A.I. & me

AI is all the buzz and it seems to be attaching itself to everything, everywhere, all at once. 

The canary in the AI coal-mine?

Images and writing.

Ai art; futuristic_waiting_room_based_on_dr.seuss  Prompts by Erik Almås

I feel ambivalent about my relationship with AI generated imagery.

On one side AI is nothing short of magic.

It will conjure an image depicting whatever you tell it. The results are often surprising, and every now and then, astonishing. 

This gets the dopamine going, and me prompting, chasing my visual curiosity down the AI rabbit hole.  

On the other side AI is greatly unfulfilling. 

I am a craftsman as much as an artist, and typing descriptive words takes away the tactile element of craft. 

I am also pondering where in this process I am the creator, or even creative? Is AI wrapping me in a warm fuzzy feeling of creating images when I am hardly creating anything at all??

Am I instigating something artful? For sure. 

The better question however is; Am I the maker of this art??

Prompting on a computer is creatively passive, and chasing visual magic by waiting for an image to appear on screen inevitably leaves me feeling hallow and numb. 

…Which is the direct opposite of the sensation I get when doing my craft.

I was an early adopter of photoshop and digital photography. 

My start in the fall of 1995 made me part of the first generation of photographers who were using the digital darkroom and photoshop as an extension of our photography. This later led to CGI and incorporating generated elements into my images. 

AI can seem like the natural progression of digital photography, but is it?

Ai created background, talent photographed in studio and merged together. Background prompts and talent Photography by Erik Almås

Ai created background, talent photographed in studio and merged together. Background prompts and talent Photography by Erik Almås


I have created some of my signature images with Stepehen Kamifuji, the founder and creative Director of Genlux Magazine. 

Stephen reached out after me sharing some AI images online and asked if we could use AI in a fashion editorial for Genlux.

This was the right place and opportunity and we jumped right in!

The upcoming issue was summer swim fashion. After some back and forth we settled on a 1930’s Miami Beach Art deco story.
In past assignments for Genlux my team have built sets and full scale CGI environments to create the scenes we wanted. For this issue the background images were created by prompts into the MidJourney Bot describing time and space, architectural and cultural influences and photography and light references. 

The process creating these backgrounds are astonishingly simple compared to what one had to do in the past to achieve the same setting.

Is it as fun and hands on? Is it progress? Not nearly as fun, but with the efficiencies it presents in creating environments that transports you to a different era, it’s adaption is inevitable…

Stephen, my stylists Christine and Sherrie, and my self picked the backgrounds that we felt fit together in style, palette and narrative. We then photographed the talent in my little studio in Sonoma, CA, matching light and perspective to seamlessly integrate our model into the different settings/backgrounds.

Experimenting with AI for this project, tapping into its visual wonder without losing craft and the creative connectedness of people collaborating, felt a lot more authentic to my process.  

The Art Deco background images were created using Midjourney and Topaz Giga Pixel was used to upres the images to a pixel size high enough for magazine print. In some cases I used generative fill in Photoshop to remove items within the frames and I also combined several AI images to make the backgrounds,

In many ways this shoot transformed my AI experience from a passive, numbing, computer process, to a tool; a part of MY process and craft.

During every composite shoot I do a quick assembly on set to make sure the perspectives and light on the talent matches up with the background they are being placed into.

Watching this process, Stephen Kamifuji asked;  “is this the future of Fashion Photography?”

Ai created background, talent photographed in studio and merged together. Background prompts and talent Photography by Erik Almås

Ai created background, talent photographed in studio and merged together. Background prompts and talent Photography by Erik Almås

We went from traditional film to digital cameras to phone cameras and digital distribution platforms in less than 15 years (From first viable digital capture with the Kodak dcs series to Web 2.0 with blogs and social media. The AI tide has just started its rise and it will impact photography, and our lives, at a pace that will make these past 15-20 years look glacial. Listening to AI luminaries like Mo Gawdat, Vinod Koshla and Mustafa Suleyman is both riveting and scary. According to them and others, AI will iterate exponentially, at a pace faster than we can Imagine, and AI will be “everywhere” in just a few years.

A few months back I wrote that AI can not replace the energy, feeling, emotion, connection, and all those intangible elements that us photographers capture in pictures. I now believe it can and it won’t be long until AI can recreate any emotional expression with a consistency only achieved by the best directors and actors…

Looking at what is possible to create with AI today, and the pace of the improvement, one can easily see a not so distant future where AI creates images so authentic one can’t distinguish them from real people or photography. 

Which leads me to ask; Will AI then ever be a tool for photographers if AI itself can create equal to us at near zero cost??

    Ai art;  Cinematic_Closeup_of_iclandic_woman in_vast_landscape           Cinematic_image_of_iclandic_man_in_vast_landscape Prompts by Erik Almås


Even tough impressive, AI is very basic in its generation of low resolution pictures. The quality increase the past 2 years have been astonishing, but from a photographers perspective, we have very little input on details that can help shape an artist’s personal vision.

I do believe AI will quickly mature into more of creators tool. We can easily imagine AI building and mapping 3D environments as effortlessly as it creates images today. 

In a 3D space we can set our camera, choose lenses, set light and tone, alter perspective and angles, set color-palette etc.
Today this is a tedious process of building wireframes and applying textures. What if we can create a Cinema 4D or Unreal Engine environment with the same prompts we give mid journey? We are then in a digital “camera” environment that will allow us to make the same choices we make with the camera today. Rather than passively waiting for a picture to appear we can then digitally shape light, create feeling and atmosphere and energy.

I’m sure this progression is just around the corner and in this capacity AI will be an extraordinary tool for any creative.

Can you imagine having similar possibilities to create what Disney did with the Mandalorian in a few short years??

I don’t want to take this blog too far into the future, but I have to mention the obvious; This AI 3D progression plays right into the evolution of Meta Quest and Apple Vision Pro. With time these devices will be closer in size to ordinary glasses and completely change how we interact with media. What if the 2D flat surface of magazines and screens get largely displaced by an interactive and 3 dimensional space interacted with through a pari of shades? What will assignment and commercial  photography be like in this 3D world? Will it exist or have we been bypassed by art directors getting their ideas visualized by AI in minutes?

One can easily connect the dots between MidJourney, what Unreal Engine does in 3D and the Apple vision pro. In a short time we will put on a headset and be transported into any environment, having any experience we want. 

Are we heading to a reality we saw in Cline and Spielberg’s “Ready Player One”?

As with most things AI, I get both excited and nervous about what ’s to come…

    Ai art;  The elephant in the room. Prompts by Erik Almås


The elephant in the room is obvious; 

Will AI put us photographers out of work? 

That AI will take work from all levels of photographers is clearly evidenced by simple headshot generators like studioshot.ai, fashion model generator Lalaland.ai and WPP,  the largest advertising agency in the world “going all in on AI” 

If this is just the beginning, where does this take us photographers??

AI will massively disrupt our commercial work and income, but I am not sure it is all bleak in the near term.  

As consciousness around AI and skepticism around what is real and fake gets embedded into our culture I believe companies will be reluctant to choose AI in their brand imagery.

The core of a company’s marketing is centered around their identity and their story. High on any marketers list is to express the company’s ethos through authenticity and values. Would we as consumers trust a brand narrative if it was represented by an AI generated person? 

I believe the answer is yes and no;

Conceptual work, which represents or illustrates ideas or concepts, will go the way of AI in short order. Like the elephant in the room images above…

I can’t imagine however a hospitality brand who are in the business of selling experiences, would choose to use AI in their marketing. AI is the polar opposite of the human experience hospitality is all about, and using AI could truly tarnish a brand if they went that route. 

The same goes for healthcare, which represents one of the largest segments of advertising spend in the US. Can you imagine an advertising image where the message is to make us healthier, using images with AI generated people??

Neither can most. 

The beginning of this sentiment can be felt in the backlash towards Levi’s when they announced they were partnering with Lalaland.ai to “increase Diversity” using AI generated models. Visiting lalandia.ai gives a clear idea of what’s to come and where things are heading when it comes to catalog and product photography. 

Another barrier for the commercial proliferation of AI generated images is the demand for the work to be watermarked.  Would you be excited to eat an Orio cookie if the advertising image was marked “AI generated”? Would we be just as excited to buy the cookie when its marked as “not real”?


These barriers on AI entering advertising however is placed on the consumer’s perception.
What if that fake Orio trigger our salivary glands just as much as a picture of a real one??

The advertising agencies have no doubt this is where the making of marketing content is heading; 

“Generative AI is changing the world of marketing at incredible speed. This new technology will transform the way that brands create content for commercial use,” WPP CEO Mark Read said in a statement. (WPP= Ogilvy, Grey, AKQA, Wunderman, Y&R, and some 50 other agencies) 


AdvertisingWeek is supporting this future, recently publishing an article called : Harness the Power of AI-Generated Images: The Ultimate Marketing Solution.  

Does anyone truly believe AI to be the ultimate marketing solution?? 

I would think human connection is the ultimate, but what about mass marketing?

The public perception around what is real and what is fake will surely be magnified as AI images get close to indistinguishable from captured photography and I hope both consumers and companies with values around the authentic will be cautions in their use of AI.

The real question however is; Do we care? Hasn’t advertising always created a manufactured truth to stir up desire??

Reading the Independent’s article on Levi’s gives great insight into how large brands are looking for efficiencies and their approach to AI. They are largely brushing off the criticism, saying the use of ai “should not have been conflated with the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion commitment or strategy.”  AND, “Levi’s maintained that the new technology will enable customers to see more models that look like themselves, “creating a more personal and inclusive shopping experience”.

Interpret that one as you will, or ask one of Metas new celebrity chat bots for advice…

…In the meantime I’ll pass on buying another Levi’s product.




For the longest time I identified as a Photographer. That was what I did and who I was….

Mid 2019 I started feeling guilty for not paying enough attention to “my craft”. I constantly felt I should create new, and award winning, pictures in order to stay relevant. My creative gravity however pulled me towards renovating homes and making my first short film. I felt like I was wasting a lot of my time (which I still do at times), exploring architecture and design of spaces, rather than coming up with concepts for the next photoshoot. 

I felt deeply that I owed it to my career, and to who I was, to create more images!

At the time I was working with a life coach and he helped me unlock the singular perception I had of myself and what it meant being successful. In a short conversation I went from being a photographer to being someone who “creates energy, feeling, emotion and atmosphere in pictures, films and spaces”

It sounds so basic when spelled out, but it allowed me, without any guilt (mostly), to spend time on whatever creative outlet I wanted to pursue, rather than chasing the next picture and the next showcase so I could get the validation I craved.

I am sharing this story as I think it can help us to untie ourselves from our identity as photographers as AI starts finding its way into what has been our domain.

Because of my own untanglement from my photographer identity and my dedication of time exploring architecture, design and film, I have become an award winning film maker, a renovator of homes that have been published in Dwell and Conde Nast Traveller AND in turn a better photographer. 

The point of this, not so humble brag ????, is that identifying with one thing is tough when this one thing is utterly disrupted.

AI will change assignment photography, but I believe there will be new ways for us to thrive as commercial artists! Photography is truly just one way of expressing how we, as visual creative thinkers, absorb and relate to our surroundings.We can express our keen awareness of light and shape and composition and emotion and energy, and the list keeps going, in many other ways.

My work as a photographer will be massively impacted by AI, so I opt to be excited about the upcoming possibilities.

How can we, us photographers, thrive in this monumental change? 

I believe it starts with acknowledging the change and getting on board with the AI toolkit. This Genlux Fashion Series is me getting on board, partaking in the AI image revolution,  and exploring its current tools in a way, that for me, is creatively fulfilling…

Will I be replaced? 

For sure.

But maybe not, all the time…

In writing this I reached out to a few Advertising Creative Directors and they all believe AI will replace a lot, if not most of todays commissioned assignment Photography.
At this stage they all use AI for visualizing concepts for comps and presentations to clients. As one Creative director put it; I don’t know if it will be five months or five years, but what we are doing for visualization/comps today will eventually be used as final art.

A different discussion in this is copyright. The licensing issues however will be sorted in very short order as Adobe stock, Shutter stock and Getty, are all  training AI image generators on their image libraries. With this the copyright and ownership legal hurdle to commercially use AI images will be gone. 


A different discussion in this is copyright. The licensing issues however will be sorted in very short order as Adobe stock, Shutter stock and Getty, are training AI image generators on their image libraries. With this the copyright and ownership legal hurdle to commercially use AI images will be gone.  

WPP, the largest advertising agency conglomerate in the world “ going all in on AI”


Mandalorian Behind the Scenes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUnxzVOs3rk

Ai generated cookies:  https://www.theverge.com/2023/8/18/23837273/generative-ai-advertising-oreos-cadbury-watermarking

The independent article on the Levi’s backlash: 


AD Week’s blog on the “ultimate marketing Solution”

Harness the Power of AI-Generated Images: The Ultimate Marketing Solution

Mo Gawdat Podcast with Steven Bartlett; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bk-nQ7HF6k4

Mustafa Suleyman Podcast with Steven Bartlett; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTxnLsYHWuI


Vinod Khosla Podcast with Kara Swisher


Getty getting into AI:  https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/getty-releases-ai-image-maker-trained-on-own-data-1234680408/

Supporting those who support us

Today I am asking for your help to support the ones that support me…

I spent almost 3 years as a camera assistant.

It was a great time in my life where I got to learn the craft of photography, experience the ins and outs of advertising shoots and at the same time travel to new countries and have experiences I had only dreamed of.

Parallel to my job as an assistant I was constantly working on my own images, trying to develop a portfolio good enough to be able to take the step from apprentice to photographer.

During these years I was under continuous financial pressure. I barely made enough money as an assistant to live in San Francisco, so all shoots I did to practice my skills and build my body of work was funded  by borrowing from family and friends and moving money from one credit card to another. I remember vividly the day I decided to forgo all reason, be late on my rent, and spend the little money I had on a 500 dollar Scottish highland cow. My stylist and I had some inspiration images of a model with a lamb. I ended up with a 500 dollar cow….

One can think of this as irresponsible or crazy, but the cow was the coolest ever and I just felt it was something that had to create.

Later that year the image made it into the PDN Photography Annual, as my first image ever included in a competition. Through this exposure I got some attention which in turn validated the path I was on.

I was however about to give up on my quest to become a photographer many times as the financial uncertainty and stress made it hard to see the reason for continuing on. Eventually I did get there. I slowly started to get hired to create images and have now done so commercially for almost 20 years.

I am sharing this story to give some context to the very dire situation many photo assistants find themselves in today during Covid 19. If our current situation had happened at any time during my 3 year stint as an assistant/apprentice I don’t think I would have made it to where I am today. I would have tipped off on the wrong side of the financial edge I was balancing on and would probably not have made it back up…

About a week ago, fellow photographer and PROEDU instructor, Tim Tadder launched the initiative – Art for Assistants.

The concept is simple; Photographers selling our images in signed, fine art editions to help support our assistants with some bridge funding till we can get back to work.

100 images at 100 dollars, raising 10 000 dollars to support the ones who supports us. The larger goal is to get 100 Photographers to get onboard, raising a collective 1 million usd for out of work Camera assistants.

So today I ask for your help; Please help support my crew by buying a print for 100 usd. You can choose any one of the 4 images on the fundraising page. Or if you feel generous you can buy all of them for a 400 usd donation.

You can donate on gofundme here:


There are many other photographers joining in on this initiative and if you search Art for Assistants on gofundme.com you will see some extraordinary images being offered. Beyond supporting people in great need you also have a chance to start off a photography collection for a very reasonable investment.

My gratitude and thanks goes out to all of you who have donated so far and to Tim Tadder who started this initiative. And please read below for more info on Art for Assistants

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!


Art for Assistants is a campaign to turn paper and ink into financial support for photography assistants during the covid-19 epidemic.100 limited edition fine art prints available for $100

While the world works to heal itself and take on this tragedy headfirst, we want to make sure we are supporting those who always support us. To do so, we are asking you to join us in “Art for Assistants”, a campaign to turn paper and ink into financial support for photography assistants. 

We will be selling 100 limited edition, 11”x14″ prints of  the four images on the go fund me fundraising page.
Prints are selling for $100 each, but of course, donations of any size are welcomed.

If you would like to donate, but on a smaller level you can purchase Erik’s First tutorial, Acuities,  for 29 USD. If you are a photographer and want to nominate an assistant to receive this tutorial for free you can do so by sending a message to @erikalmas on Instagram.

One hundred percent of proceeds from the sale of these photography prints (with an exception of the 3% that goes to GoFundMe) will go to cover the living expenses of our team’s dedicated sidekicks, who no longer have the opportunity to work due to Covid-19. 

With Epson’s support of ink and paper, “Art for Assistants” will mobilize the world’s greatest image-makers to sell limited edition prints, in order to raise money for all the assistants heavily impacted by the lack of work during this time.  When our fund raising closes we will pass the baton to two other photographers to keep the donations and the crews going. 

We encourage you to share this campaign with your audience and greatly appreciate your time, consideration and donations during such a challenging time.

The why of an advertising image

I did my first advertising assignment in the year 2000. I still remember how excited I was when I, a few months later, walked out of a bookstore on Chestnut Street in San Francisco with several magazines with my pictures in them.

20 years into my career as an advertising photographer the excitement of seeing my work published in magazines and printed oversized on billboards is just as thrilling. The campaign we captured for Qatar Tourism launched globally last year and have since been used in magazines, on billboards in airports and places like New York’s time square and London’s Piccadilly Circus and “everywhere” online.


The thrill of having my work published is absolutely the same 20 years later.

How I approach my commercial work and how I understand the responsibility trusted to me when awarded an assignment however has changed completely during this time.

My approach early on, I now realize, was quite naïve.
Being hired was fun and exciting; I couldn’t fully believe someone would pay me to take pictures.
Eager to please, I dove into each assignment with a massive amount of enthusiasm! I was on a continuing high of creative endorphins and I pushed myself and my image process as hard as I could.
I was doing so however without the larger understanding of WHY.
Had someone asked me during these early years what the images we captured represented and symbolized for the client I would not be able to answer…

I remember vividly the assignment when I became aware of the trust extended to me when hired as a photographer.
I had just been awarded what was the largest assignment of my career at the time, and as we wrapped up the kick off call the Art Director says; “This is the biggest advertising spend this company has ever done; Don’t ***k it up!”

This company is among the 50 largest in the world…

With this I started to realize the responsibility I have as the photographer chosen to execute the images for an advertising campaign and got a larger understanding around the work the agency and client have done on the campaign prior to approaching possible photographers to create the imagery.

I did some of my signature images during this time, so it was not that the work didn’t hold up. It was more about my creative process not being refined enough to include a full understanding of what I was hired to create.
I guess I was so excited about the fact I got hired to do what I love that I didn’t quite see the bigger picture. Or maybe I simply lacked the depth or curiosity at that stage in my life to ask myself the very basic questions;
WHY do the client want to create this kind of image?
WHY this idea?
HOW does it relate to the message of the brand?
What kind of person do we cast and what environment are we in?
What light quality and color palette would help underpin the emotions the Advertising Agency wants the image and brand to be connected to?

These questions are so obvious for me to ask today and the answers serve as the North Star for my approach in every new project I take on.



One might think one gets jaded as one get older, but for me it has been the opposite.

Having been at my photography journey for 25 years and working with advertising for 20, I now have a very different insight and understanding of the work clients and advertising agencies put into building a brand or launching a product.
An AD agency, or in house creative, can work on a launch for months and years before getting to the stage where they are ready to execute the visuals.
To then be the photographer chosen to turn their ideas and concepts into images and films is a huge privilege and I put more pressure on myself to deliver today than I ever have.

With this privilege also comes the expectations to perform at a high level and to craft images which in an artful way touches on all things WHY of the image and campaign…

The first time I deeply felt the gravity of a campaign and my photographs’ need to be successful was in January 2009.
The economy was crashing, and tourism and travel came to a halt.
Spain, where the tourism industry is as much as 16% of GDP, had tasked the Advertising Agency McCannErickson in Madrid to launch a global campaign to boost tourism. They in turn hired me to be the photographer shooting the images for it…
I had done larger campaigns for a while but was still fairly new at being hired for media buys at this level.


I vividly remember the first day of the 3-week shoot. Never have I felt more pressure and sense of relief.

When scouting the location we had decided to have a fence along the cliff removed for the shoot. We show up in the dark, early in the morning on our first shoot day to get ready for sunrise. As my producer is removing the temporary fencing placed for safety, he trips and falls off the cliff…
He catches himself on some trees growing out of the cliffside and with just a few bruises we got him safely back up.
Shortly after 19 people from the agency and the Spanish Ministry of Tourism shows up to watch the first image of the campaign happen…

It is January and the weather had been terrible for days. The forecast for the morning was not great, but we could see breaks in the cloud cover as dawn arrived with its first light.

As the sun rose and broke through the clouds and the images came up on the computer, the relief from the group behind the camera was palpable.


It was a strange mixture of emotions that morning. The adrenaline from the fall and rescue of my producer, the pressure surrounding the importance of the campaign, and that relief when it all turned out ok and the sun rose across the peninsula and water.

My producer didn’t say much at all the rest of that day. He sat quiet on a patch of grass till the shoot was over and then headed for the hospital to get his bruises looked at.

I finally came off my adrenaline-fueled state of the accident and focus through the shoot.
I then had my reaction; I got dizzy, threw up and had to find my own patch of grass to catch a break and reflect on the morning.

One could argue that my early ignorance to the gravity of my assignments was bliss and that I was better off just having fun creating, but as I have gotten better at managing pressure and gained some life perspective on marketing and pictures. We are not performing life-threatening surgery…

I have found what’s closer to a balance where I have the utmost respect for the process and gratitude to get to be a part of it.
I have in the decade since been lucky enough to be hired for many both high and lower profile assignments. All with its own sets of pressures and expectations…

So why am I sharing these stories around the understanding of the creative process and the WHY of a brands visual language?



I get asked all the time where I see the future of advertising photography.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I reflect on the traditional use of images in newspapers and magazines largely being gone, and the profound proliferation of photography through the camera phones and social media.

Gone are the times where one image could make the bold brand statement. The memory of a single image is simply washed away among the next few days or weeks of our social media streams. For companies to thrive in today’s environment they have to use every digital and media avenue available to them. There is tracking, metrics, and profiling, AdWords, social media and influencers…

At the core of these new branding efforts there has to be a brand message and narrative with a deeper substance in which the consumer can connect to. Otherwise we will forget about the company as quick as we forget about the image they used to market themselves…
If you believe this as I do, it is obvious that it will be increasingly important for us as image and filmmakers to understand both the need and the WHY of this core branding.

I believe it to be best way commercial photographers and directors can effectively help shape brands and their story, and a big part in us photographers continuing to thrive.

My favorite assignment

I so often get asked the question: What’s your favorite assignment?

It’s a tricky question to answer as there have been so many “favorite” assignments.

I have dived deep into oceans, I have rappelled into underground caves, I have been to deserts and climbed to mountaintops all in search of the perfect location. I have photographed from helicopters and while skydiving and even photographed a 777-200ER while flying around it in a small Lear jet.

So what’s the parameter for a favorite Assignment?
I have taken some of my favorite images on the street outside my house, yet my favorite experience taking pictures might be helicoptering into a storm in the mountain peaks around Queenstown, New Zealand.

I am more into discovering new places than going back to ones I have already been to, but I do long to go back to the Namibian desert.

Wolvedans, Namibia, changed me profoundly in the way I see and connect to places I go to.  My time there has left a permanent imprint on who I am and how I see landscapes, so for the emotional impact this was my favorite…

So my “favorite assignment” is sometimes because of the image, some times because of the experience around it and other times because of the emotional impact a shoot have had.

Then there’s another type of “favorite” where I get challenged creatively.

Most of the time I get hired to do what I do…

There’s something in my portfolio the agency and client connects to and want me to apply to their concept and campaign.

Rarely do I get hired outside my core capabilities. When I do however it’s exciting and exhilarating and this challenge to create something different becomes a parameter for “favorite”

My recent shoot for Wonderful Co’s new wine brand JNSQ had this creative challenge and the other elements above baked into one, and is for sure one of my favorite assignments.

We traveled to Miami for its Art Deco Color palette and Islamorada for its watercolor with some of my favorite people to work with.

JNSQ had a creative director who saw me as a great fit even though I had not directly done this kind of imagery prior. In this work I got to challenge myself and blend my advertising approach with my cinematic fashion editorial work into a retro-modern esthetic which I am truly excited about.

So when I share I am a photographer and get asked about my favorite assignment, I can for sure say that this was one of them…

As with all assignments we work in both stills and film and the below is the film piece to go along with the stills and cinemagraphs we created.