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Real Photo Wins AI Image Contest 2024: Nature Still Outshines Technology

Real Photo Wins AI Image Contest 2024: Nature Still Outshines Technology

Real Photo Wins AI Image Contest: Nature Still Outshines Technology

In an unexpected twist, a real photograph recently won an award in an AI image competition, sparking a debate about the role of artificial intelligence in the art world. The photographer, Miles Astray, entered a genuine yet surreal photo of a flamingo into the AI category of the prestigious 1839 Color Photography Awards, ultimately winning both the Bronze award and the People’s Vote Award before being disqualified.

Real Photo Wins AI Image Contest 2024: Nature Still Outshines Technology

The Winning Photograph

Miles Astray’s photo, titled “F L A M I N G O N E,” depicts a lone flamingo with its head tucked, standing on white sand with gentle ocean waves in the background. The striking contrast of the flamingo’s pink and orange feathers against the light-colored sand gives the image a surreal quality, making it seem almost artificial. Astray captured this unique shot in 2022 on a beach in Aruba using a Nikon D750 with a 50mm prime lens, set at ƒ/1.8 with a 1/1600 shutter speed.

A Bold Statement Against AI

Astray’s decision to enter his photo into the AI category was a deliberate act aimed at provoking a discussion about the role of AI in the art world. “I wanted to show that nature can still beat the machine and that there is still merit in real work from real creatives,” Astray explained. He was influenced by recent instances where AI-generated images won photography contests, raising concerns about the future of human creativity in the face of advancing technology.

The Contest and Its Aftermath

The 1839 Color Photography Awards, judged by professionals from The New York Times, Getty Images, Phaidon Press, Christie’s, and Maddox Gallery, initially awarded Astray’s photo third place and the People’s Vote Award in the AI category. However, once it was revealed that the image was a real photograph, Astray was disqualified.

In an email to PetaPixel, the competition’s organizers acknowledged Astray’s powerful message but emphasized the need for fairness. “Each category has distinct criteria that entrants’ images must meet. His submission did not meet the requirements for the AI-generated image category,” said a spokesperson. They appreciated the awareness Astray brought to the issue but decided to disqualify his entry to ensure other artists had a fair chance in the AI category.

Public and Professional Reaction

The incident has sparked a wider conversation about the implications of AI in photography and art. Many see Astray’s stunt as a clever critique of the current trends and the ethical concerns surrounding AI-generated content. “I’m glad to see that this experiment confirmed my hypothesis: there is nothing more fantastic and creative than Mother Nature herself,” said Astray.

Interestingly, this is not the first time such a mix-up has occurred. Last year, the Sony World Photography Awards mistakenly awarded a prize to an AI-generated image. These incidents highlight the blurring lines between real and artificial, challenging both judges and audiences to discern authenticity in visual art.

Moving Forward

Despite his disqualification, Astray remains optimistic about the future of photography. He acknowledges the potential of AI but also its limitations and dangers. “I don’t demonize the new technology and see its potential, but currently I see its limitations and dangers even more clearly,” he stated.

The 1839 Awards organization has invited Astray to contribute to a future blog post to further discuss his perspective and the broader implications of AI in photography. This dialogue aims to provide insight and foster a deeper understanding of the evolving relationship between technology and art.


Miles Astray’s bold move to enter a real photograph in an AI image contest has not only sparked debate but also reaffirmed the unique and irreplaceable charm of human creativity. As AI continues to advance, such discussions are crucial in navigating the ethical and artistic boundaries of this game-changing technology. This incident serves as a reminder that, despite technological advancements, the natural world and human ingenuity still hold unparalleled beauty and creativity.


What is an AI image?

An AI image is a visual creation generated using artificial intelligence technologies. These technologies use algorithms and machine learning to create images that can sometimes be indistinguishable from those taken by a camera.

How did a real photograph win an AI image contest?

Photographer Miles Astray submitted a real photograph of a flamingo into the AI image category of the 1839 Color Photography Awards. The surreal quality of the photo led judges and the public to believe it was AI-generated, resulting in it winning the Bronze award and the People’s Vote Award before being disqualified.

Why was the real photograph disqualified from the AI image contest?

The real photograph was disqualified from the AI image contest because it did not meet the specific criteria of the category, which required entries to be generated by artificial intelligence. The contest organizers emphasized the need for fairness and clarity for all participants.

What was the photographer’s intention in submitting a real photo to an AI image contest?

Miles Astray intended to provoke a discussion about the role of AI in the art world and to highlight the unique and irreplaceable charm of natural, human-created works. He wanted to demonstrate that nature and traditional photography still have significant merit in the face of advancing AI technologies.

How are AI image contests judged?

AI image contests are typically judged by a panel of professionals who evaluate the entries based on creativity, originality, and technical execution. The 1839 Color Photography Awards, for example, had judges from The New York Times, Getty Images, Phaidon Press, Christie’s, and Maddox Gallery.

Have other AI images won traditional photography contests?

Yes, there have been instances where AI-generated images have won awards in traditional photography contests. These occurrences have sparked debates about the ethical implications and the future role of AI in photography and art.

What impact did Miles Astray’s entry have on the AI image contest community?

Miles Astray’s entry sparked a significant conversation about the ethical implications of AI in art and photography. It highlighted the blurring lines between real and artificial images and brought attention to the need for clear criteria and categories in photography competitions.

What do AI image contests aim to achieve?

AI image contests aim to showcase the capabilities of artificial intelligence in creating visually compelling and original works of art. They also seek to foster innovation and creativity within the digital art community while distinguishing between traditional and AI-generated works.

How can one differentiate between a real photograph and an AI image?

Differentiating between a real photograph and an AI image can be challenging, especially as AI technology advances. However, careful analysis of details, context, and metadata, as well as an understanding of common AI generation patterns, can help in distinguishing the two.

What are the future implications of AI in image creation and photography?

The future implications of AI in image creation and photography include potential shifts in how art is produced and valued, ethical considerations regarding authenticity and originality, and changes in the professional landscape for photographers and digital artists. AI technologies could both enhance creative possibilities and pose challenges to traditional artistic practices.

References: Google News

Read more: Alitech Blog

Tags: AI image, real photo, photography contest, Miles Astray, 1839 Color Photography Awards, AI-generated image, artificial intelligence, nature vs. AI, photography ethics, AI in art, photo disqualification, surreal photography, art technology, photography debate, creative photography, image authenticity, AI art competitions, human creativity, photography innovation, ethical implications of AI, traditional vs. AI photography, visual art, AI-generated content, image recognition, photography judges, digital art, photo contests, AI technology, real vs. artificial, visual creativity, photo awards

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Zeeshan Ali Shah is a professional blog writer at AliTech Solutions, renowned for crafting engaging and informative content. He holds a degree from the University of Sindh, where he honed his expertise in technology. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for staying up-to-date on the latest tech trends, Zeeshan’s writing provides valuable insights to his readers. His expertise in the tech industry makes him a sought-after writer, and his work at AliTech Solutions has earned him a reputation as a trusted and knowledgeable voice in the field.

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