From Studio Stress to AI Success: High-End Sportswear Editorial

James Dow

Rethinking Advertising: Editorial Sportswear

Orchestrating a shoot used to take weeks of pre-production - back and forths on casting, scouting for the perfect location, assembling a talented crew - and that’s before the shoot even starts. The day itself is high stakes, with little room for error. A single off note - a model's expression not feeling quite right, a product detail that doesn't pop, or a lighting nuance that misses the mark - can disrupt everyone’s workflow. The pressure mounts as the clock ticks, budgets strain, and the artistic vision hangs in the balance.

With generative AI, the workflow is entirely different. There’s endless room for experimentation and reiteration. When an Art Director wants to change tack midway through, you don’t have to move mountains to get them what they want. And when they change their mind again, it’s the same deal. You’re not losing time and money at the speed of light, as everyone waits on set with baited breath.

The Creative Challenge

GenAI can save you time and money, as well as affording you a ton of flexibility - but can you achieve the elegance that you’d get from a studio shoot?

We’ve put Pencil AI to the test by asking it to produce studio-grade editorial shots for sportswear. In the competitive world of sports fashion, achieving studio-level photography has been pivotal in setting brands apart. Sportswear photography demands a high level of finesse combined with a modern aesthetic. As a brand, you typically want to make your imagery feel sleek, but with models in dynamic poses to give a sense of movement and activity that feels representative of sports. 

To achieve that sleek feel, along with studio-quality perfection, you don’t want anything too “out there”. Sports editorial shouldn’t feel zany or eccentric - it should feel glossy, polished, aspirational. What we found was that the right prompts led to shots that are a far cry from the stereotypically wacky AI shots that are littered across the internet. Instead, Pencil’s AI has achieved the ever-elusive studio grade photography that brands need.

The Outcome

The models’ personas are consistent, with facial expressions that feel animated and lively. The poses feel relaxed, with wisps of hair and folds in the clothes conveying a sense of movement that illustrates sportswear well. The colours pop, and the shadows ensure that there’s a realistic depth to the images.

When it comes to GenAI, it’s all in the details. In these images, everything from the stray strands of hair to the highlights across the cheek and nose contribute to the realism of the images.

The Methodology

The images you see were created by James Dow (Creative Director, Brandtech Consulting). Here’s how he did it:

1. Prompts

  • A dynamic editorial photo featuring 2 Asian models posing for a sportswear fashion shoot. pastel and neon clothing. modern art direction. They are smiling and happy together. beige backdrop.
  • A dynamic editorial photo featuring an Asian model posing for a sportswear fashion shoot. pastel and neon clothing. modern art direction. They are smiling and happy together. beige backdrop.

2. Images

The first thing is to create the image. I’m doing that in Pencil using Stable Diffusion XL. I’ll break down the prompts below:

  • ‘Dynamic’ should give some good movement to the pose and camera angle.
  • Adding ‘fashion’ to ‘sportswear shoot’ helps create a premium aesthetic and lighting. 
  • Choosing ‘Pastel’ and ‘Neon’ helps clash a popular millennial color palette with the sports energy of neon to give some contrast.

Next we pop them into Magnific.AI to upscale and enhance the level of detail. This truly is a miracle part of the process.

Settings: Keeping creativity fairly low for a first pass helps keep it close to the original, as does resemblance. HD never needs to be too high.

  • Creativity 2
  • HD 4
  • Resemblance 4

3. Upscaling

Finally you can put the images through Magnific again to get to 4K quality, but this time bring the settings right back.

  • Creativity 0
  • HD 1
  • Resemblance 2

And that’s it. If you have an eye for a shot and a clear idea what to make you can get this process down to about 30 mins all in. Not bad for a full day shoot output!

The Conclusion

With a bit of time spent crafting the prompt, Pencil’s AI has created several shots that wouldn’t look out of place between the pages of a premium magazine. Even more encouraging than the shots shown above is the fact that these images can easily be amended and edited. As a brand, you’re not tied into long email chains feeding back with tweaks here and there. There’s no more soul-destroying moments of “if only we had a shot with the model turning their head at this angle” or “if only we’d got a shot with that sweatshirt paired with those shorts”. For the flexibility and adaptability you get with GenAI, it’s worth pausing before you book your next studio shoot.