An Intro to AI Editing Tools
Welcome to the exciting world of AI, the talk of the town in 2023!
My journey with AI started a few years back when I dabbled in creating simple tools using basic machine learning. And yes, I’ve been closely following and using ChatGPT since its early days. As a photographer, I’ve always kept an eye on AI tools that could improve my editing process. This was definitely the year of new AI editing tools for Lightroom.
Although I was curious, time constraints kept me from exploring them deeply. Among the top picks for photographers are Aftershoot, Imagen, and Impossible Things. Each of these tools has its unique way of working, but quite simply: they learn from your past Lightroom edits to predict and apply your future images’ edits. Some operate right on your computer, while others use cloud servers to process and return your photos, all spruced up. They even offer profiles inspired by well known photographers!
Hover over any images on this post to see the SOOC vs Imagen Edit (untouched by me)
This summer, I faced a massive backlog in my editing queue. The idea of outsourcing was neither cost-effective nor quick enough, so I decided to give these AI tools a try. My first pick was Imagen. It was a game-changer! Imagen worked so well that I didn’t feel the need to test out Aftershoot or Impossible Things.
However, if there’s interest, I’m more than happy to compare them in a future post.
Thanks to Imagen, not only did I conquer my editing backlog, but I also managed to enjoy a two-week, worry-free vacation in Greece just days after photographing my last wedding of the year!
Here’s a quick overview of the important features inside Imagen. I’ve used this for a few months and across 10+ full weddings. Overall, their process is well documented with helpful videos to show you how to use their app. It took me a few hours to train my profile and edit my first wedding.
They have an easy to use desktop app for Mac or Windows. This app allows you to quickly create your profile and begin using it on your projects. I found the app to have a nice user experience overall. Tools and features were not difficult to find or understand. It was bug free and fast.
Creating your Personal AI Profile
This is quite a quick process. You need to feed it Lightroom catalog(s) with at least 3,000 edited raw files. For my workflow, I create a new Lightroom catalog for every job. This was quite easy to pick my latest weddings and upload.
If you use a single Lightroom catalog, or one per year, you can filter that catalog by “edited”, ratings, flags, etc.
Refining Profile with Uploading of Final Edits
One great feature that has made my profile more accurate and consistent has been uploading my final edits with any of the tweaks I’ve had to make after receiving the AI edits. This is a quick process and only takes a few moments in the background to convert to DMG and upload.
Talent AI Profiles
I don’t have any personal experience with these Talent Profiles, but see a handful of photographers that have great editing styles. If you’re struggling with your own personal editing, this looks to be similar to buying a more traditional Lr preset. Check out the “Compare Style” feature to see the edits.
Lite Personal AI Profile
Since it was so quick for me to create my full Personal AI Profile, I didn’t use this feature. It allows you to simply upload a Lr preset and builds an AI profile based on that and a few questions about how you like your images. This could be great if you’re extremely short on time or don’t have access to 3000 edited images.
They have a beta culling feature. I’ve still not used any AI culling tools myself, as I don’t find that to be a time consuming or difficult part of my workflow. I personally like the culling process to have a full understanding of how I documented the day. If you struggle with culling, this might be worthwhile.
My editing style doesn’t emphasize many subject masks, so I didn’t need to use this feature. If you find yourself adding masks in Lr often, this will likely help dial your work. At the very least, it will save you from having to generate AI masks yourself.
Crop & Straighten
Cropping is yet again something that I find to be very personal to how your final images look. Like culling, it’s part of the editing process that I enjoy and like to have fine control over. Their tools look like they’re great for fixing horizons, but that’s typically not a major problem for me.
Users are given 1TB in cloud backup space while this feature is in beta. This can be handy for quickly accessing images while traveling or away from your main hard drives. If they have competitive pricing, it could be a worthwhile and easy solution for backing up projects offsite for the longer term. They currently offer 2tb for $10/mo, which is roughly 200,000 of their optimized photos.
How I Use Imagen
I don’t currently use any of their additional tools. I personally like the process of culling a wedding. It only takes me ~45 minutes on average and it’s my chance to review the day in detail. I use photomechanic to cull (yes, I’ve read/watched Sam Hurd’s videos on culling in LR) and then import all of my selected images into a new Lr Catalog for that shoot. I then use the Imagen App to add that Lr Catalog to the editing queue.
Typically, within about 15 minutes, I’ll get back the Lightroom edits from Imagen. I then start from the beginning of the day and check exposure/white balance/crop. A few images might need masking or cloning, but the typical photo will just receive minor exposure/wb adjustments.
I then export from Lightroom and run a finishing preset in Exposure X7. Then, I upload the gallery to Pic-Time.
This entire process is now taking me less than an hour to cull, 1-2 hours to edit, and 15 minutes to upload/organize. In the past, I would spend between 2-5 days manually working my way through editing the typical wedding.
If anything, Imagen has made my work slightly more consistent. Wins all around.
Before and After Images
Scroll over the images to see the before. These edits are straight from Imagen. I will typically spend 20-30 minutes per wedding making small adjustments from these edits.
The basic pay-as-you-go plan is $0.05 per photo. They offer annual plans and custom enterprise pricing for studios editing 100k+ photos per year. Additional features like cropping and subject masks are extra.
This came out to be roughly half to 1/5th the price of outsourcing to an editor. If your profile is anywhere close to as accurate as mine, you’re not likely to find a hand editor that is this consistent or quick.
Black Friday Deal
In short, I’m using this for all of my weddings going forward. It’s probably the easiest business decision that I’ve ever made. The amount of time that it has freed up is incredible. If you’re like me, you can use this extra time to work on your marketing or simply have a more balanced work schedule. The Summer/Fall busy season doesn’t have to involve 12+ hour days sitting in front of your computer editing weddings.
The only way I’d be likely to be swayed to a competitor would be if they could deliver the same level of final result, but with a one-time purchase. That said, I appreciate and understand the need to pay for this type of product with an ongoing subscription or per image fee. After well over a decade in the industry, I’ve learned the importance of choosing to use companies that are well trusted and have profitable business models long term. We’ve seen too many companies enter the market and then close up shop a few years later, leaving users unsupported and looking for alternatives.
My tiniest nitpick is that images from the same lighting conditions will often have WB values with single digit differences. It’s hard to see the differences unless you’re comparing them side-by-side, but it can bother my OCD.
I honestly wish this would have come out 10 years ago. My career would have been very different if I could have erased the burnout and stress caused from the editing burden.
From a client perspective, I also believe that this is helping me deliver a more consistent final result. The time spent editing isn’t what I was hired for, but the skill in documenting their important life events. I’d happily let any potential client see an AI (plus final tweaks and approval by me) vs human edited gallery.