AI or Camera Image, can you tell the difference? Does it matter?

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah
6 min readMay 21


Iwas interviewed by #BBC Journalist Michael Burgess about AI generated images in the piece circled called “AI: Can you tell that these ‘photographs’ are artificial?”

It’s a relevant subject at present impacting professional photography and the veracity of images we consume. Then there’s the general concern heightened in the last few weeks of #AI in general and jobs. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman telling US senators about his deep concerns with AI, and AI pioneer Geoffrey Hinton quitting Google because of the dangers of the technology.

I spoke with Michael for about 30 mins for a piece that includes a range of experts commenting, hence column space was always going to be tight, so here I thought to add some more context from our conversation.

Firstly, any debate around tech is rarely absolute on pros and cons; it tends to be nuanced. One of my favourite books, When Old Technologies were New by Carolyn Marvin, demonstrates a history of the impact of new tech, like electricity in the 19th century, on society and jobs.

My work

Johannesburg, South Africa, 1994 ABC News Producer David Gyimah is in downtown Joburg where a bomb has been detonated and is about to broadcast on the BBC World Service.

My work going as far back as the 90s has heavily featured tech. My degree was in Applied Chemistry ( Maths + Chem) and from being a journalist I started coding and creating platforms around 1996, then consulting for a range of companies and breaking partnerships, to lecturing on MA programmes.

I’m also the first British recipient of the Knight Batten Awards for Innovation in Journalism. Hence yes I’m pro tech. I’m not alone in not being able to distinguish AI from camera generated photos. Is this image above AI or in Camera generated? How can you tell?

The headline says “Johannesburg, South Africa, 1994 ABC News Producer David Gyimah is in downtown Joburg where a bomb has been detonated and is about to broadcast on the BBC World Service”.

Before you answer, if you’re aware of ChatGPT’s hallucinations by inventing fake sources for credible journalistic pieces, could there be the equivalent in AI photos being used to support real news events. I’ll come back to this in a moment.

If you look at the images in the BBC piece, can you tell which ones are AI and which one’s aren’t? (link below).

Or what about this image below. Twenty years ago I was the videojournalist/ filmmaker for heavyweight boxer Lennox lewis fighting Tyson. I love boxing photos. Today this image could so easily be generated using any good generative AI software. The publishers don’t have to pay a photographer. They just need an account and someone in house who’s got form in prompting the software.

Similarly this image taken at the South Bank and a night of Afro beat. Easily replicable. Fela Kuti’s son Femi is about to take the stage. The fact that I interviewed Fela, but took no images at the time. Can I recreate images with the many artists I interviewed but whose photo at the time I did not take

So what does that mean for creatives? And before you think, yes that’s progress, as a creative technologist I won’t disagree. Every era has found an existing form under threat. It happened with photography and Art.

Deep Concerns

Interest around AI has been re-ignited by the controversy at the Sony Photography Awards. Some weeks back Artist Boris Eldagsen won in the Creative category for an image called “PSEUDOMNESIA | The Electrician. It’s a mesmerising portrait of two women from the 1940s. It’s AI generated. Eldagsen refused the award; he’s point about telling the difference between AI and in Camera photos had been made. The jury selecting the image weren’t aware.

AI has its benefits. Indeed we’re using it for two major international projects of significance. Think how in docudramas, or films in which are based on a true story where the creative license to include footage (which likely never happened) is accepted. Could the same be applied to photojournalism stories ( based on a true story).

You may protest. Twenty years on it may be a moot point, just as it became acceptable to be “creative” in filmed documentary

Who hasn’t seen AIs re-imagineering of scenes that ask questions of professions like the fashion and cinema industry. Cue Nigerian filmmaker and artist Malik Afegbua’s enchanting images, “Elder Series” — how art could catalyse life. And the Coronation images in the Metro of the #Royal family as produced by #Midjourney.

Afegbua is an artist, a next generation one too in recognising how AI (#midjourney) could be used so creatively and forcefully. On his heels are hordes of non experts and artists who understand how Midjourney’s blending images function work to produce templates for such images. Are you being taught this at Uni or College? That’s one of several debates to be had.

Leaps in technology are ever occurring and they reshape both work and workflows, and also industry. Think of the TV industry without Youtube or online video. Yes there was a time 25 years ago when Compuserve and AOL reigned and video online? What’s that?

AI’s impact appears as one of those quantum leaps in the continuum of #innovation. You don’t need to know anything technical around photoshop to create craft skill images. Hence there are concerns, but this is not so much about the tech per se, but the social implementation and who benefits.

What if you allow free market forces to do what they do. Will it come as any surprise how the world of the Mandalorian will soon materialise. Bots doing everything and anything, and the jobs we thought AI couldn’t.

You’ve heard about the AI that generated a track that “sounds” like Jay-Z

The requirement for a regulatory framework seems a distant measure when viewing AI across different territories, but it just may be needed.

So back to the image in South Africa. Yes it’s real but the ability to modify an existing photo that expresses a nuanced different point is now a reality. And here’s the audio of my reporting into the Caribbean Service of the World Service. Yet that too could be AI generated.

So yes a concerted inclusive debate with some guidelines and frameworks may be required. A decade in it may be too late. As I was wrapping up this piece I got an email from a company that says it’s built software that will detect AI generated images. I’ll post on that soon.

BBC Article here



Dr David Dunkley Gyimah

Creative Technologist & Associate Professor. International Award Winner Cinema journalist. Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled Top Writer,