‘There is no such thing as a real picture,’ says Samsung exec

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra on a blue and yellow background showing rear panel and grey device color.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, showing off its cameras. | Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

How does Samsung defend itself against the notion that its phone cameras are spitting out fake AI photos of not only the Moon, but most anything else you’d care to aim them at these days? For starters, the company’s head of product is saying that every photo is fake.

Samsung EVP Patrick Chomet told TechRadar recently:

There was a very nice video by Marques Brownlee last year on the moon picture. Everyone was like, ‘Is it fake? Is it not fake?’ There was a debate around what constitutes a real picture. And actually, there is no such thing as a real picture. As soon as you have sensors to capture something, you reproduce [what you’re seeing], and it doesn’t mean anything. There is no real picture. You can try to define a real picture by saying, ‘I took that picture’, but if you used AI to optimize the zoom, the autofocus, the scene – is it real? Or is it all filters? There is no real picture, full stop.

While I expect more than a few photographers will be offended by the idea that a photo “doesn’t mean anything,” he does have a point: What is a photo, really? It’s a question that we’ve been exploring on The Verge and The Vergecast for years as companies like Apple, Google, and Samsung increasingly combine multiple frames across multiple cameras to produce their final smartphone images, among other techniques.

Now, of course, the rise of generative AI is really bringing the debate to a head — and Samsung’s new Galaxy S24 and S24 Ultra are the latest phones to market that feature.

Chomet’s take has a bit more nuance to it than “nothing is true, everything is permitted,” though. He told TechRadar that the industry does need to be regulated, that governments are right to be concerned, and that Samsung intends to help.

In the meanwhile, he says Samsung’s strategy is to give consumers two things it’s decided they want: a way to capture “the moment,” and a way to create “a new reality.” Both use AI, he says — but the latter get watermarks and metadata “to ensure people understand the difference.”