Friday, 25 May 2018

Photo Lemur or Photo Lemon?

Assuming you're on social networks related to photography you've likely been bombarded by advertisements for a tool called Photo Lemur that takes your mediocre photography and makes you a star photographer. On their website it quotes "zero to hero" they also say "The fastest and easiest way to make all your photos automatically great - instantly." The tool uses machine learning and AI to magic away the noob from your images. In theory.

I'm not exactly a mediocre or a zero but I thought I'd give it a go anyway, and frankly if you think that marketing is targeting you then well, what can I say...

I downloaded and installed the free version on my main imaging machine. After running a test in the desktop client I installed the Lightroom plugin using their tool to do it. So far so good, the installation was smooth and the LR plugin works first time with both export and import. All the plugin really does is export your image automatically, suck it into Photo Lemur then load it back into your library when you finish. My machine is a beast of grunt and processing each image was noticeably laggy (around four to six seconds) so on a slow machine I suspect it would not be pleasant.

I grabbed a selection of images from my library. In all cases these are the SOOC and the Photo Lemur edit. All of the images are shot on an Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mk ii which is no slouch of a camera and I do more or less know a little more than just point it at things and press the button.

So here we go with the comparisons...

This first one is the amazingly stunning Merced River as it flows through the Yosemite Valley. This image was taken early afternoon and shows off the well lit environment on a slightly hazy day. This was around the time of the 2017 bushfires in California and what should have been an crystal clear autumn day was a touch hazed.

Lets start with the river, I love what it did with the transparency of the water, that has yielded a result very similar to putting on a polarising filter. I also enjoy the texture and green of the grass and the colour of the distant trees is IMHO nicer than the original image but here the nice ends. When you compare the granite cliffs, they've become dull and a bit yuck. The cliffs at Yosemite really do glow and sparkle so seeing them dull on such an obviously beautiful day is disturbing. I also don't enjoy the white halo effect that has been introduced when it darkened and messed with the sky.

What is particularly weird is that the editor loses the automatic lens corrections that get applied by Lightroom. That's a serious loss in my book.

Verdict: Well, no, I reckon I could do a loads better job spending about 5 seconds in Lightroom.

This next image is the late sunset sky in Autum over Frankston beach. The contrast is not magic as it is shot through the glass windows of my office building.

I like what Photo Lemur has done with the sky, that is pretty nice, it has textured up the water a little although weirdly softened it near the end of the pier. The colours and reflections on the water stayed nice. But that is where the nice ends, the noise introduced in bringing up the foreground of the image (which it should leave as a silhouette) is awful. Yes it recovered a bit of detail but in a yuck way. I'd prefer to keep the silhouette as I shot it. Again the AI yields an ok result, but again 5 seconds in LR I'd have a better result.

Verdict: No

This is Puffing Billy specifically 8A crossing the Monbulk Creek Trestle Bridge with G42 pushing on the rear. The original shot is around 10.40am on an overcast autumn morning. The locomotive has become dull and grubby looking (these things are hand polished!) and the smoke and steam is well, awful. There are artefacts in the leaves of the trees which have been smoothed. There is significant loss of detail on the stump in the foreground.

Verdict: No way.

This is the ocean beach at Princetown in Victoria's Southern coast. The day was overcast and shot in the morning. The sea is tinged red because the channel draining the swamp land behind me has been opened just hours before I shot this leaving the sea full of red eucalyptus tannin. Photo Lemur has done a nice job on the clouds but its made that patch of sky too blue and lost brightness colour and definition on the waves, especially the nice sunny high lights on the wave froth.

Verdict: Nup.

This image was shot at Triplet Falls in the Cape Ottway National Park. The day was overcast and yuck, but a spot of sun had popped through as I shot the series at this waterfall.  I actually mostly like what Photo Lemur did with this one, again we see that increased depth and clarity on the water and I really like the boest in the brightness on the rocks and that wonderful green moss. For the most part this outcome is good. There are some niggles but nothing bad enough that I'd worry about them.

Verdict: Mostly ok

One the nice things about bushfires is the colour they bring to the light. The image gives a nice feel of a warm summer sky with some wonderful reds in the light. The pole stands out nicely and the grass is quite yummy. The smoky trees are enjoyable, oh I'm meant to be talking about the outcome aren't I? Sorry I got lost there for a moment. Well, this one has done something weird to the colours. Hmm, it's just a bit wrong really.

Verdict: No

This last image is my mate Ananda who is shooting some graffiti on a wall. The image is shot in very difficult light at f1.2 on a dark afternoon.

Well, lets just say that Photo Lemur has ruined the beatuiful smooth feathered bokeh of the amazing Olympus 45mm f1.2 and has dragged some amazingly awful skin details up making Ananda look about 80 years old.

Verdict: Ewww.

In conclusion, the next thing I do after I finish typing up this blog is I will be uninstalling the software. Nope I don't like it as Pauline Pantsdown was often known to say. You can make your own choices.