Generator Ep. 020 – Pratik Naik: Through the Lens of Tomorrow

In this episode, Maine photographer Matt Stagliano speaks with Susan Stripling - one of the most sought after wedding photographers in the world and the creator of the Wedding School, an online education platform. She has won countless awards, been in countless magazines, and represents some of the top brands in the business. She’s a Canon Explorer of Light, a keynote speaker, and has taught thousands of students the intricacies of wedding photography. In this conversation, we talk about many things including her selling the Wedding School, the importance of self care, using AI, the future of the wedding industry and of course, horror films. For more information about her work, please visit

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Full Transcript of Generator Ep. 019 - "Finding a Quiet Kind of Magic"

Matt Stagliano 0:00
Hey friends welcome back to generator and believe it or not, here we are at episode 20. My guest this week is Pratik Naik. Pratik is among the world’s best commercial retouchers. In his work has appeared in Vogue, and Elle and Harper’s Bazaar and countless other high end magazines. Besides being a photographer himself, he’s also an accomplished educator with courses like the retouching series, which is a cornerstone for anybody that wants to get into retouching. He’s also the quintessential entrepreneur having a line of digital products that started with infinite color panel, and has expanded to be an entire suite of tools, all with the aim of helping you get better at retouching. But what I love about Pratik is that he’s what I would call a futurist. He’s always curious and always researching things that are on the forefront of technology. One of his passions lately has been artificial intelligence. And he’s even created a course with Felix coons called The Future of photo, where they talk about AI and its application in the creative process. In this conversation, we spend most of our time talking about AI, and our predictions on how it’s going to affect the photography community. We easily could have talked for hours about this but with time and attention spans being what they are, we limited it to an hour so let’s get started with an episode I’m calling through the lens of tomorrow with my guest Pratik Naik.

I’ve never known how to start any of these things, but I’m just happy to have you here.

Pratik Naik 1:56
Yeah, meeting I’m excited. I’ve always loved having like conversations like this because these those moments you can look back on it. But I had that thing and like some people will bring it up in conversation later by Oh, yeah, I remember you. I saw your interview with Matt Phillips, your great podcasts and kind of stuff. So low it. There’s

Matt Stagliano 2:14
the promo, that’s all I’m going to use that little snippet for the rest of my life. No, I think it’s I think you’re right. You know, we were having this conversation at the portrait masters. You know, on that last night, we all stayed before we all caught the plague. And it was great. We were talking about movies. Was it the Terminator that you watch all the time? Is that the one or two? Right? Yeah, Terminator two. Yeah. And to continue our conversation. You know, we’re talking about our favorite movies, what we like to watch for visuals, and just the thing you can always put in the background. And mine is the new dune. Yeah, the Disney villain wave. I can never pronounce his name the director. But the new Dune, not the old doom. Yes. And I’ve been watching that basically every night since September. And I’m getting to that point, the ADHD dopamine is starting to wear off.

Pratik Naik 3:12
You have to get new fixation.

Matt Stagliano 3:15
And that’s exactly I will find something for the next year. And watch that every day in day out. Speaking of which you health hack a lot. Right? Yeah. So what have you been doing with with that lately? I know you’ve always experimented with sleep and health and vitamins. And where are you with that these days? You

Pratik Naik 3:35
know, I have to say I’m all over the place. Like I think the biggest thing that has always been tried and true, is when you realize a lot of issues stem from stress, and the causes of stress, one being things like your adrenal glands, and adrenal fatigue. So I always think, you know, I tell people make sure you always have good source of vitamin C, whether you’re having oranges every day, or do you supplement every day. And things like B 12, I think are common. You know, I think those are staples for me, I don’t have them, I can tell a difference in my energy, and my mood and also magnesium. I think those are like biggest things that I think every creative in general should take, you know, because I think you know, we always go through very high stress periods and stuff and and we just need to keep our bodies nourished in a way that we’re as stable as we can be given our own unique circumstances. So those are my biggest takeaways. Yeah,

Matt Stagliano 4:30
the vitamin D is huge for energy for me. Magnesium has been helping me sleep but vitamin D as well, right? Especially in a year where we’re never outside. It’s 20 degrees here in Maine and dark, you know, one in the afternoon. So I found that I had been skipping my vitamin D for I don’t know the past couple of months didn’t realize it and you know, ran out of it didn’t think you would pick up more and I was like as not going to affect me that much because it was the summertime. And then I just really started to realize like, mopey, just Oh, anxious, like that feeling of just general malaise. And I’ve started adding in the vitamin D, since I don’t go outside a lot, I sit in front of the computer in a dark room, and I realized, oh, wow, that big, shiny thing in the sky actually gives you a little bit of energy. But if I can get that energy in a pill, and fantastic, did you ever

Pratik Naik 5:29
get tested for it? Or was it just something that you kind of like, I’m gonna just take it and see if you

Matt Stagliano 5:33
know I had a blood, I get a blood panel every year to check on a lot of stuff. Vitamin D was one of the things that I was very deficient in testosterone was another one that I was very deficient in. And once I worked with my doctor to get the right dosages of everything, then it’s it’s like a switch flipped in terms of energy in focus and capability to have a conversation. But it was a lot of work of trying to describe symptoms, and then get the blood work done and figure out the whole plan forward. But man, it’s worth it, it’s so worth it to do that.

Pratik Naik 6:11
Instead of interesting, where you don’t realize these things in English, you go to a doctor and you possibly give them the sentence that you have, they don’t initially think to tests on the most basic things, they you know, they obviously might check your blood pressure, your blood levels, but vitamin D is a very specific test, and you should ask for it. Because even on my last physical, they never even brought it up it you know, you have to kind of say, hey, I want to get my vitamin D tested and our and whatever our friends, I don’t want to I don’t know if I can mention her name or not. But she recently got her vitamin D prescribed. And also I told him like, Hey, did you you know, get K vitamin K two as well prescribed? Because you need k two to ensure that vitamin D goes in the right places of magnesium as well. And she was like, I had no idea. So she went back to her doctor and was like, Yeah, you should probably take k two as well. So yeah, good. Good for you probably saved a few people’s like lives and happiness in this podcast already. Well,

Matt Stagliano 7:05
you know, my job is done. Right. That’s why I this is my, this is my, my cape. You know, I’ve just I don’t want to say that I’m a hero, but I’m kind of a hero. You know, advocating for yourself is super important. So you’re okay enough with WebMD doc. So the thing that we’re talking about, and I can’t remember if it was right around the same time, but in September, or there abouts, late September, you launched the future photo with Felix, I immediately purchased the course. Because I believe in everything that you put out. And that’s not blowing smoke. It’s just I believe in everything you put out on. And so I went through the course. And I skipped around because I know some of the things of MIT journey. But I started skipping around and found myself immersed in all of these modules. First off, thank you for putting that out. Because from the standpoint of, of the creative community, being able to have everything in one place, especially for photographers was phenomenal. How’s the response been for the course? Are you getting any specific feedback on what people are digging more than others? And I’ll give you my feedback in a second. Oh,

Pratik Naik 8:23
for sure. Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting, because prior to this, we had, you know, a lot of information and experience with education and retouching. But what I found is that people, because they don’t have time, they want to jump around into different parts of the course. And I thought that was important to keep steady with this one as well. One thing that I found really interesting was, now that these tools keep changing, people don’t know where to keep their attentions on. And so the way that we kind of designed, it was intentional, where we’re like, let’s have a very specific case study where, you know, you’re or somebody who is trying to create a mood board, and then apply to a photoshoot, and then also go into post production with your results. If we kept it central to that theme, we could keep people’s focus on why they should learn what we’re presenting. And that was the biggest kind of takeaway. Now, the feedback that also I got was, Hey, how come you don’t talk about any like free tools yet. And to that, I had to say it’s coming because it’s going to be completely updated as time goes, because we knew AI. This is going to change constantly. But the other factor is, the groundbreaking tools are often the ones that you have to still pay for in the beginning. Because if they’re free, chances are it’s not worth using at the moment. Unfortunately, you know, it’s very difficult to find a free model, especially with image generation that has the firepower and the backing that these funded companies do. And so that’s why we base it off of that, or the longevity of it just makes sense. but it’s not to say in the future, there’s not going to be a lot more that comes from it that, you know, might just be free for everyone. So it just depends. And that’s been my biggest, I think, overall idea of how people have approached it so far. How about you like, what was your feeling towards that?

Matt Stagliano 10:16
Man, there were there are so many parts of this course that I really, really enjoyed. Right? So I’ve been kind of like you with my finger on the pulse of AI for a long time. And trying to jump on all the tools as soon as they come out, really explore them, figure them out? Do I like it? Do I not forget about the conversations that you have at the end about the ethics of AI and how you incorporate and is it going to replace photographers, and I love those conversations, I won’t spoil it for anybody. But then what I really loved was how in depth you went with mid journey, every single variable that’s in there, I didn’t know about the image weight, or really the differences between stylizing and raw and you know, medium in there. So the the deeper level of the prompts and all of the variables that you can put in were was phenomenal for you to break it all down bit by bit. I think one of the things that you would done, it made me really left sidebar, I was watching the neural filters, I use neural filters when I’m doing a lot of stuff. And then the neural filters video, where you’re playing with Smart Portrait and smiles and eyes, and you’re having the greatest time doing it. And poor Abdul the model, you know, is getting his face liquefied, it was wonderful to see the playful, creative side, but also the reality of know what these tools are, know what they can do. Don’t rely on them. 100%. But when you said I’m going to max this out and send it to Felix and see if he notices, and you start cracking up, that made the entire course worthwhile for me. It really it really made me laugh.

Pratik Naik 12:12
I’m so glad you mentioned that. I remember going through that and thinking, you want to talk about the stuff that is crap. And I was like, Yes, I should. Because people really need to know, not everything works as advertised. And some of it’s just tear hilarious. And it kind of like makes you realize, okay, we’re not really there there yet. And a lot of these instances, people shouldn’t be terrified that everything’s gonna be done right away from you.

Matt Stagliano 12:38
I think, you know, one of the other things that I pulled away, and this is totally Yeah. Oh, God, I’m so off topic. But in watching you do everything in mid journey, and you’re producing images, and then upscaling saving them to a folder and then using them as inspiration prompts, whether you’re blending or whether you’re just drawing variations from some of these images. I was so drawn to your Finder Sidebar, and how organized you are on your desktop. It fascinated me. And I went in and did that to my own Finder Sidebar on a Mac. And I was adding all these folders because I can never find anything. Yeah. So like you you inspired me to be more organized through our course that you put out. It was just it was really, really funny that that was the thing that I focused on in, you know, some of these videos. But can we

Pratik Naik 13:35
talk about that for a second? Because I absolutely I do I do that a lot where I watch people’s videos, I even watch you, for example. And I see like how your mannerisms are and how you talk to people or like, or you work on a computer. And like where you have these questions come up. And you’re like, how did you think of that question based on what they said, or less analytical about stuff. And we always learn these things that are secondary learning principles. And what Matt is referring to, is if you just see any like trailer or the video, you’ll see it but in my finder of basically you can say you know your shortcuts and where they go to. But I have little dividers because Mac doesn’t have like lines between folders. So I have these little folders that I create on my desktop, I have just dashes as the name and then I put that as a shortcut because it acts like a divider. So then if I’m working like photo projects, I’m like letting go the photo project shortcuts section. And they’ve let me go to the retouching shortcut section. The wish see I wished Max had was on that shortcut section. You could I wish you could rename the folder without renaming the original folder. And now we’ll keep you at work.

Matt Stagliano 14:40
Could you not create an alias on the desktop and then shortcut to the alias?

Pratik Naik 14:45
That’s a brilliant idea. I never thought about that. Again to try it out. Okay, gotta

Matt Stagliano 14:49
go. Hero solving solving the world’s problems. But no, I saw those dividers and that’s what drew me and I was like, how is he? Oh, he’s creating folders. So Yeah, yes, if you if I encourage you to go and get this course, but

Pratik Naik 15:04
you’ll be able to see the other question, which totally driving

Matt Stagliano 15:09
sales up just because of your organization skills. No, but I, as a, as a photographer, you know, it’s super important for us to have access to all materials really quickly. And I find, you know, I keep everything in Dropbox. And I’ve got pretty good organization system in there. However, what I really like, is having folders, all my personal branding, all my fine art, every article that I’ve been in, you know, reels that I’ve made, I like having that stuff on instant access. And I’ve never really had a quick way to do it outside of a lot of shortcuts on the desktop. So having that structure really made a lot of sense to me, of having it all in one place. So I think, you know, that is certainly helping me be able to find things faster. The sheer number of terabytes of data that I have is astounding, yes, that that doesn’t count the Rubbermaid containers full of hard drives in my closet.

Pratik Naik 16:17
Gosh, and there’s just be a better way I know, I still struggle with that organization of the hard drive situation, because I’m like, but then what if I’m traveling, and would have been to backup if I travel? And what am I one solution that I can, you know, it’s a mess and speaking organization, I think having our creative minds and how our minds are mapped in multiple directions, allows me to also figure out what content to keep in a course. And what I should be talking about, even though I really don’t know the gamut of everyone’s questions, but I think that’s a superpower we have, as traders, you know, we you’re able to see the tangible, you know, directions, people can think about questions, and then really integrate that into a course structure. And I think that’s why I like educating other creatives, because I think we all think very similarly. And how we learn is also very similar. You know, we’re visual people, but how we structure things are similar to what

Matt Stagliano 17:14
you’re seeing in there, as well as there’s an element of experience that you have to have before you can become an educator so that you can anticipate some of those questions. You know, one of the things that I see a lot happening now, all these courses popping up, not necessarily in photography, just courses in general, it seems like everybody has suddenly become an educator or an instructor, Johnny, Edward, and I had this conversation a few weeks back, we’re talking about how saturated the market is right now for a lot of these courses. But what you’re talking about really is thinking through once you are at a point where you think you can start creating courses, it is very important to think through who the audience is, and how they’re going to consume that content. I know for me when I’m developing my course is right, I’ve got a course on podcasting course on video, and the podcasting course I tried to think through all right, what are the elements that I need to break down in every single step, because I can’t take anything for granted that the people that are viewing or consuming it are going to know what I’m talking about. So it’s really easy for us to get caught up and all the stuff that we’ve known for 10 or 20 years, and just spit out a condensed version of that and hope that people know. But instead, you really have to think through all right? Well, if I’m going to talk about neural filters, I should probably talk a little bit about AI, maybe I should talk a little bit about how retouching is done. And then think about the like, you just keep working your way backwards. So you get to a point and say, Alright, this is enough of a beginning for this course, and then move forward. The up and downside of that is that you have a ton of stuff you can talk about, and that you have to condense that down, right. And that’s the hard part is like, oh, I can leave this out. But do I want to leave it out, right? But you also don’t want to have 168 hours of content in one course. I’m

Pratik Naik 19:14
using AI now more to help me clarify those things. Because I think of AI as somebody who’s almost like a neurotypical person who can understand everything I’m trying to say, and then condense it down to like, Hey, I think what you’re trying to say, it’s like an ADHD translator for me. I’m just, I literally just I go into it, and I’m like, Hey, listen, I have this course I want to make. And these are the topics I’m going to talk about. What else did I add in between here? You know, what are some of the things that I’m missing that and then I talked to like a person. And what I found is at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve used less brain power, but I’ve gained more knowledge like I’ve become wiser, thinking less and it’s about this efficiency aspect of it. It’s about you know, Getting better. And this is how we start using these tools to help a figure out, you know what direction we should go in stay focus, but also to clarify, condense, extend all this stuff, even emails, like I’ll start writing an email. And I’ll say, You know what I? And I don’t I’m not good at corporate speak enough. So can you make it more normal? And then he’s like, actually a response back? And I use a lot of it. So I know, do you find that similar? Should you use the same way to

Matt Stagliano 20:31
I do it exactly the same way for various parts of what I’m doing? And very much like you? I will write something and I’m a decent writer. But yeah, I look at and I tend to be you can tell verbose. So my one question, hey, Pratik, would you like to come over becomes, hey, Pratik, I’m going to be making dinner. And I’m going to start with a casserole, and I’m going to do this, would you be interested in coming over and maybe, right, so verbose, way too long email. So I often use AI to break that down to condense it, make it sound a little bit better stem it up, right? When I’m using it for courses, I try to type in as much detail as I can. And I say produce an outline from this. Okay, now that I have the outline, I take that first topic, if I agree with it, let’s say it’s microphone choice. I’ll go in, and I’ll put in all my information about microphones that I know. And then I say, Alright, Let’s enhance this. Let’s fill in the gaps. You know, a, can you talk a little bit more about the difference between condenser microphones and dynamic microphones? Like you’re talking to a third grader, and I try to, you know, give that input, so that the information that it gives me, I can then massage and put in my own voice. So it’s this kind of symbiotic relationship that I have with Chad GBT, where I give it raw data, it spits out something more refined, I take that, and then it polishes that up. And we kind of go back and forth in this dance until I feel like I have the information that I need. And then I go to the next step. Right? Yes. So I like using it that way.

Pratik Naik 22:12
Do you find that? And I tell people this all the time where they come to me and they say, you know, I don’t really use AI yet. It’s like 5050 right now. And I’m like, Why? Why don’t you like, can you tell me some of the reasons and they say that, you know, it sounds very robotic. So I gave up. And to that I say, don’t give up on your first try. It’s as if you’re training somebody new, that hasn’t really worked with you before you’re massaging it a little bit. And instead of like just giving up on ChatGPT, you can try other things being like, you know, be the tone of voice, you can tell it, I want a sinister tone of voice, you can input your text sample and have it mimics that tone of voice. I also tell people use other services like Google Bard, or use cloud cloud is fantastic. I personally prefer that over like chat up at this current moment, just because it has, it’s trained on more creative humanistic writing style. So I tell people don’t give up on it yet. Because instead of looking at this as like a luxury, you we have to now think of it as a standard thing in our life. It’s like a Canva camera that we use it’s thing that it’s gonna be there forever and get better. So it’s not just a luxurious tool that will will be there at its current state forever. It’s going to keep improving. So I think think of it as a necessity that we have to have now. Right? Like, I don’t know, that’s kind of what my thinking has been.

Matt Stagliano 23:41
I look at it the same way. I think it’s like driving a car, right? Some people are going to just drive from here to the grocery store, some people are going to become f1 drivers. Right? Those are your prompt engineers. And then you have the folks that are going to take the subway in New York because they’re like fuck driving. I’m not going to drive anywhere. Right? Yeah. So I think it’s it’s similar insofar as Yes, it will be an ever present part of our lives, your choices, how much you want to use it or not. And for me, I know that anything that can increase my efficiency, anything that can give me more time back in my day, and reduce the amount of brain cycles that I have to use is fine by me. I started doing AI copywriting back when there’s a Jasper is one of the commercial AI functions out there. And I was using it when it was called Jarvis, a couple of years back, and it was the early days it didn’t write really well but it was okay. And most of the products that are out there now have become really good. However, there’s been you know, a dependency on a specific model, language model or are a computational model that isolates some companies from others. And one of the bigger topics that’s being talked about, especially in the last week is interoperability of models. And as some of these tools start to draw from different engines, different models of AI, what it’s doing is producing more natural, more usable content, reducing the the possibility that some of those engines will be down, right. And so if they change privacy controls, or if they get overwhelmed, right, you might not have access to that. Whereas some of these companies that are using interoperability of these different models are combining it all and basically creating redundancy. And that is the thing that really turns me on. Right, as all of these systems start to work together, it becomes more seamless becomes less cumbersome, it becomes more natural. And I’m finding that as I start to use, like you, different models, different locations, to fine tune content, that there are some that are better than others. And Gen GPT is not the end all be all. But I’m starting to find that as you use different plugins or go to different places like Bard, that you can find something that better suits your style, and what it is the task that you’re working on.

Pratik Naik 26:27
And that’s the best part about it is I think, with the advancement of this, and how we begin to use computers, like you said, the style in which we use these tools will ultimately shift the direction of how these tools and our mechanism changes. Like I was thinking about this from a human history perspective. Like right now, because we have computers, and we’re kind of somewhat early days, we have these peripherals like keyboards and screens and stuff like that. But eventually the keyboards will disappear, the phones will disappear, it’s going to be they it’s lean toward more organic, you know, an interface and these tools will continue to keep changing until we start becoming more symbiotic with Unfortunately, these these advancements and knows what the future is going to hold. But I just feel excited for the next year or two. And every day I see these advancements that don’t only just incrementally change, I feel like they just double you know, it’s it’s a weird time, I’ve never seen anything like it where the pace of change is so fast that it’s hard to even acclimatized. And before the next thing comes through, and it’s a weird feeling for me, and I want to talk about that with you. It’s like, how do you do feel? Weird right now? Do you feel normal or excited? What is your feeling generally, about everything going on with this whole scenario?

Matt Stagliano 27:49
Right now? Yeah, I feel weird, right. But I’m also smack dab, middle poster child for Gen X. So I’ve seen the world before the internet. And now I’ve seen it after the internet. And I remember like growing up in Boston around the MIT area, I’d always see, like, real nerds out there doing weird stuff. Back in the 80s and early 90s. I would see, you know, engineers walking around with glasses with a monitor, you know, over their eye and they’re using this keyboard down here while they’re walking forward. And they’re, you know, they’re coding on. I was like, we’re five years away from robots. That’s the way I felt right? So now I’m seeing it where, you know, here we are 35 years later. And it’s really starting to come about right to Oculus, right? You’ve got all this this artificial augmented reality, you’ve got all this virtual reality stuff. And it kind of stems from what that weird guy was doing walking through Boston with the with the thing on his on how I feel about it, it’s adapt or die change, or don’t, you kind of have to pick aside, being wishy washy in the middle is not going to give you any advantage, either stick to your guns and you know, kind of be off grid or accept that AI is going to be part of your life. Right? And look how quickly people accepted Alexa in Syria, right? We’re like, Oh, we don’t want to talk to this. And now kids are yelling out, Alexa put on froze. And, you know, you had posted today on Facebook on one of your accounts. What is the technological innovation that you think will be there by 2030? Yeah. And I read through some of the comments and there was great stuff in there about what is going to be the most outstanding technological innovation. I was reading through it and it was very much the responses were around robots using things and the tools that we have maybe some self driving cars, was there one standout comment in there that really got you and you’re like, oh, this this person is on to some thing. So

Pratik Naik 30:00
this whole topic actually stemmed from the news, I think it was like, not even a week ago, about Sam Altman during this open sea ice firing, and him coming back to the company. And then, you know, suddenly the speculation about why and what they had behind the scenes and the level of achievement at Bath that they made. And it didn’t, it made me realize something like the way that they’re trained. These models now are very similar to how humans think. And so it’s just now I feel like we’re at the precipice of witnessing the birth of something great greater than us are great, as great as us. And that means we have to now begin asking these really weird questions by brain winches other place, like hold on a minute, if we if we are very much closer to something that could be better than us, or just as good as us in many of these aspects. What does that mean for the world? Because in my whole life, I always imagined that in 20 years from now, the World War or less be similar, granted incremental updates, as we’ve seen in technology, but not to the point where we’re going to have to worry about other form of intelligence. That’s, and then it made me realize, okay, so if that’s the case, if no one has to work anymore, what is the post economic worlds? Look society look like? Are we going to go back to the medieval ages and barter for swords and stuff? Like, are we used? What does money mean? What do banks seen was investing in, and then because everything’s connected, and I was like, you know, either we shift and adapt. But I think ultimately, in the next between 2030, I would hope that the biggest change we see in a positive mindset is things like cure for all illnesses, especially because these models are starting to map out the human genome. And all the proteins is an there’s a specific algorithms that map all this stuff out that humans would have taken forever to do. And it’s already done. And so that just has to mean that we’re going to figure out so many of these other issues. So hopefully, that just means that a we have answers to questions about our own personal health and well, being in everything kind of what we talked about in beginning, you know, you could walk into something and it just figures out, hey, guess what you should get tested on this, you should consider looking now based on the symptoms that I see from how your eyes are dilated, and your skin looks and garish shoes, and stuff, you should go this route that route. And it’ll just be better prosperity for us. Granted, it obviously didn’t, you know, depends on who has control of it, and all that stuff, so and the bikes that are placed with everything that’s being trained. So it’s, I think, for me, it’s the biggest double edged sword in history, and thinking what 2030 And like I told you how our creative mind single all over the place, and many possible opportunities and aspects. It kind of worries me, it makes me at least feel more alive than I’ve ever felt. Just because I keep in touch with some news. Now. i Every day I look at what advancements are coming, because then it gives me more of a clue over where we’re going and extrapolate from there. But that’s kind of what my open ended thinking was. How do you feel,

Matt Stagliano 33:14
Oh, I was medical was going to be the thing that I you know, put in that thread. But I really wanted to have this conversation with you first, the ability to predetermine your susceptibility for certain diseases, your ability to read through a blood chart and have it predict what your health might be. I think those are the things that will impact us more in the short term, the flying cars and the toasters that can read your mind all that sort of stuff that you know, the Jetsons stuff is going to happen eventually. I probably won’t be around for that. However, I think, right? Well, there it is, right? How do we extend life. So if we’re able to use AI to a point where it’s helping us increase our health and our longevity? Well, now that also plays into actuarial charts for insurance, right, and your whole thing about investments, all of these peripheral and secondary and tertiary effects for for one industry. And I think with that, it will be really, really interesting. My biggest concern, regardless of what it is, is the human reliance and the lack of critical thinking in daily life. Right. And this is why I love talking to you because you’re one of these people that is always looking for input, you’re always thinking a little bit differently. And you’re you’re trying to talk to others, not to say Look how smart I am or I want to draw something out of you. It’s really this curiosity, this inquisitiveness, that helps drive the conversation forward. Do you think we’ve lost the ability They need to think experimentally to think critically to imagine things, because we are so inundated by social media, and we’re told what to think and how to think and you know what to do and where to go and what to wear. Do you think we’ve lost that ability to think for ourselves? I

Pratik Naik 35:18
feel like sometimes when I see really great artists, like you, and all of our creative community, one thing that I think goes in hand in hand, is our collective ability to stay curious. And, you know, when we have this ability to stay curious, it keeps our mind open and pliable. Because very quickly, as you’ve seen, and many of us are, we have we been gone through is, the less curious or mind stay, the more we are subject to the possibility of, of having a fixed mindset, you know, and not being able to really deviate from any possibilities, then what we already know. And that’s so dangerous. Now more than ever, because a the second you do that the algorithms get you, and you’re in this little rabbit hole of one directional thought. And then B just because of how society is currently, we like, you know, how much we have to work just to get by and all this stuff, it really keeps us shackled, you know, to not be able to have time to even ponder. And now more than ever, I think, you know, the idea of freedom isn’t just necessarily like how much money you have, but like the freedom of mindset, like being able to really get in a position of of thinking critically, like you said openly about what the future might bring. And that to me, I think is the biggest, like, sense of freedom to have that ability. And I do want to encourage a lot of people. And that’s why sometimes I post questions the way that I do. Because I want people to think like, you know, I don’t want to sell the point out, right. But if I, if I’m two steps behind the point, it will encourage them to get to the point by themselves. And typically, you know, as you know, when you tell someone, hey, you’re wrong, or whatever you even push against their opinion, they’re going to be more as resilient in their own opinion. But the second you get them to get to their own point, it will change their whole mindset. And I want that for people more than anything, you know, that’s kind of what my thing is. And curiosity is a funny thing like you could, it gives you opportunity and in clarity, but the same time, it’s also very confusing, because you will see, you see so many different ways that you could go. And even as an artist, and I’m sure you can relate to, like, we want to do all these things. Like we’re like, oh, that will be amazing. The idea of it fascinates us sometimes, or the execution. And so we don’t commit. And so our friends are like, Why aren’t you committing? Like you said you want to do why aren’t you doing it? And it’s so hard to explain why. Right? But the same reason that we we are not as committed is the same reason we have these amazing ideas. You know, it’s the same scope. I don’t know, like the feature is just stranger, but I just hope people start critically thinking more than ever before. Maybe that’s an exercise. And the takeaway from this conversation that I want, that we should encourage people is keep your mind open, you know, yeah.

Matt Stagliano 38:09
You know, as as portrait artists, right, and not only are you a technologist and a futurist and a retouches, but you’re also a photographer. And for me, I know that as a portrait photographer, Curiosity is the foundation of any connection with my clients. Having that curious mind, being able to ask questions without expectation or condition. And being able to have that conversation with some someone. So you’re, you’re pulling out emotion, you’re guiding them through a process, you’re finding out new things that might stimulate creativity in you that curiosity is the cornerstone for me of any connection with clients. Expand that out. And you can do the same thing with your friends and your family and people on the subway that you don’t know we’re in Starbucks. Just stay in that kind of curious, playful place. And don’t be afraid to ask questions that someone might look at you a little sideways. Because you’re at least asking the question, and they might think you’re a weirdo. God knows I get that all the time. But I I’m genuinely curious in what people think about things because I’m not so closed minded that all of my opinions are set in stone, change my belief, do it. I’d love to, you might not be able to, but at least expose me to that point of view. I think a lot of us whether it’s in the creative realm or not fall out of thinking about things from a different perspective. We’re so rooted in what we believe and how we want to do things and a lot of times it’s the way we’ve always done on them, that thinking about something differently is scary. I don’t want to feel fear or discomfort. So I’m not going to think differently or question. Me, all I want is that discomfort I was born in it, you know, I’m like, I was like I was born. And I love being uncomfortable, because I know that there’s always something more to learn. And this brings me back to that question of reliance, reliance on what we know, reliance on what we’re being fed reliance on the tools that we use every day, there has to be that curiosity so that we keep it in check. So they were asking the right questions at the right time, hey, this is awesome that it’s going to make my banking much faster, but who’s controlling that? And how much say do I have over what their rules and regulations are going to be? I’m putting my stuff into mid journey. Am I sure that that’s not being used by some other company, and then being sold as a backdrop on some sites? And where I think being able to ask these questions, doing a little bit of research, a little bit of critical thinking is not a bad thing, especially at the pace that that all of this is being developed? Has

Pratik Naik 41:23
there ever been an important point recently that your opinion has been changed based on this principle, like you, you believe something and then after you read, we heard something or in conversation, you then change your mind about it or, you know, expanded upon it? And if, you know, it doesn’t have to be anything recent, maybe the last thing you remember, in a

Matt Stagliano 41:45
general sense without us without a specific example, in general sense politics, constantly. Yeah, I’m a voracious political consumer. Because it’s kabuki theater. To me, everything is spin, everything is false on all sides. And I just like to listen to all of it, and try to distill down based on my beliefs, what is my opinion, what is my point of view? And then I always try to flip it for myself and say, Alright, well, what would the other person say? And then when I go out, and I get into conversations with friends, or when I’m in a social situation, and you know, a topic comes up, I tend to do the interviewing and ask questions. I’m really curious, open my mind makes me think we you do, especially if you don’t believe what I believe. Right? Right. Right. So I’m a, I’m a big Second Amendment guy, politically, it’s a hot button issue. I will never try to change someone’s belief of how they feel. But I will give you an honest, balanced reason why I believe what is, and I think that’s the basis of any, any good conversation is like, hey, without trying to change your mind, here’s what I believe. Let’s meet in the middle, let’s just hear each other out. And that, to me, is super important. And it’s something that has been lost in all of this division lately.

Pratik Naik 43:17
Alright, man, you’re President let’s go was like your you want my vote? Let’s do it. So. And it’s weird to me that it isn’t obvious when you see someone coming from that viewpoint, like some people easily just buy into their into rhetoric and not really question social, their social awareness. You know, me and me that that makes me wonder too, like, do people? Are people aware? Are they socially aware of how you know what they’re saying is true? Or is it just words that they will see to what they believe? I am with you that I am constantly curious, and I wholeheartedly agree with everything, you literally just I do the exact same thing with people. It’s,

Matt Stagliano 43:56
for me, it’s it’s the scene in Goodwill Hunting, when they’re in the bar. And the really pretentious guy from Harvard starts to say, you know, well, if you knew about colonialism and and Matt Damon comes up and he’s just like, yeah, and then you’re gonna read this, and then you’re gonna read this and then your opinions are going to change like this. I love digging in a little bit with each person, just so that I can know how far down the rabbit hole did you go? Are you just spouting Facebook headlines? Right? Oh, are you? Are you a human BuzzFeed right now?

Pratik Naik 44:29
Yeah, yeah. And then like, you get to a point where I don’t really know if I we should get down to that level, because then maybe they’re not ready for that conversation yet.

Matt Stagliano 44:37
It all kind of stems from that curiosity. Right. So that’s thinking about the technology side of all this. You’ve also developed a ton of tools, all of which are foundational to my retouching, my workflow, from what I understand you are not a coder, yourself. Right. So how do you how do you build that team? How do you start searching for people that can help you build this thing? And see it through to the end? This

Pratik Naik 45:08
comes from two things, you know, like photographers, we think, Oh, we have to do everything ourselves. But then I’m like, think about this way, right? What CEO is answering emails and customer support? And you know, all this stuff? And like, it’s just a matter of outsourcing. It’s the reality is, it’s not even the ideas you have. But it’s like, you know, that’s why you have to go and talk to people, you have to go to these conferences, you have to articulate online conversations you got to do, you’ve got to be generated in that. And you have to talk and figure out like, what do you wonder what are people excited about? Right? And along the way, when you put a call out of this is what I love this, what I like, it’s not it’s not for people to get in your business, but it’s to put out a call signal and say, hey, I want these people around me that also believe in same thing in retouching photography. And so I don’t remember exactly how it began. But the basic principle is, I found my core people that, you know, are good at what they do. And whether it being like executing on a code or whether it being like marketing, this goes for beyond just the toolset like I have some people that I work with, they don’t want to like isolate any one person. But whether it be like, Hey, I noticed this person is really good at coding. And then we started working together and being like, you know, and this was my my friends to find, he was like, Hey, we should make infinite texture together. And he made all these other tools with his team. And I trusted him to just make it and I was like, I’ll talk about it. And then we were on the same page with like, how we how we imagine photoshopping better, and then saving the marketing, like I work with my friend, Jeff and eats really great at marketing, like my other my other good friend, my best friend Emily connected me with Jeff. And then suddenly I was like, No, you’re really good at this stuff. You run with that. And just trust people. Sure. It’s not gonna work out for the maybe first couple of months. But you spend time figuring out what doesn’t work. Don’t give up on people try to see eye to eye you know, tell people what you don’t like what you like, just be open, communicate, put it out there. Again, Matt, like, you know, this comes from the curiosity aspect, right? If you’re curious about people and their strengths, you can suddenly extrapolate for them, hey, you’d be good at that. Whether they take that or not, is a totally different thing. So like, even you and you told me, Hey, you’re doing this course. It’s like, That is perfect. You’re like the perfect guy for educational content, whether it’s podcasts, whether it’s editing, like, this is your this is your thing. You’re meant to talk to people, you could just tell you know, so I think it’s important to tell people what they’re good at, don’t just wait for likes for your own work, like go out there some commenting on Instagram, like, on Facebook, like I love this about your work, you know, or no, it’s an app. And I remember one time, somebody, it was like nine years later, they messaged me, and they go, Hey, you, you put like a smiley react on my work. And from then I was motivated better. And I was like, I don’t remember doing that. But even that one little thing changed the course of someone you know. So you just tell people what you like about their stuff. And you’ll be shocked at what that means what opportunity opens up. And again, Jake, you said most people are close minded. If you recognize people’s talents, tell him you’d be shocked. Some people don’t. They’re not good at recognizing stuff.

Matt Stagliano 48:35
You know, I had this conversation with Johnny recently as well. And he’s been kind of lamenting the fact that there isn’t enough CO support in the creative world, meaning we all kind of follow each other. And we see a lot of the same art. It doesn’t take but two seconds to leave a comment or a heart or reposted on a story like it is a no cost, no frills way to just support the arts. And not enough people do it. All of that kindness, those little things, those little bits of encouragement and support really can mean the world to someone, especially if like most of us creatives were internal. And we live in our heads. And we think that we’re not good enough. And you know, all the gifts that were given are wasted, because we’re not successful, like X, Y and Z. And so those little bits of encouragement, really do help. And as long as they’re genuine, and without expectation and without condition. I think if we did that more, then we might have a more supportive, creative community where these partnerships organically happen. And I love the fact that you’ve been able to foster that with so many different teams you created a life I recall correctly and I may get this wrong. Is there a commercial entity that you’re like a creative commune that you develop with like Emily and brandy and you? There’s a is there like a commercial collaborative in there? I thought I saw something like that got released months ago, right?

Pratik Naik 50:17
Yes. So, um, our friend, Blaine, he’s a producer. And he had the same thing. He was like, we’re talking, I was like playing just make an agency. You know, I was like, you already a producer, you already know how to pitch you already know how to, you know, pitch people and emails, our stuff. Speak at agency. So you made an agency, where it was Emily, Felix, my wife, Bella, Randy and other people. And again, same thing happened. It was like, This just makes sense. Just Just make it make it happen. And so that’s what it was a blade and coast station seating.

Matt Stagliano 50:56
That’s what it was. Yeah, I saw that. I was just like, well, it’s about time. You know, it’s time that they did that. Before we get too far off of the tools, I have to say, if there’s one tool out of all of them that I’ve used more than any other, it’s the visualizer. More so than infinite color panel, or black and white or skin or unify or even the jokes panel, right? Luma and visualizer are my two biggest tools that I use all the time, luminosity masking, and then also just the speed and accuracy of visualizer to me is everything. I use that constantly. And whenever Photoshop comes out with an update and breaks it out until I get my extensions back or use Rosetta or whatever it is to make it work. But yeah, thank you for that.

Pratik Naik 51:47
I appreciate that. I was curious to hear about like what people like and for what reason? Because that helps me to know that okay, in future we could do more of that. Yeah. And maybe we’ll make a map who will that just like everything that God you love to

Matt Stagliano 52:00
do? Yeah, just looks at you cynically, and just kind of she just questions you get questions you. Oh, I really want to do that. You want to use generative, Phil, you really could just use content aware you know that right? I know I

Pratik Naik 52:13
should I should do that have a little Siri voice to back out now. They could just monitor what you’re doing and interpret exactly what’s going on. It figures out your next step like that’s a gray hair should really not. Well,

Matt Stagliano 52:26
I guess you couldn’t do it that way, I suppose. No, it was really funny. Getting back to the neural filters, right? You before I even saw the video, you did what I got to you, which is you know, apply skin smoothing. And then you look at it, you’re like, This just doesn’t look right. So let’s unmask all of the stuff around nose and lips and eyes and all the focus points, you know, and I was like, well, that it doesn’t work too badly. And I loved in your video how you went from this is garbage to. Alright, this isn’t so bad. And I love it. Like in four and a half minutes. You I saw your whole train of thought go to be like, like this is all right. Yeah.

Pratik Naik 53:07
And the funny thing is, I’ll be honest, we probably started recording it. I never had use that filter on that particular image. I wanted to just like a raw, yeah, honest feedback, because we do that all the time. Right? We play with something like Oh, this is business shit. This is just wild today

Matt Stagliano 53:27
who would put the Greenlanders tools that Pratik?

Pratik Naik 53:32
Yeah, I know. Right. A lot of

Matt Stagliano 53:35
even in that, right, this comes back to that that reliance on the tools. It’s great that Photoshop comes out with generative AI, don’t worry, it’s going to give you a live and fingers on one hand, that’s fine. Yeah, I’m seeing people become reliant on it for backdrops or removing objects. And I’m like, if you don’t have the proper skill, or foundation to know how to do it without that. It’s great if it works, and it creates efficiency, but at least build the skill. Yes, it’s kinda like, oh, I want a new desk, I’m gonna go to IKEA and get a tabletop and four legs. Or you can understand how to put a table together yourself and maybe make the legs or you don’t have to do it, but at least understand the process of it. For me, it’s that I don’t want to be reliant on anything until I know how to do it manually.

Pratik Naik 54:31
In our hands, 100 Yes, and also manipulation of the results to where even if you get something you like, but I feel like I want a variation of that or like at least massage it to your own style.

Matt Stagliano 54:42
While we’re talking about retouching. I do have one one question I figured it would probably be a horrible podcast if I had you on and didn’t ask something about retouching. We especially folks that just start getting into it right, they might buy the retouching series and they go through all this If with you and now they know how to do everything, what do you find that people overdo when they’re beginning? And in the commercial world? Probably really isn’t that big of a deal? Meaning, there are some people that get every single flyaway or every single eyelash. Where do you draw the line between this is what’s needed for commercial and this is good enough.

Pratik Naik 55:27
First thing is, I noticed when everyone jumps into retouching, they go straight into frequency separation, and just pull the skin that’s the first thing everyone’s like, I’m just gonna do that can be done. And I’m like, in here’s the problem with that, right? Like, it probably is gonna be fine for most people in Instagram and social media. But the issue is, let’s say you’re an art director. And let’s say you’re Bladen and CO, and you’re like looking through people’s work. And the ones that matter the most are going to know for sure. So it really depends on time versus quality. And it goes back to the IKEA principle is know the processes know the whys. Because once you know the whys and the processes, you can decide for yourself, hey, maybe just like the neuro filter, I do a little bit of this, but pull it back. And a little bit of that. And that’s been my ethos is learn everything, but then apply it to the standard that you that honors your vision, because like your vision has to match. And I see this also because it was AI tools, like I’ll use some of these new Dodge and Burn tools and whatever. And a lot of the times they do a pretty good job. But off the bat, I noticed it’s it wasn’t like my style. And I could tell like if everyone’s using this one tool, I know what that tool is now going to look like it has a very identifiable marker. It’s like camera sensor, sometimes you can just tell what’s kept what’s chelwood What, and it has identifiable mark to it. Same thing as retouching, if you just rely on this one tool that everyone will have seen. You’re not going to stand out anymore. You are literally washed out your vision and washed out. So you know how the understanding I kept principle I think that’s we should hashtag it.

Matt Stagliano 57:10
I kept principle. Principle. Yeah.

Pratik Naik 57:13
Learn that. Learn the leg. See, now,

Matt Stagliano 57:15
I can’t even sit here and be like, Oh, I never did that I was a portrait pro dude. And I move all the sliders at the beginning. And I was like, let’s just turn this person into a china doll. Because that looks fantastic. Once you realize, ah, it looks like garbage, then you start to scale things back and learn a little bit more. I love the fact that in one of your posts on the Instagram account that you have, I went all the way back to the very first one. And it’s really funny if you if you go to this Instagram account You can see all our critiques work as he explores a lot of this like mid journey and Dali and stabled fusion and whatnot. And it’s really interesting to go back to the beginning and see just how kind of credit was you said in that post that the creative credit belongs to AI. I’m just the director. And that to me, summed up everything about AI, the creation is happening in this engine, but it comes down to the direction that you give it that is the quality result. And you can’t be of the mindset that I put this prompt in made something now I’m a digital artist. You’re a digital director, perhaps. But you’re not Becca Yorkie who can make a you know, Stargate mermaid. By hand. Yeah, that was a really poignant statement that you know, the creation belongs to AI and you’re just directing it in a certain way. I absolutely love the way that you sum that up.

Pratik Naik 58:56
And it’s crazy to think that that wasn’t even those probably what a year ago a year ago than that. And suddenly now it’s for real. And it’s so strange to to do that. And the reason I am glad you brought that up, because the reason I initially made that statement was because I knew at that moment when I made that account, I knew two things. After that moment, everyone else everyone else was going to make Instagram account, which happened. And then the second thing was that people were going to accuse me of being the artists because it was it was very hotly debated that moment, like more than ever, you know, we just kindled the flame, and everyone was saying how could you use AI and how it’s, you know, immediately and I was like, listen, I fully acknowledge that I have no part in the creation of this but I also acknowledge that it’s my direction that would that also kibble that buyer. So, you know, we are directors of our thing and we’re going to progress towards that as a tool become no more barriers and Tree anymore. We’re gonna start seeing everyone’s visions come the Director Director of vision about and it’s going to be very fascinating to see what people’s minds are like to

Matt Stagliano 1:00:11
kind of land this plane. I think watching the course the future photo hearing Felix say that yeah, AI may change some things, maybe it makes headshots easier, right? We’re seeing that now with you know these high school headshots and whatnot. And they’re even companies that are popping up that are producing headshots for you. Yeah, that may take a segment of the industry that photographers generally rely on out of the picture. However, it will never replace the experience of working with someone. And that to me really hit home as well. And to hear that from someone like Felix, and to hear you guys discussing this, that, yeah, AI is going to become part of all of what we do. And it is going to change how we work again, the adapt or die situation. But it’s never going to replace the experience for the humans sitting across from you never. And our responsibility is to maintain vigilance and explaining that to people that, yes, these tools are available, use them go do what you know, it’s going to be good enough for your LinkedIn profile. However, it’s never going to replace the experience that you have in exploring yourself and how you feel and working with a photographer, and just all the emotions that go along with that that’s irreplaceable. And that will never, in my opinion, never be replicated by bits and bytes and ones and zeros.

Pratik Naik 1:01:48
Exactly. Unless Unless like the movie equilibrium where they just know all our emotions. You know, like our emotions are the reason we need to connect socially, like we have to connect. That’s why you’re listening to this conversation. And that’s why we’re talking right now. That’s the motivate that the grind motivator for humanity is the interconnections we have as people. That’s why we went nuts during COVID. And that’s why you never going to see anyone great, this is my AI newborn baby. Like, it’s, you’re gonna want photos of your baby, like you’re not gonna, you’re not gonna store it in AI and be like, This is my mid journey, baby. You know what I mean? Like,

Matt Stagliano 1:02:22
I’m gonna make a note now on Facebook, I’ll save your post. So when 2030 In seven years, or six years in a month, I’m going to check and I’m going to see if we’ve cured cancer and heart disease. And we’ve got flying cars and whatnot, see if any of that prediction is true. Or if it’s just going to be some dystopian universe where you know, we’re all living off grid, because there’s one robot that’s farming humans somewhere in Paducah, Kentucky. I’ve no idea how this is gonna go. But I’m in for the ride one way or another.

Pratik Naik 1:02:54
If you if anyone’s listening to this, I want to I want your 2030 predictions, but it down right now. I want to know what you think is going on?

Matt Stagliano 1:03:02
I assure you, you will get probably at least one. I can’t I can’t guarantee how many listeners that are going to be but I will put that in, put it in

Pratik Naik 1:03:11
and make you feel good about it. Make other profiles. Come on, you can do this. Am I gonna see you out at WPI? I think so. Yeah. Depending on where we are out there. I’m gonna see you there.

Matt Stagliano 1:03:23
Yeah, I know you have a lot of things going on. You’re going to Namibia, you’ll be kind of bouncing all around. Does that all kind of happens around the same timeframe? So I was curious if you’re going to be if you’re going to be out in Vegas, where where everybody else is or if you’re going to be galavanting creating phenomenal art like you always do.

Pratik Naik 1:03:41
We’ll all be together in Vegas. That’s for sure.

Matt Stagliano 1:03:44
I really look forward to seeing you, man. And thanks so much for hanging out with me tonight. It’s rare that I get to have these conversations about AI like this. That’s someone that’s so into it like I am. So I appreciate everything that you do. Thank you for being so curious for fostering the communities that you do. And for sharing all of this with me. I really, really appreciate your time and

Pratik Naik 1:04:06
my pleasure as if it wasn’t for people having platforms to let us talk about all of our nerdy tendencies and there wouldn’t

Matt Stagliano 1:04:12
be me right. Say hi to Bella for me, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Pratik Naik 1:04:15
You bet Matt. Thank youV

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Generator Ep. 016 – Mitzi Starkweather: Creating an Unconditional Life

In this episode, Maine photographer Matt Stagliano speaks with Mitzi Starkweather, a Missouri based portrait photographer, educator, and creator of the Raw Portraits Course available at her website.

“We’ve been friends for a few years now and I am still inspired by Mitzi every single day. We’ve had long conversations about the essence of connecting with clients in the past, but this conversation allowed us to go a little deeper and truly get to know what drives Mitzi to value raw, authentic connections.”

For more information about her work and her Raw Portraits Course, please visit her website at or follow her on social media @mitzistarkweather

Generator Ep. 010 – Dennis Dunbar: The Man Behind the Movie Posters

In this episode, viewers will hear from Maine-based portrait photographer, Matt Stagliano, as he interviews Hollywood retoucher and digital artist Dennis Dunbar.

Dennis is the man behind some of the most iconic movie posters in the film industry, like Blair Witch Project, I Am Legend, 1832, Deadpool, Jumanji, and the list goes on and on…

From the early days of Photoshop to modern color grading techniques, from film to frequency separation, we talk about it all. If you ever wanted to get a feel for what it’s like to work as an integral part of the commercial and film industries, this is a conversation for you.

You can find more of Dennis’ work at his website,

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