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Calling AI Art A Photo Or A Painting Is Fraud!

By Mike Schaffner - From my blog
My photo sites Mike Schaffner Photography

Edited and published by Yvette Depaepe, the 24th of March 2023


AI “art” is a popular topic in the world of photography and painting. AI (artificial intelligence) is also getting a lot of attention in the news media. Photography and art sites are being flooded with AI “art” pretending to be photos or paintings. This is because it is a fast and easy track to likes and internet fame. In reality, it is a misrepresentation; a fraud. AI “art” is not a photo or a painting. It is a different method of creating an image.


Some simple definitions can help explain this.

·      Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, colour or other medium to a solid surface. [source: Wikipedia].

·      Photograph – an image created by light falling on a photosensitive surface, usually photographic film or an electronic image sensor. [source: Wikipedia] The image may be further processed (post-processed) via darkroom or digital editing techniques.

·      AI art – any artwork, particularly images and musical compositions, created through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) programs, such as text-to-image models and musical generators. [source: Wikipedia] AI images may also be post-processed via Photoshop, etc.


Clearly, these 3 methodologies are very different. Despite these differences they can yield similar looking results. Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell whether an image is a painting, a photograph or an AI image.

Looking Like A Photo Doesn’t Make It A Photo

Implicit with calling an image a photo or a painting is that you are affirming the method used to create that image. The methodology is what defines it as a photo or painting. The fact that something looks like a photo or painting is not the defining characteristic. To be clear, not being able to call an AI image a photo is not a judgement on the merits of the image. It doesn’t mean the image is good or bad. It simply means it is not a photo; nothing more.  An AI image can be a beautiful and captivating image which is great. But it isn’t a photo or painting.




Perhaps more importantly, when submitting photos to a website where I want to stand out from other people’s photos, or websites that have a curation or selection process, or to a photography competition, or when selling a photo, I expect a level playing field that all the “photos” are truly photos. This is also true when I want to buy a photo. If I’m spending money on a photo, it better be a true photo.


Why Has This Become An Issue Only Recently

For quite some time there have been paintings that look like photos and vice versa. Despite this, there hasn’t been a lot of photos that claim to be paintings or paintings being called photos. I think there are a number of reasons for this.

1.    Both photography and painting involve a investment in equipment, practice, skill development, and time to become good at it. As a result, both types of artists are proud of their work in their chosen field and therefore tend to “stay in their lane”.

2.    There are plenty of sites to post dedicated to either photography or painting. Some have sections for both. This gives them ample opportunity to display their work within their field.


AI images are relatively new development and have quickly become popular.
It is with this rise in popularity that we have seen AI Images invading other sites by impersonating photographs or paintings. The reasons I see for this are:

1.    There aren’t many sites dedicated to AI Images or photo/painting sites that have a separate category for AI images. So where can people that create AI images share them? They have limited valid options.

2.    The investment to create AI images is small. It takes little equipment (which most people already have) or time to learn. The siren song of fast and easy likes and internet popularity is very strong. It’s there for the taking. All you have to do is call your AI image a photo or painting and post it everywhere.


An Egregious Example

Artnet News recently published a story about Instagram “artist”, Jos Avery. In October, 2022 Avery began posting primarily black-and-white portraits with sharp facial features and blurred backgrounds. He initially insisted these were taken with a Nikon D810 camera and even included fictional backstories for some of the subjects. Many of the images are quite good.

Avery’s followers have now quickly grown to over 34,000. This popularity eventually made him feel guilty. He now admits that the images were made with the AI image generator, Midjourney. He does fine-tune them with Photoshop. Previously, Avery denied that they were AI images.

Some may be inclined to be lenient in accepting Avery’s images as photos due the their quality. AI images are not photos or paintings regardless of how much they may look like them. It’s not an issue of quality; it’s an issue of misrepresentation. And misrepresentation is fraud. It’s as simple as that!


“AI images are not photos or paintings regardless of how much they may look like them. It’s not an issue of quality; it’s an issue of misrepresentation. And misrepresentation is fraud. It’s as simple as that!”


While I’m glad that Avery came clean, there are still a lot of people out there that haven’t. Unfortunately, that simple needless dishonesty will always taint Avery’s reputation and work.

Instagram And Other Sites

Instagram is a good example of how many image sharing sites operate. Some of the specifics of Instagram are:

·      Instagram describes itself as a “photo and video sharing app”. It does not explicitly address the issue of AI images.

·      The Instagram Community Guidelines state:

·      Share only photos and videos that you’ve taken or have the right to share.

·      As always, you own the content you post on Instagram. Remember to post authentic content, and don’t post anything you’ve copied or collected from the Internet that you don’t have the right to post.

·      The Instagram Terms of Use state:

·      You can’t do anything unlawful, misleading, or fraudulent or for an illegal or unauthorized purpose.

There are a lot of gray areas in here as the rules haven’t kept pace with the technology. For example, ownership and copyright issues in regard to images being used by AI art generators are currently being debated. It will take some time to sort all this out.


1x, has taken an explicit stand on AI images on their site.
On the photo submission page, they state: “1x is a photography website. Usage of any kind of AI software (like Dall-E or Midjourney) to generate photographs is strictly forbidden and such images will be deleted without warning. Repeated violations may result in account suspension.”


What Does The Future Hold?

Instagram and 1x may represent the extremes of how sites will handle AI images.
Although a “photo site”, Instagram isn’t really about photography. It’s a social media site with the aim of generating traffic to generate ad revenue. As a result, Instagram isn’t concerned with image standards and quality but rather images that drive traffic. Frankly, I doubt if Instagram will make any changes in regard to AI images.

At the other end of the spectrum are sites like 1x that make money by selling curated photographs. Since their customers care about the difference between photos and AI images, they have to take steps to protect the integrity of their product.


It’s hard to tell how all of this will shake out. My hope is that both the people generating AI images and websites will recognize AI as a methodology to create images that is separate, distinct, and different from painting and photography.  It’s a big world out there – can’t we all just get along?



I missed this article, now I know why I got a message accusing me of using AI! Good that a second explanation was added later that it was a general message and not a personal one. I use AI in Lightroom for selection, a great time saver. I haven't used any AI generator so I don't have the first hand experience but I imagine that in the hands of true artists it could lead to a new medium perfectly accepted in future. I agree with Mike and the management of 1x that this is not what this site is about but I, personally, would like to see a bit broader view of what a "photo" is.
Thanks Margaret
Thank you Mike very interesting and fascinating article, how does !X stand on the use of the Neural filter in Photoshop which is powered by AI ?
Thanks Jacky. As to you question you'll have to ask 1x management as I am not an official spokesman for the organization.
Thanks Mike, we used to think the same about digital photography, that it was’t real, it was’t valid, but unlike AI, it still takes talent to recognize what should be photographed and the imagination and vision in post production to produce a good image. Maybe in 20 years from now AI will be viewed differently, but for now, I am in agreement!
Merci Philip
Thx! The progress in technology and art fascinates me. I enjoyed reading the article! I agree it shouldn’t even be a debate. Horses and cars also don’t race each other…
Thanks Wicher
Tonight I closed my pro account forever. Because your site does not have an artificial intelligence section. Therefore, I have nothing to do here. Photography is enough
Great article that gets to the heart of the issue. Very well presented and discussed. Congratulations Mike !
Thanks my friend
Such a wonderful article! I feel exactly the same about the AI images! Thank you Mike!
Thanks Ash
Thank you for the well-written and informative article. More information is exactly what we need to understand this new form of visual imaging.
Thank you my friend
Great article and thanks for taking a stand on this issue Mike! I agree that AI generated images belong to a completely different category.
Thanks Xiaolin
Very good article! Thank you very much Mike, thank you very much Yvette.
Grazie Alessandro
Excellent article, putting things in their right places. Replicating Human creativity with AI is definitely not Art, and does belong neither to Photography nor any Fine Art.
ευχαριστώ Thanasaki
I agree. Art is part of human nature and as such cannot be replicated in spirit by AI
Thanks Jonathon
Thank you very much for this article. A clarification was necessary, and it is perfectly developed here. And thank you to 1X for his choice of photography.
Merci Jean-Luc
Yes, such "art" should be stigmatized.
Thanks Monolit
Very good article, made the right decision by declaring it wanted to fight AI, it was probably the only possible decision for its survival. Let us hope that this is not just a declaration of intent but that it will be followed by the facts. The publication of this article shows that seems on the right track.
Merci av peteghium
Like I always ask and no body bother to answer me, what is this :
I'd love to tell you what it is but I cannot say with any certainty
Excellent article. Well explained all the topics involved. Many thanks for presenting this in 1x , a site for photography not for AI images.
Thank you Francisco
I just hope Instagram also respects this decision:
Thanks Ming. This is a difficult problem to contain but let's hope they all try.
I have read the article and most of the comments below! I feel very pleased that has so many talented people to write the supporting words to’s decision. Thank you so much!
Thank you very much Wangham
Terrific article Mike. I've loved all your blogs and hope others will see this and be inspired to subscribe. You are a gift to the 1x community.
Thanks Robin. Looking forward to you article.
Hallo Mike i appreciate your great contribution, IMO this is very serious subject, I am just worried about AI existence and about so called photographers which not only using it but also publishing such fake photographs. Thank you very much for presenting this issue here.
Danke Miro
Big congrats, Mike for this wonderful article. I think it was necessary. Thanks for sharing it with all of us 🙏😊
Gracias Mabel
Great article Mike! I am happy you are bringing this topic to the forefront!
Thanks Ali
An excellent article, Mike. So glad to see it published in the magazine. Thank you for all the time and effort you put in.
Thanks Elizabeth
Very good article Mike, to the point. May I add something to it? Ai images are a composite of existing photos and graphics. Those are usually copyrighted. In other words, Ai images "steal" particles from copyrighted material. A little "stealing" from a lot of material is still stealing. Get rid of it ...
Thanks Luc. The whole topic of copyright infringement by AI is a big one that will take some time to sort out.
Excellent write up , it’s most relevant topic of discussion during the recent times , thanks Mike for your valuable inputs
Thank you Anita
Excellent article Mike. Really appreciate your thoughts on this controversial issue, Best regards, Patrick
Thank you Patrick
Great article, Mike! So glad to see it is published on 1X magazine, thank you for sharing your thorough analysis and crystal clear explanation on AI image. Thank you!
Thanks Jian
A fair analysis and clear explanation . Thank you .
Thank you Pang
Excellent article Mike, and I agree 100% about misrepresentation. Trying to compare AI works to photographs is like comparing apples and oranges. AI works don't belong on a site dedicated to photography. It's just not a level playing field to have them be judged side by side. It's very wrong for anyone to claim their AI work is a photograph, and I think they end up getting much more kudos than they deserve.
Thanks Ursala
Excellent article Mike! I am glad that it was published in the 1X magazine to make people more aware of the issues surrounding AI and photography,
Thanks Lucie
Great and trendy article 🤙🤙🤙
Merci Serge
Fantastic information on AI. I am glad to admit I do not even own Photoshop!
Thanks Ray
Very good and necessary article. Totally agree with the position that 1x has taken regarding AI. If here it was allowed to put images generated by AI I would go 1x. This is a site for photographers and the AI ​​is a different thing.
Gracias, Enrique
Clear, didactic and to the point article. Thank you for this. I believe any one that likes AI should understand the position of 1x. I am glad our work is recognized and protected by sites like this one. Thanks!
Thanks Marie
Genial ! , muy bien explicado , gracias por el articulo , saludos
Gracias Juan
I’m a member of 1x but havent posted anything for a long time but I do enjoy looking at the photos and reading the articles that are presented to us. Even though Im very much an amateur protographer I really appreciated this article to distinguish real artistic works from artificial work. There is so much of AI work in all kinds of media and advertising now that people think its real. I am glad that this has been brought up and that 1X is taking a stand. Thank-you.
Glad to read you here, Lindsay! And also very glad with this article from Mike to present in the 1x magazine and 1x taking a stand. Cheers, sis !
Thanks Lindsay
Thank you, Mike, for bringing this up! Is Instagram really a photo site? I have been posting my paintings and iPad art forever, just like thousands of artists out there... There is also a huge community posting AI art as what it is, with tags like Midjourney, AIart and so on. And it is ok. As long as the authors are honest about the media used in producing their work. Instagram is for everybody posting everything for a huge audience who make their own choices as to what to believe or not. And of course, I fully agree that fine art photography platforms, such as 1x, should not accept images made with AI intervention and, when in doubt, ask the photographer for proof. And btw, I have subscribed to your blog. :-)
Merci beau coup, Ludmila
So awesome to see your blog published here, Mike. Thanks for all the time you spent to this brilliant resumé!
Danke, Mike
Great article, very pleasant. We can't stop technology but we can try lo leave it out of here!
Grazie Thomas
Fantastic article this is a huge issue for us in the photography world especially us creative photographers. Thanks Mike !!!!
Thank you Colin