You may have seen some recent news stories about Aitana Lopez, a pink-haired model from Barcelona who earns around $10,000 a month and has celebrities asking her out. Fair play to her, you might say, except that Aitana doesn’t exist. She’s an AI (artificial intelligence) creation, and has been made by a specialist agency in the city called The Clueless (

While the story seems new, this practice of AI or ‘fake influencers’ has been around for a while now. Many of them have hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram. As an editorial and fashion photographer, my core issue is not the effect that it’ll have on our business, as synthesised figures have been used for many, many years. In fact, those fashion houses that still use real models do so because actual people are (sadly) still cheaper to use, time-wise, than fake ones.

AI models – The real issue

I do, however, have a major issue with the effect that these fake models will have on a growing generation. I think it’s absolutely fine to follow an AI bot on Instagram as long as you know that, but most creators hide the fact that it’s an AI model. One of the most famous of those has been in use for nearly six years now and surprise, surprise, she hasn’t aged a day. The media has been worrying about unobtainable beauty standards for decades now, but this will likely be the breaking point for some.

AI imagery in photography has been an understandably hot topic for many people, but the core issue that most of us have is the betrayal we feel when we realise a cool image is actually created by AI. Finding some way to authenticate these images is going to be the key to keeping all this under control. There is even talk of authenticating raw files to confirm that they are an actual photo of an actual person, but all of this just increases the cost of using a photographer – which in turn pushes more people to use AI.

Race to the bottom

As terrifying as all this AI talk is today, the old folk among us will remember the photographic apocalypse that happened in the mid-1990s with stock imagery. Just like today, we all said this was the end of photography, but ultimately the discipline evolved – and the stock photographers all but killed themselves in their race to the bottom.

As AI becomes more mainstream, popular tools such as Chat GPT will be able to make you an AI model in mere minutes, and quite likely cost you nothing. This oversaturation will probably prove to be fatal, just like we saw with stock photography. After all, you can get incredible stock imagery today that costs you absolutely nothing and is completely rights-free. But people will always be willing to pay for something that is unique, created by a skilled photographer.

Jake Hicks is a London-based editorial and fashion photographer and a Rotolight ambassador. See

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