Testing AI Headshot Generators: Should You Use Them?

Envision your ideal portrait. The imperfections on your face have vanished. No more dark circles under your eyes. Your hair is impeccably styled, your smile conveys precisely the right emotion, and your outfit is chic and polished.

Now, picture achieving this portrait with a single click. However, there’s a catch: The photo isn’t really you, and the moment captured— the clothes, the hair, the smile—never truly happened. Are you comfortable presenting it as your photo?

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools have made it simpler than ever to instantly create images. AI tools that offer professional headshots for a fee are aiding job seekers and employees in quickly updating their close-ups to appear as the ideal versions of themselves—or even enhanced versions in some instances. However, despite the ease of the process, the technology still has some flaws that could alter people’s physical appearances, facial features, or even change their ethnicity. While some may be impressed and intrigued by using an AI-generated photo of themselves, others may associate it with dishonesty or superficiality.

“It’s time to acknowledge that we’re swiftly approaching a time when we’ll be surrounded by representations of the world that aren’t real…and these representations will become less and less real with each passing day,” stated Kristian Hammond, a computer science professor at Northwestern University who specializes in AI.

The Help Desk tested three AI headshot web applications—Aragon.ai, Secta Labs, and Try It On. Although the three providers had different prerequisites, configurations, and photo styles, they all had a few things in common: each offered at least one photo that closely resembled the individual and was suitable for professional purposes. However, they all had results with issues spanning from comical to borderline offensive.

How do AI headshot tools operate? Users visit the providers’ website, upload their photos, and obtain their results within 20 minutes to a few hours, depending on the service and demand. Aragon.ai only requires six photos of the user, while Try It On requests a minimum of 10, and Secta Labs necessitates at least 15 photos.

Once the photos and options are selected and approved by the system, AI takes over. The technology utilizes artificial intelligence models, originally built on Stable Diffusion but now proprietary models, to process the chosen options, personal images, and information about different types of people. The final image is a combination of all three.

The headshot services range from $21 to $79 and generate between 20 to 200 headshots, depending on the chosen package. The AI also struggled with hair types—specifically with people with longer hair or varying hairstyles. In some cases, it couldn’t decide whether the result should include short or long hair, or an updo or down-style, resulting in strange hybrids.

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