The past year has seen a big spike in automatic photo-tagging, with Lightroom, Flickr and EyeFi all rolling out software that scans images and applies tags based on the image’s contents. Even though auto-tagging has had its share of missteps, EyeEm has an even more ambitious agenda. Its software not only scans and tags images based on content, but passes esthetic judgement on photos as well.
EyeEm’s judgement passing algorithm, dubbed EyeVision, isn’t new, but as of today it’s seen a significant overhaul. Jackie Dove at The Next Web has a nice piece exploring EyeVision’s capabilities.
EyeEm runs a stock photo market and, like all stock photo markets, wants to surface the best images whenever a prospective customer is searching for something. The new EyeVision software update purports to do just that–it can find images by tag but also pass judgement on which photos are more esthetically pleasing than others in its archive. Photographers take note: humans are no longer the sole arbiters of taste.
According to EyeEm’s CTO Ramsi Rizk, EyeVision can detect not simply what’s in a photo, but emotions and abstract contents. As Dove explains, “EyeVision recognizes 20,000 objects (hat, shirt, man, sun), photographic concepts (rule of thirds, vanishing point, symmetry, negative space) and abstract concepts (surreal, sadness, emotional, alone, carefree, exciting, tradition) and is constantly learning.”
It’s not just software crunching numbers, but software informed by the judgement of human photographers. Rizk told Dove that the esthetic judgements “comes from hundreds of thousands of photos that have been painstakingly curated by our community by professional photographers and our team…” This one-two punch of software guided by expert human input is what EyeEm hopes will be a critical differentiator as companies like Adobe, Google and others seek to tackle the same problem.
But EyeEm’s ambitions raise an interesting question about the future of photography in a software-driven world. Can we trust algorithms to pass judgement on what constitutes a “beautiful” image or is that criteria so subjective that it doesn’t really matter who (or what) is judging?