Getting started with Midjourney

8 min read
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There’s no denying that AI is re-shaping the landscape of creativity today. As recently as 2022, we saw the emergence of AI image creation tools such as Dal-E, however these were primarily experimental and not yet ready for mainstream use. I kept half an eye out and ignored. Fast forward to the present day, and we have tools like Midjourney, which are not only ready for use but also producing remarkable results. I’ve dived in with both feet, knowing all the ethical and future of humankind arguments, but also wanting to understand it for myself.

Creative opinion

Right now as I type, social media channels like Instagram and TikTok are flooded with how AI can revolutionise marketing – and we couldn’t agree more. However, it’s important to point out that there is obvious hype, which will inevitably subside. What will endure are the practical tools and techniques that will find their way into our day-to-day creative toolkits. And Midjourney is one such tool that warrants serious consideration, now that it has matured.

What is Midjourney?

Midjourney is an AI-powered tool designed to create images. Now at version 5, the quality of the images it produces is genuinely impressive. For those familiar with writing "prompts" for Midjourney, the tool provides an exciting opportunity to create phenomenal image content.

Background and future implication

Dal-E, a project by South Korea’s Naver Labs, surfaced in 2021. It’s an AI system that can converse with people while expressing emotions. Early on in 2022 we took a quick look and although it looked promising, it simply wasn’t ready for use in a creative or production environment over and above in an experimental capacity. Midjourney, on the other hand, was formed by a team of data specialists. Their goal? To simplify complex data for businesses. Now Midjourney has evolved to create seriously high quality images with version 5 at the time of writing. Both Dal-E and Midjourney are evolving, showcasing the quick progression of AI and data analytics and users are diving in with both feet.

Much like the characters in Star Trek interacting with the computer, or Commander Data, you interact with Midjourney through prompts. Your understanding of how the AI works, coupled with the preciseness of your language, determines the outcome. This interaction mode signifies a shift in how we’ll likely engage with technology in the foreseeable future – it’s less about mastering software and more about articulating our ideas accurately. I think this is the end of software like Photoshop (and with ChatGPT, Word).

Why now?

Midjourney, currently a free tool, has evolved into a powerful image generator. Once you overcome the initial learning curve, you'll find it surprisingly user-friendly. There are a couple of hoops or mental shifts you have to make, unlearning the old way of doing things, but after that it’s a really natural feeling. If you’ve ever sent a text message or used chat apps like Whatsapp you’ll be fine. It’s now gaining traction outside of the gaming community, with people using it for creative exploration at a rapid pace. We’re seeing it pop up in conversations and in studios. Designers and creatives are already integrating it into their workflow.

Getting started

Setting up might sound intimidating, but it begins with something as simple as creating a Discord account. Discord is a communication platform initially designed for gamers but has since found widespread use across various communities (Microsoft swooped in and bought it). To get started, you need to sign up on Discord’s website, verify your email, and log in. Discord on mobile feels like a chat app – If you’re familiar with Slack, it’s pretty much the same. You can (and should) organise your chats / work in channels.

Inviting the Midjourney bot to your Discord is the next step. You can do this by clicking on the 'invite' link on the bot's page and authorising it to access your Discord server. Once you have done this, you will see a whole bunch of newbie channels. You should probably just go into one of those, and start trying to prompt Midjourney, and see what you can create. You’ll be in there with other newbies, and you can watch and learn as they take the same journey as you. As simple as that. Open creation together with others. A bit of a shift from a closed Photoshop loop. But a fun one, I guarantee.

Midjourney prompts

In simple terms, a Midjourney prompt is a command or instruction you give to the AI. As you become familiar with prompts and see how others utilise them, you'll want to keep a record of the more interesting ones. 

The main prompt you will type will be:

/imagine

Then following this, you put in anything you like. Prompting takes a few goes to understand how it works. You’ll often forget to prompt properly in the beginning and end up just writing a message in the thread, without properly prompting the bot. I sat there staring at the screen wondering why nothing was happening. When you use the /imagine prompt, a little overlay pops up with the prompt, and you have to hit enter or select it, then continue typing.

We typically use a straightforward Google Doc for this purpose. Since Midjourney works in public on free accounts, you can see and learn from other users' prompts, either on Discord or elsewhere online.

What can you do?

Midjourney’s “/imagine” prompt allows you to instruct the AI to visualise virtually anything. The key lies in accurately describing what you want it to create. You now have a creative outlet that is only limited by your imagination and your understanding of both how prompting works, and the limitations of the system.

To get the most out of this powerful tool, the key lies in accurately and creatively describing what you want it to come up with. The more specific and vivid your descriptions are, the better the results. Consider the colours, shapes, sizes, and positions of elements in your desired image. Even abstract concepts, moods, or emotions can be conveyed to the AI. 

Moreover, you can experiment with different styles and nuances in your descriptions to get varied results. This can be particularly useful for you if you need to generate unique visual content quickly, or for individuals who just want to test out their creative ideas.

In essence, the “/imagine” prompt represents a leap forward in AI-powered content creation. It makes high-quality, custom visualisation accessible to all, regardless of their artistic skill or experience, which is frankly incredible as it’s FREE. Did I say that loud enough? All you need is a browser on a mobile or desktop and an internet connection. Granted not everywhere (or everyone) in the world has this, but it’s a fairly low barrier to entry considering the power offered. 

If you can invest, and stretch to a laptop or mobile with an internet connection, then you have access to the ability to create any conceptual art that surpasses anything I have had access to in the top London creative and advertising agencies over the last 20 years. If you already have all this, as many of my friends and colleagues do, then what are you waiting for? 

I had access to million pound budgets. I had good ideas. Great ideas. This stuff simply wouldn’t get approved on a whim. You’d need to get the idea and concept signed off by the client, then approve a CGI artist, then a photographer and line up models and a shoot. Stylist. Makeup. Lighting. Producer. The list goes on. Forget it mate. Unless your idea was validated by the Strategy department, the Client Services department… yeah. I’ll stop. That’s another blog post for another time.

Jump in is what I’m saying, if this is your passion, however you can. You’ll love it.

What are people doing on MJ?

Users are leveraging Midjourney in various ways, from envisioning a bar in the Nevada desert for experiential activations to crafting images of their ideal customer. Others use it to create engaging visuals for blog posts. 

For photography it’s perfect for working in different styles without any need for specialised equipment or software – or being on location or in the studio. From Film Noir to Annie Liebevitz – by accurately describing the style and elements such as lighting, composition, or colour palette – you can create in a very specific photographic style. It does take some getting used to, but when you do…

You can ask Midjourney to create images of various periods and styles of art movements. Want an image with the soft tones of Impressionism, the geometric forms of Cubism, or the unusual visuals of Surrealism? By guiding the AI with precise instructions, you can create in this style

For those interested in film, Midjourney can be directed to emulate the visual aesthetics of different directors. If you want to create scenes or images that align with the atmospheric visuals of a Christopher Nolan movie or the symmetric compositions of Wes Anderson, the AI can generate such visuals when given the right guidance.

Don’t be dissuaded by the numerous game character creations – people making obvious sexy images – Midjourney is a potent tool that is changing how we conceptualise and conduct research and development.

In essence, Midjourney is a platform that provides an opportunity for practical exploration of different artistic styles and mediums. It democratises the creative process, making it accessible to more people and enabling them to understand and navigate these styles, which traditionally required more specialised knowledge and tools.

Where to look for ideas

Midjourney’s Discord-based setup makes for an active community where you can gain inspiration from other users' images and prompts. Additionally, numerous articles can guide you in achieving the desired aesthetics and style.

Conclusion

Midjourney is a fascinating tool that is transforming the digital creative space. Its ability to generate high-quality images based on user prompts makes it a remarkable resource for marketers, designers, and creatives alike. While the landscape of AI in marketing is evolving rapidly, tools like Midjourney stand out as valuable assets.

While its operation may seem complex at first, getting started is as simple as setting up a Discord account and inviting the Midjourney bot. The success of your creations depends largely on how accurately and creatively you can articulate your ideas through prompts. Seeing and learning from other users’ prompts can be an excellent way to get inspired and improve your creations.

Whether you're looking to bring a concept to life, visualise an ideal customer, or generate captivating visuals for a blog post, Midjourney provides a powerful and free tool to do just that. Its ease of use and potential for creativity makes it well worth exploring. So why not start your Midjourney today? It could be the beginning of an exciting creative adventure.

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