“Things don’t need to be perfect”

August 18, 2023

We would like to make clear that we do not use AI in the editing of our documentary wedding photography – currently or in the forseeable future.

AI, short for Artificial Intelligence, is the new buzz in photography circles. AI in photography editing aims to make a better quality image by using both the standard processes of image enhancement and new techniques of borrowing photo-data from libraries of other – and that means other people’s – images. With AI it is also possible to construct images, or aspects of them, by simply ‘typing’ in instructions in words to an image editor, such as Adobe Photoshop.

We feel that extracting data from other images or applying impersonal algorithms is not what documentary photography is about.

We consider ourselves to be artists with cameras. In our work we use the standard editing tools, such as colour correction, cropping and ‘dodging and burning’ – named after the old chemical darkroom practices that have always been used – to darken or lighten areas in an image. Sometimes, we use ‘cloning’ – copying and pasting small areas from within the image itself. We see ‘cloning’ as a natural progression from dodging and burning. AI is something else entirely, using image data from other sources and images. AI makes an image impersonal – the very opposite of what we believe wedding photography should be.

As professionals we didn’t make our decision without careful investigation. We trialled the Adobe Photoshop ‘generative fill’ tool as a substitute for dodging, burning and cloning. However, we found that this technique deviated too far from our documentary approach. In our own experiments with AI, we found the process to be too immediate, losing the gradual, nuanced development of tone, colour and contour, provided by the standard tools. The ability to completely change an image was just too quick – just a written command away. AI cut across the reflective process of considering the original captured image in its fullest extent.

Importantly, as AI develops, the edges between what is real (a taken photo image) and what is unreal (a constructed digital image) could – and almost certainly will – become less and less clear. We have to establish our own boundaries with regard to image enhancement and our idea of what documentary photography is. Basically, do you want an image taken by a human or one constructed by an algorithm? We believe that the art begins in the eye of the photographer at the moment of image capture. Subtle image enhancement is part of our artistic process. To step into the world of AI is to step away from actuality and what the eye has seen.

This statement in no way criticises photographers who choose to use AI in wedding photography. The freedom is there to enable everyone in our field of creative expression to find their own personal artistic fulfilment. Everyone should work in a way that suits them – their creative process and their values. Clients should be able to choose how they want their wedding recorded.

We will continue to use standard photographic tools and not use AI tools or AI programmes. We will stick to what we believe are best documentary practices – capturing the real and personal moments of a wedding day.

Hollie and Patrick Mateer
Updates written on November 6th, 2023 and posted to this blog January 2nd, 2024