Could An Instagram Filter Turn Your Photos Into Masterful Paintings?

Imagine this: one day, you open Instagram to post a photo of your cat snoozing on an armchair, only to find a crop of dazzling new filters: Picasso, for example; van Gogh; Kandinsky. What if rendering your everyday surroundings in the familiar, yet strange, palettes of famous artists was as simple as selecting one from a menu?

Of course, such a task is far from simple, but a recent paper from a German research team suggests it’s not entirely impossible.

In the paper, “A Neural Algorithm of Artistic Style,” Leon A. Gatys, Alexander S. Ecker and Matthias Bethge demonstrate a visual model meant to allow the content and style of an image to be separated and combined in various iterations. Inputting a photo of a row of houses, the researchers used their model to blend the content of the photo with the distinctive visual styles of famous artists such as Edvard Munch and Wassily Kandinsky.

This process, of course, by no means mirrors the quick, easy application of an Instagram filter. As The Observer’s Ryan Steadman points out, “the process takes about an hour to complete.”

What’s more, the authors write, “image content and style cannot be completely disentangled [...] there usually does not exist an image that perfectly matches both constraints at the same time.”

The model works not through a simple filtration — the authors point to non-photorealistic rendering and texture transfer as methods for stylizing photos in a more straightforward vein — but by processing each input image in layers, extracting characteristic visual components in a hierarchy.

In other words, the authors weren’t simply applying a filter, but making choices about which input — style or content — to weight more heavily in creating the composite image, and aiming for a balance between the —> Read More