In an era where AI is increasingly permeating the creative fields, we explore the journey of Skylum - the creator of photo editor Luminar Neo.
Our guest today is Ivan Kutanin, Skylum's long-time chief who talks to DesignRush about balancing between AI and artistic vision, and the ethical considerations inherent in this technological advancement.
Join us as we try to understand how AI can enhance storytelling in photography without overshadowing the unique vision and voice of the artist behind the lens.
Ivan is a dynamic leader driven by his passion for photography, technology and making a positive impact on society. Before joining Skylum where he has worked for the past 10 years, Ivan had already established a reputation for delivering impressive results in supply chain systems and IT communications. As Skylum's visionary, he is passionate about transforming the company from being known for its photography software into a hub of creative products that inspire consumers in their everyday lives.
DesignRush: Reflecting on your journey, what drew you to the intersection of AI and photography and what unique perspectives did you bring to Skylum?
Ivan: Skylum is a tech company, so the driving force to create unique technologies is in our DNA.
Since the company's inception, we've been experimenting with algorithms to help our customers effortlessly achieve astounding results with their photos. When AI was just on the horizon, we excitedly moved to incorporate it into our photo editing software.
We saw the opportunity to make more complex processes simple and to amplify creativity in the photography world.
How does your company stay agile and responsive to both tech advancements and changing consumer demands, particularly with the ubiquity of AI in photography?
The main customer demands remain constant.
In the creative field, you want to find your voice and style, share your story, and get acknowledgment — whether it's from your inner circle or the whole world.
Tech just helps you to achieve this with different approaches.
To be successful, you need to understand that solutions and methods are temporarily useful and that there are always innovative ways to accomplish your goals.
As AI becomes more entrenched in the creative toolkit, what do you believe is its role in augmenting human creativity in photography and how should software developers balance AI with an artistic vision?
In photography, the creative process doesn't start with editing — it starts with planning the trip and envisioning the shot.
You are already expecting something special from your destination. Then, you capture that in a moment of inspiration — rarely just once, but through a series of shots.
This is when the creative magic starts.
After shooting, you collect your creative assets and begin the finishing touches. AI can help you get there, past the places where you might feel stuck. It can help with picking better shots or offer an idea that can help you tell the visual story.
But it should not override your story — only you can tell it.
Given AI's potential to manipulate reality, what ethical considerations do you think are crucial for the industry to address and how can brands confront these challenges?
AI does not manipulate reality — people do.
And people have manipulated reality before AI — AI just made it easier. This is a powerful technology that needs to have ethical boundaries, which is the same across all media. Things haven't changed in that sense.
No one likes it when someone tries to fool us.
With social media giants like Meta integrating AI editing tools, there's a shift towards consumer-grade AI in photography. How do you perceive this shift impacting professional photography and specialized editing software?
It's a smart move for any publishing platform to integrate AI-powered editing, but this mostly affects pictures taken and shared quickly.
Our customers treat photography more as an art.
They work precisely on the quality of the image in high resolution. Because of this, they choose software like Luminar Neo, which can bring them the superior level of quality, accuracy and creative control they need.
Considering AI's ability to enhance or even distort images, how can the industry maintain a commitment to authenticity and how can businesses foster this commitment while embracing tech advancements?
Editing images in Photoshop has been a standard for decades and things haven't changed a lot from this perspective.
We divide photography on one side and photo art on another. For photo art, generative AI makes a lot of things easier. For photography, AI provides new tools to enhance images.
It's up to the creator to decide what works best for them.
Earlier this year, Adobe introduced AI features that can significantly alter the content of a photo. How should companies innovate responsibly and what's your approach to this?
If a business is conscientious and values customer trust, it should communicate that it is using photos that are altered — or images that are created — with the assistance of AI tools. This may not be necessary in every case, but it should always be a consideration, especially where authenticity is a major concern.
Since our software helps photographers edit the image they captured and doesn’t create it for them, the question of authenticity is less relevant to us.
Our goal is to inspire and empower the artists — that includes providing them with the latest technologies that can make their creative process easier and more enjoyable.
Of course, we also understand that if photographers rely too heavily on automated editing algorithms or composition suggestions, their work may lack a personal touch and creative vision.
Some say that AI-generated images can appear formulaic or generic, lacking the unique perspective that comes from human interpretation and intent.
Fundamentally, it will always come down to how each individual uses the tool.
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