LuminarAI: AI photo editing will make Photoshop look like a stone axe
How much of a given image is real these days, and how much is manipulated? And how much does it matter? The tools of image editing have improved massively over the last 10 years, as anyone who likes to zhush themselves up for Instagram can attest. And a new generation of tools powered by artificial intelligence is going to make Photoshop look like a caveman's tool.
Sky replacement is a perfect example; the right kind of sky can add all sorts of drama and emotion to an image. In the past, photographers had to either be at the right spot at the right time, or sit around and wait until the sky and lighting conditions were just right, an outcome that was far from guaranteed. Later, darkroom techniques enabled some extremely crude developing techniques to effect some changes.
More recently, you'd use Photoshop; mask out the original sky manually, move a separate sky image layer in, then fiddle about with adjustment layers to make the sky and ground colors feel right together. Best of luck if there's a reflective water surface at the ground level!
Skylum's upcoming LuminarAI software makes it ridiculously easy to throw a huge wow factor into your images. It reduces the entire sky replacement operation, for example, to a few sliders and a gallery of different sky options, to which you're free to add your own images. The software analyzes your image, works out where the sky is, places a new one from the image you've chosen, handles reflective bodies of water, and then re-lights and re-colors your original image to suit the sky you've chosen, be it a starry night sky or a dramatic sunset.
You're free to tweak things once it's done, but the entire process is automated, and the results are remarkable, particularly given how fast it happens. Luminar's algorithms, says the company, have been trained using input from a range of "artists, photographers, colorists and scientists."
The software begins analyzing photos immediately upon opening them, building a 3D depth map of the scene and separating out its key elements: sky, water, faces, skin, eyes, lips and more. The analysis will come straight back with a set of "templates" offering the kinds of enhancements typically used on images of that nature. That might include some sky, atmospheric and lighting changes on a landscape, or eye enhancement, skin smoothing, teeth whitening, shine reduction and face slimming on a portrait.
There's even a composition helper, which rolls many rules of composition, including the rule of thirds, Fibonacci spirals, leading lines and the combined wisdoms of the algorithm training teams into a system that suggests crops for you that'll make the image most effective.
Previewing a template's effect on your image takes less than a second, all the details can be tweaked once you've found an overall vibe you like, and you can save your own templates for later use. Likewise, if you shoot a series of images in one place and want them all to have the same final look applied to them, you can sync edits across a range of shots together.
To a dedicated image compositor who's spent years building up the skills to do this stuff manually, it's going to look like cheating. And as with any automatic image editing tool, there'll surely be some dodgy bits in the final images that don't make sense. But viewed in terms of output versus time spent, it looks like a revolutionary step forward that'll allow any old clown with 10 GB of hard disc space and US$79 for the discounted pre-order price to make some pretty wild image edits in next to no time.
It turns completely uneducated users into the equivalent of studio directors, instantly producing the kind of work you'd have needed several hours with a highly talented creative to get in the past.
And as for cheating? I'd argue that outside of photo contests and hard news, there's no such thing. People are well aware now that a ton of Instagram influencers edit the heck out of their shots to endow themselves with superhuman booty. Sorry, beauty. It doesn't seem to make them like the images any less.
I can see this kind of software taking off big time; indeed, I wonder how long it'll take before something like this makes it to your smartphone, with super-fast 5G data transfer and powerful cloud computing making your slider changes in near to real time. This is the direction things are headed in; if you're investing a lot of time in getting your image editing skills together, you may want to consider the future impacts of this kind of software as a factor in your career planning.
LuminarAI is launching "this holiday season," and pre-order discounts apply. Check out a video below.