In 2022, most photo retouching services will be done by machine-learning algorithms which will not only automatically spot skin imperfections and fix them, but also create custom digital makeup looks. They’ll generate new clothing textures for stock imagery so models can seamlessly transition in and out of various clothes without having to change their poses or stare off into the distance.
This is what the future of photo retouching and photo editing services will look like, according to a new report from Future Market Insights, which recently surveyed more than 550 executives and business leaders at photography studios, agencies, and media companies all over the world.
As retouching services increasingly become automated, the quality of post-processing work will improve without increasing costs. It’s a trend that’s emerging right now in fashion photography. But it will soon become standard practice for photo retouching services in many industries.
“As our understanding of the way the brain processes visual information improves, we will be able to use software that can process and return information to the retoucher much more rapidly than it can be processed by human intelligence,” says Sanjit Singh, director of photography at Wired. “This will result in more accurate and precise processing.” But Singh is a realist, too. “It will be a long time before the algorithms are as effective as professionals,” he says.
Photo retouching services will evolve in two directions: automated and user-driven. In both cases, it’s important to understand that photography hasn’t really changed; the tools just keep getting better. Humans have been turning photos into illustrations for centuries, through processes like engraving, lithography and etching. Today’s photo retouching services are simply moving from analogue to digital realms.
Photo editing services will be much more automated in the future than they are today. And they’ll also make photographers’ lives easier and more profitable.
“As the cost of machine-learning technology and artificial intelligence decreases, we can expect to see these services become automated,” says Eric Chan, a photo retoucher based in Hong Kong. “This is extremely exciting for photographers because it will allow them to do higher-end work with their time while also freeing up some of their time to focus on other aspects of their business.
It will also allow them to focus on the creative aspects they enjoy while allowing their software to handle the mundane retouching work.”
The rise of machine-learning photo retouching services will change the way we perceive photography. The potential that technology like this holds for the future of photography is enormous; it could level the playing field between professional and amateur photographers. Budgets will determine which image is more compelling, not skill.
Product retouching services are especially ripe for takeover by artificial intelligence. The software can already generate an endless supply of variations on designs, allowing companies to test hundreds of different options before settling on the best one. Once an optimal design wins out, AI can generate 10,000 more variations with very little additional work from the designer. A designer who’s been working on this process for a while might be frustrated to see his or her job being replaced by technology.
Fashion retouching is also a good technology candidate for artificial intelligence. It’s one of the few areas where people still like to see the difference between reality and digital paint. But that will change over time, too. It’s hard to say what specific skills professionals should learn now if they want their jobs to be secure in the future. AI will excel at retouching photos. It’ll also be good at things like photo illustration, motion graphics and compositing, and anything else where photographers can build templates that the software can use to make variations.
But the technology won’t replace what professionals can do with insight and intuition. It’s a matter of filtering for profitability and quality.
“Photographers will be able to spend more time focusing on the creative aspects of their business,” says Eric Chan. “In the end, they will benefit more from this change than other professionals.”
Future Market Insights analyzes the future of photo editing services in 2021 to highlight opportunities across various market segments. They break down current and future trends by segment and provide 2018-2021 forecasts for revenues (US$). The market size is estimated to be USD $2.94 billion in 2021, with a CAGR of 16.7% from 2018-to 2022.
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