How Good Can Automated Correction Be?
Automated image correction has been around for a long time. Many image editors offer a button “Auto” to quickly adjust your photographs, but most of them generally fail and grossly misadjust the image. The latest version of Lightroom does a pretty good job, but I want to introduce a new piece of software in case you have not heard about it. Automated image correction by PhotoLemur yields surprisingly good results most of the time. I will also mention a few things to watch out for, but it is certainly worth downloading to experience firsthand.
The software is small and its user interface is extremely sparse which is a good thing! Nothing is tempting to push or pull except the control slider that lets the user reduce the amount of automated image correction applied. They claim the software uses artificial intelligence to analyze the image content, the time of the day it was taken, and other parameters and decides on the corrections. A “Before/After” slider allows for instant comparison and in case you find the adjustment a little too much there is a slider that will control that. The three images below show you how this only adjustment works.
PhotoLemur can handle the images in several different ways:
- Drag and drop from Windows Explorer, single or multiple files
- Open using its own interface which is called “Import”
- Send files from Lightroom or Photoshop using the plugins that come with it
Try PhotoLemur For the First Time
You can either export the image you processed or send it back to where it came from, Lightroom or Photoshop. If you have not tried automated image correction PhotoLemur, I strongly suggest you download the free version and see it for yourself. I suggest you simply drag and drop a file from Windows Explorer (or File Explorer on a Mac I think) to see how fast it works and how good a job it does. It can handle, raw, JPEG, TIFF, PSD, … format files. So try a few different formats just for the heck of it!
After processing the first image, simply click on the X to close it and say you want to start again, then drag another image. This will give you a good idea of automated image correction by PhotoLemur and how well it seems to work. If you like the result you see, you can export the image in a myriad of formats with a selection of settings. You can open more than one image using any of the methods, drag and drop, Lightroom or Photoshop plugin, import using PhotoLemur interface. See the image on the right where I opened four files from Lightroom.
Install the Lightroom and Photoshop Plugins
On top of the PhotoLemur window, you will see its brand name and a drop-down menu indicator. Click on that to reveal the menu and click on Install Plugins. The Lightroom plugin will install without a fuss but Photoshop plugin installation will inform you that it will restart the program running it as an Administrator and then continue. Let it do its thing, it is quick and painless.
After the plugin installations, start, or restart Lightroom. In the grid view, pick an image in any format you see that you would like to edit. Right-click on the image and look for the options for PhotoLemur. You can either send the original image to PhotoLemur ignoring all the edits you may have done in Lightroom or send a TIFF file including all your Lightroom adjustments. When the automated image correction is finished, click on the button Done and it will send it back to Lightroom which you will see next to the file you started with.
Here are some caveats, I reported one of these during the beta testing period but it has not yet been fixed.
- The exported TIFF file will be in ProPhoto RGB color space but in an 8-bit file format which is woefully inadequate to handle this colorspace. I hope they fix this either by giving the user some settings to choose it from or do it automatically in 16-bit file format. Still, you can do some more work on it so long as you do not expect to get the full resiliency of a 16-bit file in ProPhoto RGB color space.
- Another anomaly is with a raw file round trip to PhotoLemur. The automated image correction by PhotoLemur returns the file back to Lightroom again in 8-bit format and retains Lightroom’s internal color space, Melissa! The color space is not a problem if you will use the file in Lightroom, but if you open it in another editing software you may get inaccurate color. Also, the 8-bit file format is not suitable for Melissa color space which is a variant of ProPhoto color space with a very rich color gamut. Interestingly, if the images are dropped on PhotoLemur or imported, there is an option to set the bit-depth and color space in different formats. The round trip from Lightroom must use 16-bit ProPhoto RGB files for better workflow.
- PhotoLemur UI does not seem to be color-managed and on wide gamut displays, the colors may look far more exaggerated than they will look in Lightroom. I have reported this matter, let’s see if they receive it and fix the problem.
- PhotoLemur applies lens corrections which is not a bad thing. But be aware that what you see in Lightroom and its PhotoLemur edited version of a raw file may slightly differ. See the sample comparison files.
[On 6/27/2018 I received an e-mail from PhotoLemur support with responses and questions. Their responses, on issue 1: We’ll fix it on our next update, the original format will be preserved. On issue 2: I reported this issue to our developers. We’ll consider changing that in future. And they had questions on issue 3 and 4; I provided further details with screen captures.]
[On 6/29/2018 I received an e-mail from PhotoLemur support in response to issues 3 and 4. Regarding issue 3: The issue with the preview image being different will be fixed soon. Issue 4: Regarding the lens correction, different software companies use different algorithms to correct lens distortion, that’s why the result may be different. We’ll test Photolemur and Lightroom results to see what we can do. Thank you PhotoLemur development team.]
Photoshop plugin works a little more smoothly, thanks to the support team fixing the problems that created problems. For the plugin to start and complete the round trip to PhotoLemur, it needs a pixel-based layer. If you have an adjustment layer like Curves targeted, the round trip will start but there will be no content to work on. In that case, click on the X to close PhotoLemur and start over.
You can optionally make a copy of the pixel layer and convert this new layer to a Smart Object before sending it to PhotoLemur. This will give you the option to relaunch it to tweak the adjustment a little if you like.
Things to Remember
While automated image correction by PhotoLemur generally works well, I have observed the following:
- It loves skies! You may like what may emerge from a faint sky with no processing artifacts. Keep in mind that it tends to slightly oversaturate the skies for my taste. And, if you send a photograph of just the sky, it can royally botch it up!
- Foliage is the other thing it loves and does a good job handling it unless you have some very bright foliage areas
- It treats skin tones gently but may unduly increase the contrast on facial features, but you can use the slider adjustment to tame that to some extent.
Now the best part! PhotoLemur is very affordable. A single-user license is $35 while a five-user family license is $49. Recently, PhotoLemur was merged with Skylum Software, makers of Luminar. I suspect some automated image correction by PhotoLemur features will eventually enter Luminar.
Enjoy. But remember, the result will reflect how automated processing handles the work which does not necessarily reflect your vision. This software may be a starting point for further editing or a quick way of handling a bunch of snapshots. When you look at the samples below note the differences between my edits and what PhotoLemur does. They range from subtle to very substantial because the automation software does not have a “vision” just pixel-to-pixel analysis. Make sure not to abandon your vision!
Below are some sample photographs. You will see a PhotoLemur processed version and, either my edits, the original, or both. The original raw files are exported from Lightroom with no edits except for cropping or perspective correction for easy comparison.