paris, make a set of only 5 of your best photos to share and publish.
  3. At the end of the year, choose your 12 best photos of the year.

Less is more. Keep, print, and share your best work that inspires you and has personal meaning to you. Don’t outsource that to some algorithm or AI.

To understand how to choose your best photos, study CONTACT SHEETS >




Why do you make photos? Reflect in PHOTO JOURNAL:

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