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AI: blurring the lines between reality and fantasy?

Last week, I played around with a new AI tool, Secta AI.

This new product generates professional-looking headshots from selfies and snaps you take on your smartphone. This is the official blurb on the website:

Our Artificial Intelligence takes 25 of your favorite regular photos (including images with others) and generates hundreds of professional looking headshots in less than an hour. Forget driving to a photographer, getting hair done or buying outfits.

I was in the market for a new headshot for my LinkedIn profile so I decided to give this a go. Being able to generate headshots from home appealed to me, plus the price seemed like a steal at less than €50.

For that investment, I got 400+ headshots – and honestly, most of them were really good.

Here’s some of the ones I was really happy with, including the one I picked as my new LinkedIn profile pic:

And in the interest of transparency, some of the pictures were TERRIBLE. Like, laughably hilarious. Wonky eyes or weird neck or just plain odd looking. It seemed that the deeper into the gallery I went, the less the pictures looked like me.

Here’s one of the bloopers that really made me laugh:

Everything about this photo is amazing - the colourful background juxtaposed against the corporate blazer, the wonky eyes, the vague idea that I'm floating around in a glittery galaxy. Remember - this tool is brand new and the technology is improving all the time. I can forgive bloopers like this because I got so many excellent photos alongside it. Seriously I will keep this picture forever, it's hilarious.

Here's a few that just plain didn't look like me. The faces were way off and the features were recognisably different.

In the photo gallery, you can choose to ‘hide’ the photos you don’t like – you can provide feedback to the tool on why you don’t like them, using clickable tags like “eyes”, “it’s not me” or “mouth”. This feedback helps the tool to iterate and improve over time. It’s early days for this technology and I've no doubt it will get better in the coming months.

Does using an AI pic erode my credibility?

What was really interesting about this AI experiment was the discussion it sparked on LinkedIn. Most commenters were impressed by how lifelike and hgh-quality the pictures were. Some noted that it was a combination of terrifying and amazing all the same time - I don't disagree! Quite a lot of people went onto the site and purchased their own headshots and shared the results with me over private messages. It seemed that people were pretty happy with the photos they got for their investment.

But not everyone was impressed. The topic of AI in the world of communications continues to prove divisive. Some people are very averse to the intrusion of AI into the creative world of photography, saying it eroded trust and credibility - particularly when communicators did use not use a real picture of themselves, as the nature of our jobs required that our audience trust us.

What do you think?

Does my new AI picture make you trust me less? Am I less credible? Or is this just the next step in photo editing, which has been around for 10+ years?

When you get a headshot taken by a professional photographer, they digitally enhance it on Photoshop before you use it. Does this digital editing make you less credible?

How about if I wear make-up before I get my photo taken... does this make it less credible, too? It's a minefield really.

Perhaps this discussion is reflective of the resistance of some communicators to embrace AI, particularly when people feel their livelihood or traditional ways of working may be threatened. All new disruptive technologies will meet resistance, right? We all saw what happened with Kodak when they resisted the move to digital photography.

So maybe the conclusion here is... AI for some, less AI for others? There's room for us all here, with space for diverse opinions and different thoughts.

I think this is a great conversation to have as more tools emerge and we explore the boundaries of what we're comfortable with and what we're not.

My takeaway? I think this tool is great.

Overall, I enjoyed playing with this tool. Honestly I got a lot more for my €50 than I expected. The output was much higher quality than I thought and I would happily use quite a lot of these photos for my social media as well as for professional events and conferences.

If you want to give it a go yourself, here’s my affiliate link.

And here’s a reminder of how it works:

  • You need to upload a minimum of 25 photos of yourself. You can do more than this if you like – the more photos you feed into the tool, the better your results will be.

  • You also give the tool a written prompt on what you want from your headshots. For example, do you want corporate headshots in neutral-coloured clothes in an office environment? Do you want relaxed, outdoorsy shots in natural light? Do you want a broad range of images that show you in different locations but each one is smiling and approachable? The more specific you get with your prompts, the more likely you’ll get what you want from the tool.

  • Then you just pay the fee and sit back and wait. I had an email within the hour to say my photos were ready and I had a link to my photo gallery. Make yourself a coffee and settle in – you’ll be stunned by the results and you’ll want to take your time poring over them.

I want headshots - how can I access this tool myself?

If your LinkedIn picture needs a refresh or you want some professional-looking photos of yourself for social media, I highly recommend using this tool. Share your photos with me if you get it done, I’d love to see your results!


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