Photo illustration of faceless yearbook photos.

AI Yearbook trend takes over social media

Social media users are leaning in to nostalgia and posting new yearbook photos — but they aren’t going back to school to get them taken.

Epik, an AI photo editing app, has gone viral for its AI Yearbook feature, which delivers 60 different images of a person using eight to 12 of their submitted selfies. The AI-generated photos showcase different hair styles, outfits and poses.

While the app is free to download, it costs between $5.99 to $9.99 (but as of Tuesday afternoon, it was discounted at $3.99 and $5.99) to access the photos. It’s become the latest AI trend to captivate the internet.

Once users are able to access the app, they can upload their selfies into the program, select their gender and pay for either “standard” or “express” delivery. Standard wait times are up to 24 hours, while the express option delivers the photos in under two hours. Some are being prompted to try using the app later, due to the high volume of people trying out the feature. 

Influencers like beauty guru Bretman Rock, YouTuber Hila Klein and Twitch streamer Pokimane are using the app to create ‘90s-inspired school photos. Actress Keke Palmer also hopped on the trend.

“Idk y’all.. I feel like mine ain’t me fr,” Palmer wrote in an Instagram caption, alongside images of her yearbook self.

The app generates headshots and full body images in front of mostly solid backgrounds. Some of the photos are categorized into high school superlatives such as “Most Likely to Succeed” or “Most Musical.”

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The quality of the photos, which seamlessly combine facial traits from the images provided, has viewers impressed — and nervous. Some believe the images prove that AI is becoming increasingly convincing.

“Are these real or AI???? Huge slay. I’m obsessed with the first,” a fan wrote under Klein’s Instagram post.

“AI stuff is getting too crazy,” one commenter wrote under Pokimane’s AI yearbook photos. 

Others felt that their photos were less realistic than they expected. Rock said in his Instagram caption that he paid for the service twice. The results were not what he envisioned. 

“Yalll I’m DYING … who are these people,” Rock wrote.

But some critics of the app have warned about potential data privacy issues. As interest in AI photography has grown, so have broader concerns over safety, privacy and ethics among data experts, with some arguing that the images could be used to compile user data.

The popularity of photo apps like Epik, as well as last year’s viral Lensa app, has also spurred discussion over the ethics of creating images with models that have been trained using other people’s original work. 

In an X post, writer Franchesca Ramsey urged people to stop participating in the yearbook trend because the selfies can be used to train AI programs moving forward.

“People paying to train AI w their pics is…bad. there are serious legal & ethical concerns. AI plagiarizes from artists & is actively putting ppl out of work. folks are passing around fake images to deceive ppl & the tech is getting better bc of your high school pic trend,” she wrote on X.

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Representatives for Snow Corporation, the parent company of Epik, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On its privacy policy page, Epik states that, “At a minimum, we will retain your Personal Information and Sensitive Personal Information for as long as needed to provide you Services, and as necessary to comply with our legal obligations, resolve disputes, and enforce our agreements.”

The website notes that it “may maintain some or all of this information in our archives even after it has been removed from the site.”

Daysia Tolentino

Daysia Tolentino is a culture and trends reporter for NBC News.