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Jim Colton on Wrangling Olympics Photos
Dealing with tens of thousands of images a day
This email isn’t technically about an AI-related article, but it’s sort of AI-adjacent. With the Olympic Games happening now, I was curious if AI/ML plays a part in the photography of the event. The most obvious, to me, would be to assist in helping cull the flood of images that are transmitted from the event, sorting in-focus shots, rejecting poor framing, etc. So I reached out to veteran photo editor Jim Colton, who has worked nearly every Olympic Games in some capacity since Munich in 1972, to see if AI is a factor.
The short answer: no. Experienced editors are much better and faster at picking the right photos, especially in the cases when images are arriving directly from a photographer’s camera via Ethernet cable as the event unfolds.
But we had a great conversation about the other side of Olympics photography, getting the shots from cameras to worldwide distribution in record time. And it really is a flood: easily 100,000 images in a 24 hour period, and that’s just what Colton is seeing as an editor for Zuma Press.
Ever interested in what happens behind the scenes, I turned that section of our interview into an article for Popular Photography: Veteran photo editor Jim Colton on how all those Olympic photos get processed.
We did talk about AI and ethics in the second half of our conversation, which I hope to incorporate into future articles.
[Photo: Jeff Carlson, from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics]