ChatGPT vs Google: Which is Better at Answering Photography Questions?

ChatGPT vs Google Search

Artificial intelligence-powered ChatGPT by OpenAI has been the center of a lot of discussions in recent weeks. Viewing the results of a recent test here at PetaPixel, while we agree the tech is still evolving, it already seems poised to take on the elephant in the room: Google Search.

ChatGPT is a product of OpenAI, the same company behind the generative artificial intelligence (AI) DALL-E 2. The “chatbot” was first launched in November of 2022 and is built on a language model that evolves over time. At present, it is capable of creating conversational responses to various prompts and questions in a format that reads incredibly human.

Right now, Google has a stranglehold on the search market with more than 91.9% of all search traffic and the platform has been asked more than a billion questions since 2019. Unsurprisingly, questions are very popular.

As a result, Google has made it so that many question searches are answered directly on the search result page — which it calls a Snippet — removing the need to even click on a website to get an answer. While this has wide ramifications for the health of the internet — a separate conversation — it got us wondering: just how good would ChatGPT be at replacing Google Search Snippets?

Photography is a very popular hobby and there are hundreds of topics out there that stem from at least as many questions. Newcomers may want to know something as simple as what aperture is or as complex as tips for starting a business. All of these questions are answered on Google, but what if they are also answered by ChatGPT? Google can be overwhelming and it can be hard to tell the veracity of a source. But with ChatGPT, if it just spits out an answer, it might be right. If it is, wouldn’t that be better than digging around for an answer in Search?

We decided to find out. We asked ChatGPT and Google the same series of questions to see what they said and how valuable that information is. With Google Search, all of the answers were provided as a Snippet, but we’ll also link to the original source. Since ChatGPT doesn’t provide a source, we’ll tell you if what it is saying is actually true.

These questions start simple but go up in difficulty to see how each handles escalatingly complicated queries.


Question One: What is a camera’s aperture?

Google Search Answer: Aperture refers to the opening of a lens’s diaphragm through which light passes. It is calibrated in f/stops and is generally written as numbers such as 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11 and 16. | Source: Nikon.com

ChatGPT Answer: Aperture refers to the adjustable opening in a camera lens that controls the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor. It is expressed in f-stops (e.g. f/1.4, f/2, f/8). A lower f-stop value means a wider aperture, allowing more light to enter, while a higher f-stop value means a narrower aperture and less light.

Professional camera aperture

Analysis

Wow, right out of the gate with our simplest question, ChatGPT provides a better answer to the question than Google Search. While both are correct, ChatGPT expresses the answer in a simpler and easier-to-understand manner.


Question Two: What is the exposure triangle?

Google Search Answer: In photography, the exposure triangle explains the relationship between shutter speed, ISO and aperture. Whether you’re shooting old school film or with a mirrorless, these three factors are at the center of every exposure. | Source: PolarPro.com

ChatGPT Answer: The exposure triangle refers to the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, which together determine the exposure of a photograph.

Analysis

These answers are pretty much the same, but I actually prefer how ChatGPT presents it as it feels less “gamey” than the answer Google provides. But that’s subjective, and objectively these two services tie here.


Question Three: What is the best focal length for portraits?

Google Search Answer: 85mm is the best focal length for portraits because it doesn’t distort facial features (sometimes it actually enhances them). With a full-frame camera, this means an 85mm lens, while with a crop-factor camera, you need a 50mm lens. | Source: Photutorial.com

ChatGPT Answer: 85mm is a popular choice for portraits as it provides a good balance between compression and working distance.

85mm lens

Analysis

This question is, of course, subjective, but we wanted to know what both platforms came up with. ChatGPT gets right to the point and doesn’t waste time with extraneous information like Google’s answer does. That said, Google’s answer does provide more detail by explaining the 85mm focal length is achieved in different ways. Unfortunately, in an attempt to provide more information than was asked, Google’s answer is incorrect because the source’s answer was wrong: APS-C to full-frame sensor conversion is 1.5, so 50mm on an APS-C camera wouldn’t get you 85mm, it would get you 75mm. From this perspective, ChatGPT is the superior answer here because it just answers the question.


Question Four: Why aren’t my photos sharp?

Google Search Answer: If your images are a bit soft, a bit blurry or a bit out of focus, it’s going to be one of only 3 reasons causing the problem — an autofocus issue, a depth of field issue, or a shutter speed issue. | Source: A Year With my Camera

ChatGPT Answer: There could be several reasons why your photos are not sharp.

Camera shake: Camera movement during the exposure can cause blurriness. Use a tripod or a fast enough shutter speed to counteract camera shake.

Slow shutter speed: Slow shutter speeds can cause motion blur, especially if the subject is moving.

Aperture: Using a narrow aperture (high f-number) can cause softness in your images, especially in the corners.

Focus: If the focus point is off, the image will appear blurry. Make sure to focus on the right subject or use manual focus if necessary.

Lens quality: Low-quality lenses can also cause softness in images. Consider investing in higher quality lenses.

Subject movement: If the subject is moving during the exposure, it can cause blurriness.

ISO: High ISO can cause image noise and reduce sharpness. Try to keep the ISO as low as possible.

Post-processing: Over-editing the image, such as over-sharpening, can cause artifacts and reduce overall sharpness.

By addressing these issues and paying attention to your camera settings, you can improve the sharpness of your photos.

Abstract blurred nature background with bright sunlight

Analysis

Okay, ChatGPT is pulling way ahead here. While both Google Search’s answer and ChatGPT’s answer are correct, the latter provides a far more quality answer. In fact, while Google Search’s answer is correct, it’s incomplete. ChatGPT provides basically every possible reason a photo might not be sharp.


Question Five: How do I take better photos?

Google Search Answer: First, start with a clean slate. A little framing goes a long way. Ditch the digital zoom. Look for light before making your own. Watch out for cloud storage shenanigans. Steady yourself — or use a tripod. Go remote with a shutter button. | Source: Time

ChatGPT Answer: Here are some tips for taking better photos:

Composition: Pay attention to the composition of the scene and arrange elements in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Lighting: Consider the lighting in the scene and how it can affect the mood and quality of the image.

Focus: Make sure the subject is in focus, either by adjusting the focus point or using manual focus.

Exposure: Control the exposure of the image to achieve the desired level of brightness and darkness.

Camera settings: Experiment with different camera settings, such as shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, to achieve the desired effect.

Post-processing: Use post-processing tools to enhance the image and bring out its full potential.

Practice: The more you practice, the more you’ll develop your skills and improve your results.

It’s important to remember that photography is a combination of art and science, and that taking great photos requires a combination of technical proficiency and creativity. By continually learning and experimenting, you can improve your photography skills over time.

Analysis

Oh man, the machines are coming for my job. ChatGPT absolutely skewers Google Search here with an answer that is vastly superior. Google Search is pulling its answers from a smartphone-specific guide on Time, which isn’t necessarily wrong but isn’t very helpful. There is no reason to bring up cloud storage when answering a basic question about taking better photos, and ChatGPT recognizes that. While ChatGPT doesn’t provide a huge level of detail, neither does Google Search. At least what ChatGPT says is actually helpful.

Goodness, this one again wasn’t even close: it’s ChatGPT all the way. Alright, let’s get even harder.


Question Six: How do I set up a photography business?

Google Search Answer: Step 1: Write a business plan.
Step 2: Register your business.
Step 3: Obtain business licenses, permits, and insurance.
Step 4: Set up EIN, bank account, and credit card.
Step 5: Purchase or upgrade your equipment.
Step 6: Price your services.
Step 7: Market your business and find clients
Source: Nerdwallet

ChatGPT Answer: Here are some steps to help you set up a photography business:

Define your niche: Determine the type of photography you want to specialize in.

Research your market: Analyze the market demand, competition, and pricing in your area.

Create a business plan: Outline your goals, target market, pricing, and marketing strategy.

Register your business: Obtain necessary business licenses and register your company.

Build a portfolio: Create a professional portfolio showcasing your best work.

Get insurance: Protect your business and assets with liability and equipment insurance.

Invest in equipment: Purchase high-quality photography equipment and accessories.

Establish a pricing strategy: Set competitive prices for your services.

Create a website: Build a professional-looking website to showcase your work and promote your business.

Market your business: Utilize social media, networking, and other marketing strategies to reach potential clients.

pro photographer in a studio

Analysis

ChatGPT expands to 10 steps over Google Search’s seven, but the gist of both is pretty consistent. That said, yet again ChatGPT has more information and presents it in a more approachable way. Both answers are relatively correct, but I don’t like how Google thinks it’s ok to just tell me to “find clients.” ChatGPT says the same thing but is more realistic: reach potential clients.

Okay, one more.


Question Seven: How do I deal with a difficult photography client?

Google Search Answer: Listen. Everybody wants to be heard. Communicate. When you’re discussing the issue with your unhappy client, choose your communication method wisely. Respond and present a solution. Follow up. Learn. | Source: Zenfolio

ChatGPT Answer: Here are some tips for dealing with a difficult photography client:

Communication: Clearly communicate your expectations, style, and pricing.

Listen: Listen to their concerns and try to understand their perspective.

Flexibility: Be open to making changes or adjustments to meet their needs.

Professionalism: Maintain a professional demeanor, even if they are being difficult.

Boundaries: Set clear boundaries, and stick to them.

Empathy: Try to put yourself in their shoes and show empathy.

Find common ground: Find points of agreement and use them to find a solution.

Escalate: If the situation becomes unbearable, don’t hesitate to escalate it to a manager or supervisor.

Analysis

Goodness, what even is that Google Search answer? Talk about unhelpful. While yes, the answer is much better after clicking to the source, Google’s pulled text there is beyond useless. ChatGPT isn’t without fault here either though. While most of its suggestions are good, the final bit about escalting to a supervisor is clearly misplaced — if you’re a self-employed photographer, you don’t have a supervisor to escalate to. Some of its suggestions aren’t going to be particularly helpful if a client is already upset.

This was a really hard question, so I’m not surprised neither Google nor ChatGPT blew me away.


Results: ChatGPT Can Absolutely Challenge Google

Let’s dissect these results for a bit. Firstly, I am aware that the idea behind Google is that you as the searcher would click on the results shown in a Snippet to read the full story. I also understand that while this is the intention, in reality the click through rate is quite low. One analysis showed that it was a paltry 13.7%. A majority of searchers get their answer from the snippet and move on.

It is also worth noting that because it’s based on a given data set — which could be old — what ChatGPT says can be factually incorrect. CNET learned this hard lesson recently when it started to heavily rely on the system to write full financial articles; Buzzfeed is poised to try it soon despite this. That said, the way it presents the information reads as if a human came up with it, so I can see the appeal for large corporate publications that want to keep costs low.

The figure of the robot with a camera on a skyline

In the case of photography, the general concepts are quite old and that’s perhaps one reason why it was so good at answering these questions.

Another aspect worth thinking about is that AI in general is the subject of copyright and plagiarism debates. Just today, it was proven that while rare, AI can exactly replicate a copyrighted image. ChatGPT, in particular, has been the subject of plagiarism allegations. AI is only as good as the data is is trained on and it doesn’t know that it’s stealing. But even as much as we complain about it, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down: the march of the machines carries on.

While I want you all to look at these results and form your own opinions about what this means from a broad perspective, I also want to say that the capabilities of the chatbot are exceedingly impressive and are already far and away so much better than anything a “smart” assistant is capable of. Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google, and the now defunct Microsoft Cortana all fail spectacularly at answering questions of even moderate difficulty. Most default to just searching the internet rather than trying to answer the question directly.

ChatGPT shows the possible future of these personal assistants and also the possibility of how good they would be at it. This is just the first iteration of ChatGPT — just imagine what it can do with more data and more time.

If you came into this wondering if you could learn photography with the help of AI, there is certainly a lot of evidence pointing to yes.


Image credits: All photos licensed via Depositphotos.

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