Adobe Photoshop has a number of Neural Filters in their more recent updates. These are not fully developed. However, they allow you to experiment while they gather information for machine learning. I gave it a go. Could I take obvious joy and make it seem the opposite? If I could do this so easily, what else could I do?

Manipulating the past

The original photo before messing with the image in Smart Portraits.

I decided I would try to “change” the past. I scanned an old photo of mine. This brings back memories of my first musical explorations. I chose it because I look super happy in the photo.

But could I change that?

Code of ethics

While I never alter a facial expression with any seriousness, silly social media posts aside, I am still curious about how far along this technology has advanced. With it comes all the moral implications. Someone will feel it’s “wrong, just wrong.” Some will feel that they’re just tools. Others will say, “I miss the good old days of photography when everything was real.” Still others will point out the implications of fake news, deepfakes, media manipulation and more.

And all would have a point.

But regardless, if we are to really know what is going on, we are dependent on the creator being honest about their manipulation. And you know how that goes.

What I was about to attempt was a rather small thing. Here in this photo, I am quite happy playing the piano. I would go on to become a musician and play in bands. The joy is real.

But could I change that? Could I turn this so that I can appear confrontational? Cheesed off? Angry?

From happy to angry in 6.7 seconds

Manipulating the sliders to go from happy to a scene from “The Omen” in a few seconds.

Incredibly, there’s actually sliders for changing expressions. There is a Happiness slider, a Surprise slider and an Angry slider. If I could truly alter reality, I would crank that Happiness slider all the way to the right and petition Adobe for a Taco slider.

But this was just an image. I cranked the Angry slider to +43 out of +50. Why not all the way? I wanted room to grow.

I also thickened my hair and turned the direction of my head more. Why? Because the sliders were there.


The end result of my manipulated photo. Taking a happy photo and creating a demon child in less than 10 seconds by shoving the Angry slider to the right.

Adobe Photoshop’s Smart Portrait is a beta version

As mentioned above, this is still in development. You can still see some computational errors if you look at the “angry” photo closely. For instance, it seems to have done a job on my left ear. And my forehead is not quite right.

Adobe has not officially released it, and it will undoubtedly undergo further revisions. It will only get better. As machine learning and computational algorithms grow, how could it not?

Will we be ready for it? It won’t matter. It’s already here, and we can’t go back.