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Postcards in the age of AI

Postcards in the age of AI

Christopher Arndt |

In this week's newsletter, we will explore the source of our images, the tools I use, and the new technology of generative AI.

Initially, I started off using my own collection of photos, primarily focusing on Chicago and Door County, WI. As demand grew, customers began asking for images from other cities, various scenes, and different subjects.

Given my constraints on a limited budget, extensive travel was not feasible, and the cost of licensing photos for commercial use was prohibitive. Therefore, I turned towards using open-licensed (Creative Commons) and public domain images.

However, the challenge was these types of images were often captured by amateur photographers who lacked the professional equipment, experience, and skills to produce visually stunning photographs.

To create "postcards that dazzle", I utilized Photoshop to retouch, enhance, and often create new compositions from these photos.

For example, let's consider the process used to create our Union Pacific train postcard:

I'm sure you would agree the original train photo is rather boring. By adding the grain silos, mountains, clouds, forests, and foreground shrubbery (all open-license images), the result is far more exciting.

To finish off the image, I apply my signature "photo-painting" technique—a blend of Photoshop filters merged with the original photo.

I create using the tools available to me. Recently, a new tool became available.

In 2021, generative AI made headlines thanks to innovations like DALL-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion.

Initially too crude for practical use, I used this time to study, learn, and explore its capabilities.

Generative AI has evolved quickly, marked by two notable releases: Adobe Firefly in 2022, and in 2023.

With these new tools I was able to bring to life the concepts I envisioned for the "Lights Out" eclipse postcard, 9 of the 10 new cicada postcards, and the entire "Letters, Books, and More" series.

However, I'm learning not all customers share my enthusiasm and have expressed concerns.

Various misconceptions and concerns surround generative AI, and I will address those is next week's newsletter.

But first, I want to know what your concerns are.

Please answer this two-question survey to share your concerns. Your answers are anonymous. Thank you.