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Writing Great Prompts for the Stable Diffusion AI Image Generator

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AI generated image. Made while I was generating random landscape photos.

AI generated image. Made while I was generating random landscape photos.

AI Image Generators

An AI image generator is a smart program that learns how to create images. They can generate drawings, paintings or photograph-like pictures. The most common uses for it include creating art in the style of famous artists, making really strange images and generating fake pictures.

A fake photograph looks like it was taken with a camera but the scene is made up. I created a computer-generated picture of people looking at baby Godzilla in an aquarium. When making them for fun, it does not need to look real.

The first AI art program I used transferred the style of a painting or drawing to a photo. It could make an artistic copy of the subject image. I just needed to load two pictures and press a button.

Text-to-Image Prompts

AI text-to-image generators create images based on a text prompt. A prompt is a series of words or a description of what you want. For example "photo of white-tailed deer by professional photographer, season Fall." Use short general prompts for random results. Do long, detailed prompts when you want a specific result.

The AI generates the image based on your prompts. Your job is to come up with good ones that will give you interesting results. First, you need to think of an interesting subject. Use your experience and imagination, or try prompts that were written by other people.

After coming up with an idea, the next step is to add keywords and phrases to control how it is displayed. I started adding "by a professional photographer" to get better pictures. Then I tried out different camera lenses. For an old photograph of a cowboy, you could add "camera obscura."

Coming up with good prompts is hard. I was wasting a lot of time making bad pictures. So I made a list of the ones that worked well for me. Having a list of successful prompts makes it easier to succeed the next time.

AI image, old photo of Clint Eastwood dressed as a cowboy.

AI image, old photo of Clint Eastwood dressed as a cowboy.

Get Inspired by Other People

Look at the prompts other people used for inspiration. Try it to see what you can make with them. Then try to come up with an original idea. When a person shares a text-to-image prompt they made, it is usually to help other people come up with new concepts for interesting pictures.

I am sharing some of the best concepts I came up with to make it easier for other people to come up with great ideas. Testing out my ideas is a good starting point. You can see what a good prompt looks like before you make your own. Don't just copy other people's prompts and generate images that look similar to the ones that were already posted online.

Try to create pictures in your own style.

Stable Diffusion Text-to-Image Generator

Stable Diffusion is a text to image model. Enter some text, press "Generate Image" and it quickly creates a medium sized square picture. There are other text-to-image AI apps, but it is the one I use the most.

It is amazing. The program can do almost anything you can think of and they are still improving it. Try a free version or a paid version with more options. Before paying for the advanced version, use the free credits that are given to new members.

The Stable Diffusion AI image generator is capable of making stunning pictures that you would want to share with other people. Most of the time, it produces terrible or boring pictures that nobody wants to see because the user entered a bad prompt. Poor quality input gives you poor quality output. In computer terms, garbage in, garbage out.

It is mainly used to create AI art. Generating good looking drawings, sketches and paintings with it is a lot easier than making realistic photo-like images. Pictures that are rare and hard to make have more value. So I focused on making images in the style of a photograph.

Medieval portrait of beautiful woman

Medieval portrait of beautiful woman

Camera Keywords

This is not a full list. It only contains a few examples.

DeviceLightingPOVLens

Camera Obscura

soft

long shot

wide angle

Brownie Camera

hard

close-up

fisheye

Canon DSLR

diffused

overhead

zoom

GoPro Hero 8

ambient

eye-level

telephoto

Android Moto G Stylus

backlight

side

macro

drone

flare

selfie

300mm

Polaroid

long exposure

front

tilt shift

GoPro Max 360

spot light

from 20 feet away

shift lens

Best Prompts for Realistic Photos

My list of best prompts is based on my prompts and my results. I made hundreds of images and kept the best ones. The number of possible prompts is enormous and using the same text input can give you different results. So there is no way to make a definitive list of the best prompts.

Scenery

  1. Amazing award winning colored photograph, stunning environment, professional photographer
  2. Ocean, underwater, amazing award winning colored photograph, stunning environment, professional photographer
  3. Mountain view, amazing award winning colored photograph, stunning environment, professional photographer
  4. Drone photograph, provincial park, amazing award winning colored photograph, stunning environment, professional photographer, wide-angle
  5. Photograph, famous lighthouse, amazing award winning colored photograph, stunning environment, professional photographer, wide-angle, Nova SCOTIA
  6. Photograph, Vancouver Island, low tide, stunning environment, by professional photographer
  7. Photograph, Amazon River, amazing award winning colored photograph, stunning environment, professional photographer

Animals

  1. Award winning cinematic photo of extinct animal by professional photographer, device Android Moto G Stylus
  2. Award winning cinematic photo of endangered animal by professional photographer, device Android Moto G Stylus
  3. Photograph of lion from 20 feet away, centered, by professional photographer, 300mm lens
  4. Great white shark, ocean. stunning environment
  5. Award winning photograph of hippo from 12 feet away, by professional photographer, stunning environment, centered
  6. Elephant family drinking from pond, stunning environment, beautiful scenery, POV from 100 feet away
  7. Best undersea photography, coral reef

People

  1. Old photo of Clint Eastwood dressed as cowboy,1800s, centered, by professional photographer, wide-angle lens, background saloon
  2. Analog portrait photograph of actress Katheryn Winnick dressed as a Viking, full body
  3. Explorer at the top of Mount Everest, stunning scenery
  4. Photograph taken in 1883, old west, cowboys
  5. Selfie, people canoeing in Algonquin Provincial Park, professional photograph, stunning scenery
  6. Selfie of woman snorkeling underwater, ocean, sharks
  7. GoPro photo of man surfing on a large wave in Hawaii

Fun

  1. Piranha swimming towards beautiful woman swimming in lake, underwater
  2. Selfie of woman hiking with sasquatch yeti, professional photograph
  3. Trail camera photo of mythical creature, high quality, color
  4. Ripley's Aquarium, people looking at baby Godzilla in aquarium
  5. Stunning environment, scuba diver looking at Spinosaurus dinosaur
  6. Canon DSLR photograph of people looking at live dinosaur from 40 feet away, Toronto Zoo, by professional photographer, centered
  7. Old photograph of explorers posing with giant gorilla

After making or finding a good prompt, you can switch out some of the words. Try changing the subject and the location. People could be looking at a giant octopus, a great white shark or a sea dragon instead of a baby Godzilla.

Tips and Tricks for Photo-Like Images

Unwanted Close-ups

When asking for pictures of people and animals, Stable Diffusion usually gives you a close-up or an extreme close-up. It tends to zoom in even if you ask for a medium or long shot. That is why I had trouble generating images of people, animals and monsters.

One solution is to add other subjects to the prompt. Add things to the foreground and the background. I use words that include jungle, stream, trees, mountain and waterfall. Instead of getting a close up of the subject's head you get the main subject of the picture and the environment they are in.

A second option is to add a distance to your prompt. When I added "from 100 feet away" to my lion photo prompt the lion looked far away from the camera. For a medium shot, I used 'from 20 feet away'. If prompts for medium or long shots don't work, then you can specify the distance.

Improving the Quality

You can often improve the quality of your results by adding "by a professional photographer" or "a professional photograph of." I have also gotten some great results while including the phrase "award winning photograph."

A polaroid is nice for retro pictures but old analog photographs don't have the bright vibrant colors you get with a Canon DSLR camera or an Android Moto G stylus phone. Specifying the camera makes a big difference.

Include photography terms like studio quality. Avoid art terms like realism.

Experimenting

The AI understands a large variety of words. Test out different lighting, cameras, lenses, effects and time periods. Don't limit yourself to the terms you see in lists and tables. You may need to do some research to get the results you want.

Start with something that works most of the time. Then change it to see what you end up with. If you don't get the result you want then try generating the image again. Improve your description first or see if you luck improves.

Generating Interesting Images

In most cases, the results you get will not be as good as a picture taken with a phone or camera. It may be easy to see the imperfections. Displaying the picture at a small size can help. Another option is to crop out the bad parts.

Right now, AI image generators are not good for making photograph quality pictures. They are good for depicting strange or extraordinary scenes. Don't try to use them to generate images that you could take with your phone. Use them to create unique or rare pictures of impossible things.

When attempting to generate a photo of Katheryn Winnick dressed as Lagertha from the Vikings TV show, I got some interesting pictures. However, I did not get results that looked like the actress until I added "actress" in front of her name in the prompt.

Prompt "Analog photograph of Katheryn Winnick dressed as Lagertha, Vikings"

Prompt "Analog photograph of Katheryn Winnick dressed as Lagertha, Vikings"

My Results

Making good prompts for realistic images was harder than I thought it would be and the quality could be better. The photograph-like pictures usually contain flaws that reduce the realism. Paintings, drawings and landscape photos were the easiest to make.

Sometimes you get lucky and end up with an amazing result by using the same prompt multiple times. Other times you need to fix the description. It was frustrating when I was getting unwanted close-up shots that only showed part of the person, animal or monster.

To create amazing images I needed to think of a great idea or get lucky. For better results try for fantasy, horror, sci-fi or historic themes. The pictures will have more value if they are rare or unusual.

Making unrealistic photo-like images was fun. Attempting to make pictures that could pass as a photograph taken with my camera was a bit frustrating. It took a lot of tries to get a good lion picture and I could have just used one from a public domain website.

It was easier to generate a good image of a woman taking a selfie with a sasquatch than it was to get a good picture of a wolf or a moose. I recommend using Stable Diffusion to make fun unrealistic or historic images. Focus on making pictures that are not based on reality.

Stable Diffusion AI generated image of a lion. My attempt at creating a computer generated picture that looked like a photograph.

Stable Diffusion AI generated image of a lion. My attempt at creating a computer generated picture that looked like a photograph.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2023 Michael H