Software Review: Photolemur 2.2
March 8, 2018
After Photolemur has given your image an algorithmic once-over, you’re presented with this before/after view before you export.
Those who work with artificial intelligence typically prefer to take a sunny view of its potential. In the optimistic take, AI liberates humanity from its unimaginative grunt work, freeing us to focus on more creative and engaging pursuits. (In the pessimistic take, AI gains consciousness and super intelligence, and destroys all of human civilization, but let’s not worry about that right now.)
Photolemur is definitely built around the first promise. Trained on over 1 million images, this AI-powered software promises to improve your images instantly with zero intervention on the user’s part beyond a drag and a drop. Has our AI liberation moment arrived?
Unlike other editing programs that offer one-click-fixes, Photolemur doesn’t apply a hard-coded (i.e. inflexible) set of adjustments to your image. Instead, it uses machine vision algorithms to explore the contents of an image first before it can hone in on specific tweaks.
Once it knows what it’s looking at, Photolemur applies 12 different algorithms to improve the photo. These algorithms include color recovery, sky enhancement, exposure compensation, natural light correction, foliage enhancement, noise reduction, facial retouching, horizon straightening, smart dehaze, tint perfect, RAW processing and JPEG corrections. These fixes are targeted at just the areas that are appropriate and need them (at least, in the software’s view).
Where other editing programs offer a one-click-fix as a jumping off point for your own edits, Photolemur offers only an opacity slider, which essentially lets you dial back the edits Photolemur has made globally, across the entire image. Beyond that, your only other option is to export your corrected image as a JPEG to a local disk, Flickr, email, Facebook, Twitter or Snapheal.
Photolemur works on both JPEG and RAW files. It can process images individually or in batches. In fact, there’s no limit to the batch size. You can drag in hundreds of images. After it has made its correction, the program offers up a before/after view with a slider down the middle that you can shift left or right to preview the corrections.
Photolemur is available as a standalone application, an external editor for Apple Photos and a plugin for Lightroom. It’s both Windows and Mac compatible (Mac users will need to have updated to High Sierra).
For all of its AI-powered smarts, Photolemur is about as visually austere a program as you can imagine. It’s a tiny gray box. You’ll look in vain for columns of sliders, histograms or any other conventional
tools of the editing trade.
This design has one overwhelming virtue—it’s idiot-proof. If you know how to drag and drop a photo, you’re set. If you’re used to spending hours in Photoshop, Capture One or other sophisticated editors, you may find yourself twitching.
While it’s visually Spartan, Photolemur does deliver a few pleasing audible cues to let you know it’s done processing and exporting.
Photolemur runs locally on your computer, not in the cloud. Despite our initial fears of a GPU-induced house fire when it began to crank, it doesn’t seem all that taxing, even when processing batches of images. (We tested it on a Mac with a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 processor, Intel Graphics 4000 card and 16GB of RAM.)
Single images process in seconds while batches can take several minutes. We dumped 86 RAW files into Photolemur (around 16MB each in size) and it took the program about 25 minutes to finish correcting, processing and exporting them.
We tested the software on a range of JPEGs and RAW files from Fujifilm, Olympus, Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras. We also fed it JPEGs from an iPhone 6s Plus. The only RAW files it couldn’t read were Sony a7R III files.
We often found Photolemur’s fixes surprisingly good. The software seemed particularly strong managing very colorful images, making somewhat muted colors really pop without looking overly processed or artificial.
The software doesn’t overdo the color saturation but can on occasion crank up contrast a bit, sometimes introducing false or slightly unnatural-looking colors into an image, though this was the exception.
For images with a lot of noise, Photolemur definitely errs on the side of retaining detail vs. scrubbing out noise and smoothing away details.
We also tested Photolemur against another one-click wizard, Athentech’s Perfectly Clear. The latter has vastly more tools for tweaking images so it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, but Perfectly Clear is known for its algorithmic quick passes on images so we thought it made sense to see how they compared.
Perfectly Clear was much quicker with single image exports (roughly half the time it took Photolemur) but it exported a much smaller JPEG. On balance, we felt Photolemur offered the better one-click fixes. This was particularly evident in over-exposed images though, again, Perfectly Clear gives you several options beyond its “intelligent auto” mode to choose from. The one area where Perfectly Clear occasionally edged out Photolemur was on images with high noise. There, Perfectly Clear would smooth away some detail and noise, while Photolemur tended to keep both.
Photolemur is not a substitute for Photoshop, Lightroom or similar imaging programs. We mean this in two ways. First, it’s not a tool for expressing human creativity through software. The look of your image is entirely at the mercy of the machine. Second, because it lacks any tools for post-enhancement tweaking, it can’t match the level of improvements you can make with more feature-rich programs. It does a good job, but it’s generically good—optimizing your photo based on what its algorithms think is the right look.
But that’s not the point, really. Photolemur is a tool for those who don’t want to labor over the Wacom tablet just to tweak and process RAW images—and it’s a pretty remarkable one at that. In minutes, you can process and improve dozens of RAW files for sharing on social media. Or, dump a batch of smartphone images into Photolemur and on the other end you’ll almost certainly have something better—with literally no work on your part. Score one for the machine.
PROS: Streamlined UI and workflow; extremely easy to use; before/after view.
CONS: Lacks ability to customize image fixes.
PRICE: $30 (Single License, Activation on One Device); $49 (Family License, Activation on Five Devices).