Will Amazon's AI image generator kill product photography?

Amazon AI image generator
(Image credit: Amazon)

AI image generators are suddenly everywhere – even on Amazon. Just in time for Black Friday, the online retail giant has launched an AI-powered tool that lets advertisers generate imagery directly in the Amazon Ads platform.

"Advertising has always been part art and part science, and the art part is about to get a whole lot easier," Amazon says. Access to a beta version of the AI image generator is being rolled out gradually, and it promises to allow users to make product lifestyle images without needing to create a set (or hire a photographer).

Amazon says lifestyle images showing a product in context, such as an image of a toaster on a kitchen counter next to a croissant, tend to perform better. It says that on mobile, they have a click-through rate that's up to 40% higher compared to ads with a standard product image on a white background. It also says that in a March 2023 survey, 75% of advertisers said their biggest challenge in creating campaigns was building ad creatives and choosing a creative format.

Its solution is an AI image generator that it says is easy to use and requires no technical expertise. In the Amazon Ad Console, advertisers select their product and click 'Generate'. The tool will create a set of lifestyle and brand-themed images based on product details. These can be refined by entering short text prompts, and multiple versions can be created and tested to optimise performance.

Amazon AI image generator

Amazon's AI image generator can turn standard product shots into lifestyle shots (Image credit: Amazon)

“Producing engaging and differentiated creatives can increase cost and often requires introducing additional expertise into the advertising process,” says Colleen Aubrey, senior vice president of Amazon Ads Products and Technology in an announcement. Amazon says it will be expanding access to its AI image generator over time. It also intends to improve the experience based on customer feedback.

The use of AI image generators doesn't mean the end of product photography itself. Brands will still need decent photos of the products themselves. But AI could impact dramatically on the need for lifestyle photography since brands can now swap backgrounds and place products in different contexts using AI. 

I would hope that higher-end brands will still demand the quality and authenticity that comes with genuine photography. A lot of AI-generated content is still hardly the most convincing. But it seems inevitable that many smaller brands are likely to go the AI route.

It's starting to become clear that the real explosion in AI imagery may come not from standalone apps but the incorporation of the tech into other platforms. The major stock photo libraries Shutterstock and Getty have both added AI image generators to their sites so that subscribers can generate images if they don't find what they're looking for, and Google is following Bing in launching AI image generation in search tools.

Artists worried about AI stealing their own work for training data at least have one potential tool on the horizon. Nightshade, developed by the University of Chicago, appears to be able to "poison" text-based AI image generators, making them associate the wrong imagery with the wrong text.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.