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Pros And Cons Of Using AI Image Upscalers In Modern Photography

Pros And Cons Of Using AI Image Upscalers In Modern Photography

AI image upscaling has exploded in popularity as a revolutionary new technology for modern digital photography workflows. Powered by deep learning artificial intelligence, these ingenious tools can breathe new life into low resolution images. But like any technology, AI upscalers also come with limitations and downsides photographers should understand. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the pros, cons, best practices and future outlook for utilizing AI image upscalers.

What Are AI Image Upscalers and How Do They Work?

Image upscaling refers to the process of enlarging a digital image to a higher resolution than the original. This allows small, low resolution images to be increased in size while retaining edge sharpness, fine details and overall image quality. Basic interpolation methods like bilinear and bicubic upscaling have been used for decades, but are quite limited when scaling images significantly larger.

AI upscalers take image enlargement to the next level through the power of artificial intelligence and deep learning. These machine learning models are trained on millions of high resolution / low resolution image pairs to learn how to predict plausible high resolution details from lower resolution inputs. By analyzing features like lines, curves, textures, and patterns, the AI system can effectively recreate a highly detailed larger version of an input image.

Leading AI upscaler tools like Topaz Gigapixel AI, Adobe Photoshop Super Resolution and GIMP Resynthesizer utilize advanced neural network architectures like convolutional and generative adversarial networks to perform this task. For example, Topaz leverages an ensemble of three trained models – with each model focusing on different image aspects like noise reduction, sharpening and artifact removal.

Let‘s look at some examples of what today‘s AI upscalers can achieve:

  • A 6 megapixel image can be enlarged to 24 megapixels while retaining crisp details
  • A 1080p video frame can be upscaled to sharp 4K resolution
  • A small blurry face in a photo can be zoomed in on and enlarged with facial features clearly reconstructed

Benefits of AI Image Upscalers

When utilized properly, AI powered image upscalers provide significant benefits for modern digital photography:

  • Increased Resolution – Excellent enlargement up to 4x the input size while retaining natural sharpness and real detail. This allows creating large, high quality prints from smaller images.
  • Revives Old/Low Quality Photos – Breathe new life into pixelated, blurry, compressed or otherwise damaged images. The AI reconstructs and resharpens remarkably well.
  • Saves Significant Time – Manually increasing resolution and retouching images can take hours or days. AI upscalers produce great results automatically in minutes.
  • Easy To Use – Many upscalers like Topaz Gigapixel have simple interfaces optimized specifically for processing photos. Beginners can quickly achieve great results.
  • Versatile – Use AI upscaling to restore old family photos, improve smartphone pics, increase screenshot resolution, enlarge archived jpeg images and more.

Limitations To Keep In Mind

However, AI image upscalers are not a magic bullet. There are some significant limitations and downsides to keep in mind when incorporating these tools into your workflow:

  • AI Interpretation – The machine learning algorithm makes its best guesses at filling in fine details and textures. This doesn‘t always match what the photographer intended or envisioned. Unwanted artifacts like weird patterns or distorted textures can occur.
  • Lacks Artistic Judgement – AI upscalers handle the technical enlargement process well, but lack artistic sensibilities for nuanced retouching like dodge & burn, skin smoothing, blemish removal, etc. Manual work is still required for optimal image quality.
  • Can‘t Recreate Lost Information – If important details like individual hairs or fabric textures are lost in the original low resolution image, the AI cannot magically recreate it perfectly. True details need to be at least somewhat present.
  • Requires Good Input – To achieve the very best results, start with the highest resolution and best quality input image possible. Garbage in, garbage out.
  • Not a Replacement for Expertise – The AI assists and automates parts of the image enlargement process. But it does not replace the skills, experience and artistic eye of the photographer.

Best Practices For Working With AI Image Upscalers

To maximize the capabilities of AI upscalers while avoiding potential pitfalls, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Start with the highest resolution, best quality source image possible
  • Use the optimal AI model preset matched to your image type like photo, digital art, etc.
  • Expect great enlargement results up to around 4x the input size. Beyond that, quality and details start to break down.
  • Always review the upscaled image closely and make additional tweaks/edits manually as needed.
  • Use AI upscaling in combination with manual retouching for best final image quality.
  • For massive enlargements like billboards, break it into multiple stages of incremental upscaling for improved results.

The Future of AI Image Upscaling

As AI and machine learning technology continues advancing rapidly, image upscaling results will only get better. Exciting developments on the horizon include:

  • Specialized niche upscalers optimized for specific use cases like human faces, documents, medical images, etc.
  • Tighter integration of upscaling directly into editing applications for seamless workflows.
  • Reduced artifacts and improved handling of fine textures through better neural network training techniques.
  • Upscaling of video, 3D assets, VR environments and other media beyond just 2D images.
  • Automated retouching assistants powered by AI to enhance results.

While still an emerging technology, AI upscalers already provide tremendous value to photographers through huge time savings and dramatic improvements in image resolution and enhancement. As the machine learning capabilities continue to evolve, these innovative tools will become even more usable and beneficial. But they are most effective when combined with human guidance, discretion and artistic sensibilities. Used properly, AI upscaling opens up a world of new creative possibilities previously beyond manual techniques alone.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.