Smoke & Mirrors in Fashion Photography

One of the popular concerns that we read in our social media comments is that AI photoshoots for our clothes do not represent reality, that they are not accurate to the actual real clothes they represent. We think this concern stems from a general worry about AI and a lack of understanding of how camera photoshoots usually happen in the realm of fashion.
Fashion photography is not a scientific process of careful garment documentation. Almost all styled fashion photography (the quintessential fashion shoot) is “styling advice” at best, involving a lot of compromise. A photoshoot is almost always done under severe restrictions and limitations on the day and the whole team, from model, to stylist, to photographer has to make it work within the limited time allocated. There’s pins, clasps, and duct tape, and ultimately Photoshop involved. Let’s dive in.

Photoshoot Compromises

Photoshoots start with painstaking preparation and detailed planning before the photographer, model, and whoever else is involved finally meet on the day of the shoot. There will be compromises during planning and then there will be compromises on the day because some things will inevitably go wrong.

The first and most widespread compromise is that a photoshoot is usually done with pre-production samples which are received for approval before full production starts at the factory floor. The fashion designer may ask for small alterations after evaluating the pre-production samples and then there are two choices: wait for weeks until you have the final product to shoot and so delay the product launch or do the photoshoot with the pre-production samples so you are ready to launch as soon as you receive the stock. So you take the second option and grab your pins and clasps and get shooting!
The pre-production sample is probably not the correct size for the model, the fabric might be slightly different, any art printed might need minor amendment or be in the wrong position. You will need to alter the sample to look like the final product. If pins can’t make it work, Photoshop certainly will during post processing.
Behind the scenes of a fashion photoshoot
Even when you have final products for the photoshoot, you probably don’t have one of each size at hand. You try to be prepared and have clothes that fit your specific model but then on the day the fit is not quite right. Or maybe you had a last minute change of model, need completely different sizes. No worries, just another day in the studio, take out the box of pins, fold those long sleeves just right and start snapping shots.
Even when you have final products on hand, in typical Murphy's Law, you will have the one faulty dress from the whole production batch or the shirt will rip as the model is in a hurry to change outfit. Or the delivery courier is delayed or the products actually arrived but where damaged in transit, so back to the pre-production samples as backup. Improvise, adapt, overcome, and just move on with completing the photoshoot.
These are the practicalities across the whole fashion industry and we think that most comments about photo accuracy stem from not being aware of this simple reality. Fashion photoshoots aim to transfer the creative vision of the designer, they provide styling advice and try to represent how a garment will look on a very narrow body type, that of the model.

Accuracy by AI

For all our photoshoots, past and future, by a camera or by AI, we aim to show a reasonable depiction of reality that meets expectations when a customer finally receives their purchase. This is not unique to our indie fashion brand, it’s the standard across the fashion industry. The photoshoot process will never be perfectly accurate and that’s fine, nothing ever is. If a photoshoot proves to not meet expectations of the received product, we will update either the photo or the product in future production runs. We don’t engage in fast fashion (we keep our products available for a long time) so we aim for continuous improvement.
a tee shirt on a design table
There are minor limitations in AI image generation right now that make it harder to be completely accurate but we are used to such limitations, most of our past camera photoshoots suffered form the typical issues mentioned above. We are already creating photoshoots with AI that beat the garment accuracy of some of our past photoshoots, simply because we can keep working on a photograph until it is reasonably accurate. We have spent serious hours learning the new AI tools and we work through many iterations on each AI generated photo to get the results we want. For a camera photoshoot, you only have a few chances to get it right on the day and then you can only rely on Photoshop, AI is a massive improvement on the camera.
At the same time, AI is improving so fast that we will see 99.99% garment accuracy within months, not years. All issues about accuracy will disappear very soon. We are used to working under imperfect conditions but in this case technology will be close to perfect sooner than people think.

The Bottom Line

Fashion photoshoots are about aesthetics and creative vision, they are styling advice and aspiration. You can compare fashion photography with food photography that hardly ever uses real food. Marketing is about proposition of value in a representative way for the product, marketing never aims to achieve an impossible 100% accuracy.
We take great pains to represent our products accurately but if sometimes the photoshoot armhole is 2 cm smaller or the sleeve 3 cm longer than reality, it’s ok, it’s normal and happens across the whole fashion industry. We’ve been dealing with such issues long before AI image generation. We don’t agree that our photoshoots should be singled out and expected to be at a far higher standard than every other fashion brand just because we use the new medium of AI instead of a camera.
Nightshade Leggings
There are even more mind blowing changes over the horizon. There are a few startups already training AI to be able to show specific garments in your own photos. That involves you taking a full body photo of your sexy self and asking the AI to show you wearing specific clothes. This capability should be very smooth and accurate within a year or so. Wait one or two further years and this “virtual dressing room” AI tech will be available for live video of yourself as you are standing in front of your mirror, casually “trying on” all the clothes you shop for online. It’s an easy prediction that everyone will use this technology once available.
We are living through the first stages of massive change in the entire industries of fashion, retail, and photography as they evolve, and adapt to new technologies in ways it’s hard to predict. There’s no denying massive change is underway and we urge everyone to think what this change will mean to them. You don’t have to take part in the “revolution” but consider not contesting those that want to.
With love and optimism,
Michael and Eloise
Founders and Directors at Rogue + Wolf

1 comment

  • EJ

    I’m sorry but AI will NEVER be real photography. Honestly how dare you be so insulting to the decades of craft involved in photography. This is actually a disgusting new low. Get a grip

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