AI headshot person in front of greenery (l) person speaking in front of white and blue walls (c) AI headshot person in front of blurred light brick background (r)


‘As a photographer this worries me’: TikToker says she purchased 100 AI headshots for $17

These AI-generated headshoots look incredibly realistic.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Posted on Mar 22, 2023

AI tech is developing so fast that society is playing catch-up on how to actually use it. Case in point: The revelation that AI image-generators can be used to create impressively realistic (and cheap!) headshot photos of real people.

TikToker Kelly Baums illustrated this in a pair of TikToks explaining how she purchased professional-looking AI headshots for just $17 online. In the same way that AI image-generators use pre-existing photos to create imaginary scenarios (for instance, Donald Trump being arrested), this headshot service works by feeding in photos of yourself, and using that source material to create new images in the style of a glossy headshot.

Of course, not all of those photos are winners. In the first of these two TikToks, Kelly Baums share several AI headshots that didn’t make the cut, mostly due to familiar AI image problems like extra arms or misshapen fingers.

@kellybaums The second one pls 😂😂😂 #aiportrait #aiheadshot #greenscreen ♬ Only You X Playdate – ded4$$

However, some of the AI headshots were indistinguishable from real photos, showing the TikToker posing in a variety of outfits with great makeup and lighting.

It makes sense that headshots would be an easy target for AI image generators, because this subgenre of photo is so readily available online. It’s easy to train the generator to replicate a similar aesthetic based on a few simple photos of your face. The same website, tryitonai, also offers an “AI stylist” service where you can create fake photos of yourself in different outfits to see what might suit you IRL.

@kellybaums Still have a way to go in the eye department but ill take it. I look f a n c y 💁🏻‍♀️ #greenscreen #aiportrait #aiheadshot ♬ It’s Called: Freefall (Sped Up) – Rainbow Kitten Surprise

People on TikTok were understandably fascinated by this photo service, but the reception wasn’t entirely positive.

On the one hand, lots of people need headshots for work or publicity purposes, and $17 for 100 auto-generated headshots is far more affordable than hiring a photographer. On the other hand… this technology may harm the careers of professional photographers, with some detractors leaving comments like, “as a photographer this worries me” and “Pay a photographer instead.”

Also, this service is far from foolproof, with several commenters saying their own AI-generated headshots were disappointing—either looking nothing like their real face, or suffering from warped elements like eyes or hands.

As AI image generators grow more popular, we’ve seen a lot of pushback from professional artists, often arguing that AI can’t do the same job as a real human being. By definition, AI art is unoriginal. These photos are based on pre-existing images, and unlike a real photographer, this website can’t offer advice on posing, lighting or bringing out the subject’s personality.

But while a lack of originality is a big problem for something like a book illustration, this may not be a concern for professional headshots, where most people are aiming for a generic look. It’s easy to see how a service like this might catch on.

The Daily Dot has reached out to Kelly Baum via email.

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*First Published: Mar 22, 2023, 12:17 pm CDT