Creating Object Portraits with Midjourney

Object portraits are an artistic genre where portraits are composed of objects rather than literal likenesses. The objects are carefully chosen for their symbolism and connection to the portrait subject. This allows the artist to convey the essence and personality of the subject through meaningful items. It makes sense that AI can do this well.  It’s not using art, it’s using math and a dark shape can be a billion things.

Midjourney is an AI system that generates artwork based on text prompts. I’ve talked about it before but it has powerful image-to-image capabilities, allowing you to morph existing photos into different styles and objects. This provides an exciting opportunity to turn traditional portraits into object portraits using Midjourney’s AI.  It seems every day there are new corners of art to explore using this.  I know I said it’s math, but the user is the artist.

In this post, I’ll walk through the steps I followed to create AI-generated object portraits in Midjourney based on photographic portraits.


1. Start with a photographic portrait you want to adapt. This will be your base image that you want Midjourney to recreate in a new artistic style.

2. Choose a theme or collection of objects you want to use to compose the new object portrait. For example, nature scenes, food items, books, abstract shapes, etc. Get creative with your object theme!

3. In Midjourney, upload the portrait photo and enter a prompt like “A photo of [subject name] as a landscape scene.” The AI will attempt to arrange landscape elements to match the shapes and tones of the original portrait.

4. Use Midjourney’s “Vary” feature to iterate and refine the generated images. Varying causes Midjourney to create similar but different versions.

5. Look for a generated image that resembles the original portrait while being composed of the objects you specified. Sometimes taking the best parts of several variations gives the best result.

6. Repeat the process using different object themes if desired. Experimenting with different prompts can produce impressive results but it takes trial and error.

I started with a portrait photo of the character Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat. Here were some of my object portrait results from Midjourney:

Winter Mountain Scene – Midjourney used snowy peaks and clouds to recreate the shadows and shapes of the original portrait. The icy landscape fits Sub-Zero’s freezing powers.

Cityscape – A city skyline at night conveys the stoic strength of Sub-Zero. The lit windows align with the illumination in the original.

Object portraits allow for creativity in conveying personalities through symbolism. Think of ways that this has been done in advertising using fruit or anti-drug campaigns. Midjourney opens new avenues for automating object portrait generation using AI capabilities. With practice, impressive results are possible even for those lacking artistic skill.  It took several dozen to get to a point that I thought was passable.


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