Photolemur 2.2 Spectre
The low price of Photolemur should encourage a wide range of camera users to try it, and we think it could hit the mark for image-rich but time-poor snapshooters, particularly those who are active on social media.
The more experienced and demanding photographers may find its lack of adjustability quite frustrating, even though it could be a quick and convenient way to produce usable results from batches of image files when a fast turnaround is required.
Photolemur is one of a number of software applications that automates the editing process through the use of artificial intelligence technologies. Its developers stress that it’s not a photo editor because, rather than requiring users to make adjustments to images themselves, it provides a suite of ‘hard-coded settings’ that are applied automatically to selected images. Initially launched in December 2016 for Mac only, it was rebuilt and re-released in April 2017 to include Windows users. This review was carried out with the Windows version of the software.
The software has been created by a UK-based start-up team of photographers, developers, and entrepreneurs. At its core is a ‘smart engine’ that has analysed thousands of photos created by all kinds of photographers on devices ranging from smartphones and action cameras to professional cameras and lenses. These images have been sourced from all round the world.
Subsequent updates to the software draw on the ability of the software to ‘learn’ and adapt to how it is used by each individual. This is one of the ‘clever’ aspects of the program.
Who’s it For?
Essentially designed for snapshooters, Photolemur is suitable for anyone who takes pictures but who doesn’t want to spend time and money on photo editors. It is best suited to time-poor snapshooters who take a lot of pictures but could also be useful to high volume photographers who need nice-looking pictures in a hurry, such as wedding and event photographers. The quick-and-easy batch processing functions could be a boon to these shooters, particularly if they use Photoshop or Lightroom.
The AI technology in Photolemur has been programmed to recognise objects like faces, trees, sky, foliage and scenery and distinguish between portraits, landscapes and macro photographs. When images are loaded they are assessed and adjusted using the following technologies:
Colour Recovery: Restores appropriate colours and saturation by instantly adjusting colors, so they ‘pop’ beautifully.
Sky Enhancement: Separates clouds from the sky, restores their volume and accentuates detail.
Exposure Compensation: Detects and compensates for inaccurate exposure settings.
Natural Light Correction: Considers the time of the day in a photo and adjusts tones, exposure and contrast to bring out the natural colours and lighting of mornings, evenings, dawn or dusk.
Foliage Enhancement: Picks out individual trees, leaves and any other kind of plant or shrub and adjusts colours, sharpness and other features.
Noise Reduction: Finds and removes unwanted digital noise that results from shooting at slow shutter speeds in low-light situations.
Smart Dehaze: Detects and removes unnatural haze, fog, mist, dust, smog and other distracting elements.
Tint Perfection: Finds the best tint solution “” warmer or cooler “” depending on several variables.
Face Retouching: Detects faces, then works to clean up any imperfections or blemishes.
JPG Fix: Finds and corrects mistakes in JPEG images by suppressing compression artifacts.
RAW Processing: Analyses the data in RAW files and provides the best results.
Horizon Straightening: Adjusts slightly off-kilter horizons or backgrounds.
Versions of Photolemur from 2.2.1 include lens correction, which is designed to correct distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting and is applied automatically. Photolemur says it’s only applied when needed so ‘you can just leave it on all the time’. But it can be disabled via Settings in the dropdown menu.
How it Works
The program works by analysing uploaded images and looking for things like faces, colours and objects. It will then attempt to correct aspects of the photo that the analysis decides should be fixed. Users will then be offered the option to save and/or share the adjusted image(s). The entire process is that simple!
Based on the history of what was saved and what wasn’t, the software will learn the user’s tastes and adjust its edits according to the history of successful ones. One advantage of the program is that it can process multiple files at once, including mixed raw and JPEG collections. This can be a real time-saver for busy photographers.
Photolemur will work as a plugin with Lightroom on both Windows and Mac platforms. It will also work as a Photoshop plugin on Windows.
Using Photolemur is very straightforward. Once the software is open on your desktop (shown below), you simply drag the images you want to edit onto the page and the software will do the rest.
The opening page of Photolemur on the Windows platform. (Source: Photolemur.)
Within a few seconds, your image will be displayed in a window, which is split in two. The unedited version of the image is on the left and the edited version on the right. You can vary the relative sizes of each ‘window’ by dragging the dividing line to the left or right.
The editing window.
At the base of the window is a green paintbrush icon which opens a slider that allows you to adjust the strength of the edit. No other adjustments are provided. Beside it is the Export button that lets you choose between saving the adjusted image to disk or sending it to Facebook or Twitter.
The adjustment slider.
In the top left corner of the window is a cross with IMPORT MORE, which allows you to import additional images and process them as a batch.
Images imported for batch processing.
Clicking the Export button causes all the images in the window to be processed and exported in sequence. The software shows a timeline so you can track progress. It rather coyly informs you that it’s ‘Doing magic’ as it is ‘Exporting works of art’ while this takes place and you can watch the processed files pop up in the folder you’ve selected.
That’s the process in a nutshell.
To use Photolemur as a plugin with Lightroom or Photoshop, you must click on the arrow to the right of the Photolemur label. This opens a dropdown menu with six options, one of which is Install Plug-ins.
The two steps involved in installing Photolemur as a Photoshop plugin.
Click on ‘Install’ next to the software you prefer and then click on ‘Done’. The application will close and when it re-opens the plugin will be listed in the Filter dropdown menu, as shown in the screen grab below.
Photolemur works in the same way as a plugin as it does on its own. However, when you click on Done in the lower left hand corner of the window, the adjusted image will open in the selected software.
The adjustments Photolemur makes depend on the nature of the original image but, overall, the main changes appear to be boosting contrast and colour saturation a little, while also revealing more highlight and shadow details. Its success depends a lot upon the nature of the image it works on.
Some images will require quite subtle tweaking while others will require a lot of adjustment. In images that are reasonably high in resolution and already correctly exposed, the changes can be hard to see. Unfortunately, if resolution is low and there’s no detail in highlight and shadow areas, no software in existence can produce a good-looking result (as you can see in the Sample images pages).
Some features promoted for the software appear to be more effective than others so we used a wide variety of original shots to assess overall performance. When we tested the lens correction function we used an image created by saving a JPEG from an uncorrected raw file taken with a wide angle lens that showed significant barrel distortion.
The results were disappointing. Even though the other corrections made the picture appear more attractive, the barrel distortion remained, as you can see in the comparison below.
The top picture is the original JPEG taken from an uncorrected raw file with visible barrel distortion. Below is the same image after Photolemur processing. While the applied adjustments to contrast and saturation have made the picture more attractive, the bulging vertical and horizontal lines show little has been done to fix the barrel distortion.
Below we have shown some other examples of the adjustments Photolemur makes to typical image files. The selection we’ve chosen ranges through landscapes, portraits, sports shots and indoor photos. Check out the comments below each of the sample images below.
From the images we’ve processed we concluded there are a few things the program doesn’t or can’t do. While it’s quite good at bringing out details in shadowed areas, it’s not much good at sharpening images ““ unless they were already sharp to start with. It doesn’t cope particularly well with low-contrast originals but makes a better fist of shots that were moderately contrasty. However, it doesn’t handle originals with very high contrast particularly well.
On the other hand, we were quite impressed by the subtlety of some of the adjustments the program applied, particularly to contrast and saturation when original images required little or no adjustments. Skin tones were also handled quite well and the program neatly avoided the tendency to boost saturation in reds and yellows when adjusting portrait shots.
Whether you like the way Photolemur works will probably depend on how much you enjoy editing your photos ““ and your level of editing expertise. We found the lack of adjustments in Photolemur frustrating, even though the results the program produced were often quite close to what we would have aimed for with manual editing.
Raw file support is also fairly limited. The program hasn’t caught up with most of the latest cameras and cameras like the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, E-M10 Mark II and PEN E-PL9, Fujifilm X-H1 and Panasonic GX9, for example, were not supported when this review was carried out.
The most recent iPhone supported is the iPhone 7/7 Plus and the most recent Samsung model is the Galaxy S7. Raw file processing is also relatively slow and, even though you can save the results in TIFF format, the lack of adjustments to other parameters is unsatisfying.
The low price of Photolemur should encourage a wide range of camera users to try it. We think it could hit the mark for image-rich but time-poor snapshooters, particularly those who are active on social media. But, we think more experienced and demanding photographers will find its lack of adjustability quite frustrating, even though it could be a quick and convenient way to produce usable results from batches of image files when a fast turnaround is required, for example when shooting social events.
Hardware: Intel Core i3 or AMD Athlon processor or higher with 64-bit support
Systems compatibility: Mac OS 10.11, 10.12, 10.13 or Windows 7, 8, 10 (64-bit)
Display support: DirectX 10-capable video adapter, minimum 1024 x 768 display (1280 x 800 recommended)
File formats supported: JPEG, TIFF, BMP, GIF, PNG, PSD plus raw files from many popular cameras
Disk space requirement: Minimum 2GB of free hard disk space (4GB recommended)
Minimum RAM: 2GB of RAM, 1GB of VRAM
Computer interface: Internet connection and registration are necessary for required software activation, validation of subscriptions, and access to online services.
Batch processing: Yes
Export to social media: Yes: Facebook, Twitter and Flickr with Instagram, 500Pix and SmugMug coming
Mobile device support: No
Distributor: Photolemur; https://photolemur.com/
A relatively straightforward, correctly-exposed snapshot (left) requires very minor corrections, shown in the Photolemur-adjusted version on the right.
Another case where minimal correction was required, despite the fact that photos taken from a plane are often poorly exposed. The Photolemur-adjusted version is on the right.
Another straightforward correction, with the original image at the top and the adjusted version below.
A case of slight under-correction. The original image (top) could have used slightly more contrast and saturation than it was given in the Photolemur-adjusted version below it.
An example of Photolemur’s ability to identify portraits and apply subtle, but worthwhile corrections. Once again, the original is the one on the left.
Photolemur can perform poorly with low-resolution images, particularly when their brightness range exceeds that of the camera’s 7-megapixel sensor, which was unable to pick up much shadow detail. The original image is on the left.
Very high contrast subjects can also present insurmountable problems, although Photolemur can make some inroads towards addressing them, as shown in the corrected image on the right.
With slightly lower contrast, Photolemur can make a better correction (lower image). It also removes the slight reddish colour cast from the original image.
Photolemur produced a very good result when used on an indoor shot taken with a high ISO setting (ISO 6400), at the same time lightening the tones in the background subjects and producing attractive renditions of skin hues.
While Photolemur can correct many exposure errors, subjects that aren’t in focus in shots cannot be rendered sharp.
Photolemur also flounders when attempting to correct scenes that require more substantial editing and can’t achieve what an experienced Photoshop user can with a few minutes’ work, shown in the separate image below the comparison pair.
RRP: Single licence US$29; Family licence for 5 devices US$49 (Free performance updates included in both.)
- Features: 8.0
- Ease of use: 8.9
- Performance: 8.5