In March, Adobe put online a new artificial intelligence (AI) tool called Firefly (testable for free in beta with an Adobe account), allowing images to be generated from scratch by entering an instruction, such as “realistic photo image of a bicycle climbing a slag heap”. With results, however, less convincing than those of an image generation service, such as Midjourney.
But Firefly is also capable of transforming existing photographs: modifying text, colors, and especially erasing unsightly elements, for example. In some cases, it does this surprisingly well, as shown by our tests of the experimental version of Photoshop launched on May 23, the first to directly integrate this new tool.
• Enlarge an image
How many photos fail very close to being successful because of a failed framing? Only an excellent retoucher will know how to enlarge these images to reconstruct the missing elements – a piece of the face, a dress, a tree, a section of a building, etc. Firefly is surprisingly effective in this exercise: five of our six tests proved convincing – a figure to be taken with caution, because our shots are not representative of those of other photographers.
The operation is simple. We add a white margin at the edge of the image, we select it: a small bar appears in the middle of the screen. We click on “generative filling”then on ” generate “, and we wait a few tens of seconds, the time that Photoshop communicates with the server responsible for making the images. It only remains to choose from three versions offered.
• Insert object
Firefly is much less convincing when asked to insert a fabricated object or animal into an image. The vast majority of the time, the attempt results in what looks like a drawing embedded in the photo… or an outright failure.
This operation requires more effort than the previous one. We must describe textually the element we want to add to the image, for example “an orca’s head sticking out of the water”, in English for the moment. This usually takes several tries. In the absence of an immediately convincing result, one is tempted to repeatedly click on the “generate” button to obtain three new proposals. At each request, you have to wait for long seconds. After about twenty images generated, discouragement awaits.
• Delete a character
Firefly proves to be much more competent when asked to erase characters in an image, a manipulation often tempting in vacation photos. Most of the time, the result is clean enough to be believable, much more so than when using the “fill” tools. » from Photoshop. But instead of the erased characters, the reconstructed areas will not always satisfy demanding professionals. In a minority of cases, beginners themselves will not be fooled.
• Replace part of image
Before even replacing an object or an area, it must be selected (“trimming” its contours). Unfortunately, Photoshop’s automatic selection tools do not work miracles, and even when we help them with a little manual know-how, it is often difficult to perfectly isolate the objects to be replaced. The selection encroaches, for example, on the ears of the cat that we wish to keep, or the hair of its master. Sometimes also, the new object inserted by Firefly is parasitized by remnants of the erased area. This is all the more regrettable since the AI often manages to generate fairly credible elements as a replacement.
Most of the time, a keen eye will immediately spot the signs of AI passing. With the current state of technology, these images will be unusable for a large brand wishing to publish a full page advertisement in a magazine. But they may be useful for a small association wishing to communicate on social networks with low resolution images.
• Play on the weather
Can you make a photo more striking by adding a stormy sky, or brighten up a gray day with a sunny azure? Firefly is bad at this exercise. It still stumbles on clipping problems: the contours of the sky are poorly selected.
The AI sometimes tries to solve the problem by recreating from scratch parts of the image located at the limit between the sky and the ground. It is able to completely modify the top of the canopy of a forest. But, too often, these manipulations result in distorting the original photo. By inserting a blue sky on an image photographed in Bangladesh, Firefly persisted in integrating mountains, absurdly contrasting with the flatness of this region, or completely incongruous fences.
The user can take back control and choose to trick, by selecting only a part of the sky. The AI will only intervene in this reduced area. But the “meteorological” possibilities are then limited to small interventions, such as the addition of clouds.
By the end of the year, the Firefly AI will be integrated into the commercial version of Photoshop, an essential tool for many image professionals. Better than ever, they will be able to recompose photographs with minimal effort. Including expanding them in a way that could be described as magical, or removing the characters who do not win to be included.
This evolution of Photoshop can make you dizzy. Proponents of authenticity will no doubt see in this the beginning of an era of manipulation and insincerity. Users focused on productivity and efficiency will rejoice even more since the use of Firefly would, according to Adobe, pose no legal risk to its users. This AI would have been trained with images whose authors had previously given their consent to use – a precaution that not all of its competitors bother with.