Op-ed: Human Judging Huawei’s A”I” Judged Photo Contest


by Michael Nguyen /

3 min read
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Op-ed: Human Judging Huawei’s A”I” Judged Photo Contest

Artificial “Intelligence” has been setting your shutter speeds and even composing a scene in your camera for awhile but now it will also tell you that you suck.


In case you’ve been living under a rock the past week or so, you might’ve missed the news that Huawei launched the “World’s First Photo Contest Judged by Artificial Intelligence.” Well, the Chinese telecom giant is prodding photographers to submit their best images to its ‘Spark A Renaissance‘ competition, where both Huawei’s P20 Pro smartphone AI and Leica pro photographer Alex Lambrechts are deemed the judges.

Per Huawei’s press release:

“We have trained the AI in our P20 Pro smartphone to understand what makes an amazing photo” explains Andrew Garrihy, CMO Huawei Western Europe. ‘This innovation is helping us to identify emerging creative talent across Europe and showcase their photography potential to others. ”

Trained using 4,000,000 images taken by professional photographers and picture editors, the AI gives each photo a personalized AI score based on parameters such as focus, jitter, deflection, color and composition. Because you know, that’s all that matters in a photo.

Huawei isn’t the first company to implement AI in passing esthetic judgement on images. The photo platform EyeEm uses “judgmental AI” in their services and Everypixel uses a neural network to score your photography. While these companies have incorporated AI more for tagging and organizing databases, AI has never been Judge Judy and executioner in a large scale competition until now.

Some Fine Print

“The contest is only open to legal residents in Europe.” Well, upon further digging it’s actually only to legal residents of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom, who are aged 16 and over. And have a Facebook account.

The only mechanism for submission is a Huawei Spark A Renaissance Facebook Messenger chatbot. Click on the link to enter and it’ll open Facebook messenger, not directly to the competition page.


AI as judge is not only inevitable, it may already be here. AI writes many of the news articles we read daily, AI even grades college essays and tests. Hell, what do you think your credit score is? But to judge something as art as AI currently stands is a different matter. One could argue that AI would be even more judgmental than a human as machine learning basically can only evaluate if something belongs to a given category. The learning process is mechanically extracting similarities between elements in the same category. Last I checked, in art rules are made to be broken.

Considering the poor quality and detail loss of photos uploaded to Facebook due to proprietary processing and resolution limits, they are clearly prioritizing volume over quality. On top of the recent FB woes and US Intelligence warnings, well…”The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest” – William Blake

If you’re fearing an episode of Black Mirror, so far we only have a dystopian vision of what good photography is. Judging from the entries below, we need to worry about the Skynet cyborgs of sense. Compounded with Instagram where HDR sunsets are judged on a 3 in. screen, the standard of visual literacy will no doubt shift further.

Curmudgeon paranoia or reality check? As always your thoughts and comments are welcome below.



6 comments on “Op-ed: Human Judging Huawei’s A”I” Judged Photo Contest”

    Kyle July 29, 2018 at 1:41 am / Reply

    My pre-coffee brain processed the headline as AI photo judging somehow being an Ai Wei Wei project and immediately piqued my interest.
    Huawei AI
    Ai Wei Wei
    Not a leap, really.
    I’m gonna get Wei on this, for realz.

    Andrew Smith July 29, 2018 at 8:54 pm / Reply

    As I would expect the images ranked highest by the AI are all generic and boring. All of them are lacking in any character and have an uncanny lack of the human element. To me this proves in importance of human judgment and the sense of creativity it brings any activity…. then again I could just be a spam bot.

    Enrique Ciudad July 30, 2018 at 8:51 pm / Reply

    It seems that all that Artificial Intelligence wants are desktop wallpapers.

    Pete Myers July 31, 2018 at 10:34 am / Reply

    Truly, to understand the beauty and intent of a photograph requires a full resolution photographic print, illuminated under gallery lighting conditions. The image representations we see via the web are far from being photographic; that is to say revealing all of itself to the eye in one view. We have created a media that by speed is glorious, but by art is disastrous.

    And so AI—if its view is not at full resolution, then it is judging images, not photographs. And even then, most breakthroughs in art step outside of the norm, and if grading is against the past, all you have is a repeat of history.

    01111 August 4, 2018 at 11:41 pm / Reply


    Chillo Angelini September 6, 2018 at 10:35 pm / Reply

    It seems to me that AI can only judge an image against what’s gone before, ie what it has already seen.
    Therefore I don’t think it has the capability to spot the “ next big thing “ if it saw it. Just like the pop music industry in fact.

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