Professional AI Whisperers Have Launched a Marketplace for Dall-E Prompts

From The Verge:

In the past few years, art made by programs like Midjourney and OpenAI’s DALL-E has gotten surprisingly compelling. These programs can translate a text prompt into literally (and controversially) award-winning art. As the tools get more sophisticated, those prompts have become a craft in their own right. And as with any other craft, some creators have started putting them up for sale.

PromptBase is at the center of the new trade in prompts for generating specific imagery from image generators, a kind of meta-art market. Launched earlier this summer to both intrigue and criticism, the platform lets “prompt engineers” sell text descriptions that reliably produce a certain art style or subject on a specific AI platform. When you buy the prompt, you get a string of words that you paste into Midjourney, DALL-E, or another system that you’ve got access to. The result (if it’s a good prompt) is a variation on a visual theme like nail art designs, anime pinups, or “futuristic succulents.”

The prompts are more complex than a few words of description. They include keywords describing the intended aesthetic, the important elements for a scene, and brackets where buyers can add their own variables to tailor the content. Something like the nail art design might include the positions of the hands, the angle of the pseudo-photographic shot, and instructions for tweaking the prompt to produce different manicure styles and themes. PromptBase takes a 20 percent commission, and prompt writers retain ownership of their work — although the copyright status of AI art and prompts is largely untested waters.

Paying $2 to $5 for a paragraph of text might seem like a strange purchase, and the idea of paid prompts doesn’t sit right with everyone using these systems. But after buying the nail art design mentioned above, I was curious about what it took to make a good commercial AI prompt — and how much money was actually in it. PromptBase put me in touch with the designer, Justin Reckling, to talk about it.

How and when did you get into prompt engineering? Did you have particular skills that made you good at it?

I got into prompt engineering in April of 2022 when I was able to get my hands on OpenAI’s GPT-3 text generation tool. I quickly found that I had a knack for it and was able to create some great text-to-image prompts with it. My related skills include programming and software quality assurance. Plus, I have a good eye for aesthetics which helps me create prompts that are visually appealing.

Do you come at prompt writing primarily from the perspective of being an artist, being a coder or engineer, or something else?

I see prompt writing from the perspective of an artist, coder and engineer. I use my programming experience to help me understand how the service may interpret my prompt, which guides me to more effective tinkering with it to coax the results I’m after. Every word in a prompt has a weight associated with it, so trying to work out what works best and where becomes a core asset in the skillset. My background in software quality assurance is a pretty big driver in that “what happens if” style of thinking. Being overly verbose growing up has been a sort of blessing in disguise as well. It feels very liberating to have that as an asset now.

How many prompts do you sell in a typical day / week? Do you have a sense of what people buy them for?

I typically sell between three and five prompts per day, with each prompt averaging two to three sales within a month or two. I currently have an inventory of 50 prompts, with new ones being added regularly. The majority of prompts that have sold seem to be for pleasure rather than business purposes.

Link to the rest at The Verge and here’s a link to Promptbase, the online marketplace for buying and selling prompts for various online ai art generators. You’ll find Featured Prompts, Newest Prompts, Most Popular Prompts, etc., etc.

1 thought on “Professional AI Whisperers Have Launched a Marketplace for Dall-E Prompts”

  1. I really should have anticipated this – it’s a natural corollary to the rise of SEO experts that came about in conjunction with search engines.

    What I do anticipate, and will probably be proven (unfortunately) correct on, is that we are going to see unfounded nuisance legal actions intended to shut down sites like Midjourney for “unauthorized use of image databases.” Most likely Getty Images will be the first mover on that, but other owners of databases will soon follow, I’m sure.

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