Tobi Shinobi remixes the art of what’s possible with Adobe Firefly

Image of a man on a bicycle riding on the street. Source Toni Shinobi.

Image source: Tobi Shinobi.

By day, Tobi Shinobi is a Lead Creative Strategist at a popular short-term video platform that has become one of the fastest-growing start-ups of all time. By night, he is an award-winning photographer and artist who presents the world through a unique lens, not just the literal lens of his camera, but also through the observational lens of someone who transcends cultures, disciplines, and artistic mediums.

While photography was Shinobi’s first love — even inspiring him to publish a book of his photographs in 2021 — Shinobi also creates large-scale murals, produces videos, and develops impressive, augmented reality (AR) installations. His most famous AR piece, called “Grammatically Correct,” was honored at the MVVO Ad Art awards and featured in New York’s Times Square.

Adobe Creative Cloud was the first software Shinobi used to develop his art, and his relationship with Adobe has continued to grow since. Today, he uses Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, and Adobe Firefly, Adobe’s family of creative generative AI models, to enhance his creative workflows and educate fellow artists on how they can do the same.

Laying down the law

One of Shinobi’s earliest jobs was working at a John Lewis department store, right next to the camera department. He was intrigued by photography but never saw anyone that looked like him with a camera, so he came to the conclusion that perhaps it wasn’t for him. That was until his younger brother picked up a camera and he rethought this idea, deciding “why not?”. He later came across old pictures of himself as a child and realized his father always had a camera on hand. What’s more, some of the photos showed Shinobi posing with a toy camera of his own.

These factors would prove transformational years later, when Shinobi found himself practicing law for a reputable London firm. While he appreciated the problem-solving skills he gained on the job, Shinobi soon realized litigation was not his ultimate calling. When Instagram hit, he was catapulted back to his childhood and picked up the camera seriously. He became obsessed. All of his downtime was spent taking, creating, and sharing his photos online. “I loved the fact that I could practice something I’m passionate about and get instant feedback and inspiration from the world,” Shinobi recalls. “Better yet, I could make money doing something that brings me joy and that brings joy to others.”

As his reputation and skills grew, Shinobi made the difficult decision to leave law and focus on photography full-time. He was soon recruited and moved to Chicago to start a new life.

Going viral with generative AI

Shinobi’s standing as a thought leader increased when he became an Adobe Ambassador and started posting educational content to his Instagram. The first reel he created with Firefly, which showed how Generative Fill in Photoshop saves photographers time while adding to and enhancing their images, went viral, earning 2.4 million views.

“I couldn’t believe the response, but I realized two things,” says Shinobi. “First, photographers see big-time potential in generative AI to improve their lives. And two, my approach to telling that story was hitting the mark.”

Shinobi now uses Firefly across his creative workflows. Take the large-scale murals he creates using his original photos. Much of Shinobi’s process involves planning and deciding how to size and orient different images so the final product translates well to a large space. The Generative Expand feature in Photoshop allows Shinobi to play around with sizes, borders, orientations, and spacing in seconds — cutting hours from the exercise.

“Planning with intention is what separates professional creators from amateurs, and Adobe Firefly has been instrumental in that regard,” says Shinobi.

Meanwhile, Generative Recolor in Adobe Illustrator has simplified Shinobi’s branding exercises and the way he develops geometric work, allowing him to experiment with different shades, styles, and moods in his creations. He even collaborated with his creative partner Lonnie Edwards to come up with remixed versions of iconic album covers and logos.

The possibilities for play are endless for Shinobi. Below, he uses Generative Fill to reimagine one of London’s most iconic high-rise towers as a space port for flying vehicles.

Paying it forward is important to Shinobi, which is why he’s excited by the new Community tab in Firefly, which allows users to share their work, learn more about the latest features, and raise their profiles among their peers. In that spirit, Shinobi posted a test for his followers, challenging them to scrutinize an image and distinguish the real elements from those created with Adobe Firefly.

The horse has left the stable

Shinobi is optimistic about generative AI, but he is also conscious of the creative community’s questions around the technology and how it will affect their future. In response to these concerns, Shinobi reflects on other innovations that have disrupted photography over the years, before being fully embraced.

“Most photographers took issue with auto-focus at first, but now it’s just part and parcel in our industry. Social media gets a bad rap, but it democratized creative industries. There are photographers today who wouldn’t be photographers without it, myself included,” says Shinobi.

He also reflects on how photorealistic painting was forced to evolve following the invention of photography, leading painters to rethink their approach and explore abstract styles like cubism. Shinobi’s hope is that innovations like Firefly will have a similar impact, inspiring photographers to open up new avenues of creative expression.

“The horse has left the stable when it comes to AI. You can resist, or you can get involved early and help set a line that preserves the authenticity of creative work,” says Shinobi. “It would be smart for us to get artists from all backgrounds sitting at the table today to make sure these technologies serve society’s best interests in the long-term.”

For the first birthday of Firefly, Shinobi shares his thoughts on what it has opened up for him, “Adobe Firefly allows me to creatively explore in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible and is such a timesaver. As a multi-hyphenate, that’s key because while I may have the equipment and software to make my ideas happen, I often don’t have the time. Firefly is an amazing addition to the suite of creative tools Adobe offers and I’m keen to see the video capabilities when they arrive.”

Learn more about Tobi Shinobi on Instagram, and check out his first book of photography, Equilibrium, published by Trope Editions.

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